Android browser tips and tricks

Android

There are several browsers for Android that use the Webkit layout engine. This slideshow presents a quick primer on five of the most popular, highlighting their most prominent features.

[RELATED: The Android naming quiz]

Android
Boat speed dialer

Add shortcuts to your favorite sites to a speed dialer UI which appears in a newly opened tab.

Android
Boat tab-switching

Boat: Like a traditional desktop Web browser, tabs are set along the top. But you can also switch among tabs by tapping an icon on the toolbar that runs along the bottom. This brings you to a tab-switching GUI where you swipe through thumbnails of the pages that are open. Tap a thumbnail to jump to that page.

Android
Boat gesture controls

This browser has built-in gesture controls. For example, if you scribble “C” on the touchscreen, the browser will close the tab you are viewing. You can also create your own gestures that designate a browser function to trigger or a site to load. So you could set Boat to load the Network World site when you scribble “N”.

Android
Boat: Small install

This browser’s installation file is under 3.4MB, which makes it the smallest among the others in this slideshow.

Android
Chrome tabs

On a tablet, tabs are presented like the way they are in the desktop version of Chrome -- with a familiar tab toolbar along the top.

Android
Chrome on smartphone

If you’re using a smartphone, then you get a card-style GUI: The tab switcher depicts each tab as a large thumbnail, and several open tabs’ thumbnails are stacked atop another. You swipe through them and tap on one to go to that page. To close a tab, you swipe the thumbnail left or right, and it will be flipped away from the stack. This GUI basically simulates shuffling through a deck of playing cards.

Android
Chrome remote access

You can remotely access tabs that are open on a computer of yours running Chrome: for example, if you’ve left your notebook connected to the Internet at the office, and it’s running the desktop version of Chrome and has tabs open, then you can use Chrome on your Android device to see a list of these tabs and visit them.

Android
Dolphin speed dialer

Like Boat, shortcuts to your favorite sites can be added to a speed dialer that appears in a new tab, but additionally you can drag-and-drop the shortcut icons on top of one another to group them into folder categories.

Android
Dolphin tab switcher

Dolphin uses a traditional desktop browser tab bar UI. And there’s a tab switcher screen you can go to, which shows panels with thumbnails of active tabs. You access this by tapping-and-holding on the dolphin icon which appears on the lower-left of the main browser window.

Android
Dolphin bookmark access

You access your bookmarks by swiping to the right -- this action reveals your bookmarks in a sidebar attached to the left of the main browser window. Swiping left reveals a sidebar that’s set beyond the right of the main window. This sidebar lets you access add-ons installed on Dolphin.

Android
Dolphin gesture input

This browser also includes a gesture-input UI. It has a greater number of customizable options over Boat.

Android
Maxthon speed dialer

The speed dialer of shortcut icons to your favorite websites and links works more like Boat’s than Dolphin’s in that you cannot group them together into folders.

Maxthon gesture control

While in full-screen mode, you interact with the browser using a few preset gestures or a fan-shaped GUI. Tapping this semi-circle toolbar’s middle button opens a strip of thumbnails of active tabs. Swipe horizontally through these images, and tap on one to go to that tab. To close a tab, swipe up on its thumbnail.

Android
Maxthon personal cloud

You can send images or links to your personal cloud drive on the Maxthon servers; or to another computer or mobile device of yours running Maxthon. Similarly, you can send tabs that you have open to another computer or device of yours running Maxthon.

Android
Opera speed dialer

This browser is the fourth in this slideshow to have a speed dialer page, but it’s the smoothest and slickest among them -- working very much like the app launcher in Android. Like Dolphin, you can drag icons together to form folders.

Android
Opera tab switcher

When summoned, the tab switcher UI appears over the upper half of the browser. It shows thumbnails of active tabs in a carousel-like manner, where you swipe horizontally through them and tap on the one you want to jump to.

Android
Opera newsfeeds

In a newly opened tab, you can browse through a newsfeed that automatically pushes articles; each are shown as a panel with headlines and pictures. Tap a panel, and you’ll be shown the entire article to read. These articles are provided by news outlets and popular blogs.

Android
Opera off-road mode

This browser’s Off-Road mode setting routes incoming data through Opera’s servers to compress them before sending them to your device. To also save on your mobile plan’s data usage, it can scale down the sharpness of pictures.