Browser optimize

Enhance your browsing experience with Dolphin Browser HD

Brandy Courtade highlights some Dolphin Browser HD add-ons and built-in features that will make your browsing life easier.

Even if you're not dependent on your tablet for your computing (needs like I am), there will mostly likely be times when you'll need a real, full browser. Dolphin Browser HD is the closest I've seen come to that for Android. It's full-featured and almost indistinguishable from a desktop browser. In a previous post, I highlighted Dolphin's recent Sonar update, which uses voice commands to navigate the browser, but there's so much more you can do with this application.

Before we get started, make sure you have the Dolphin Browser HD app, which is free. When you download it, you can go through something like a setup wizard that conveniently allows you to choose how you'd like to browse. If you keep Dolphin in desktop mode, you'll see the Internet as you would on a laptop or desktop. This is invaluable when mobile versions limit your browsing functionality. You can also change that later in the settings.

Add-ons

Dolphin Browser HD has numerous add-ons, such as web to PDF, which allows you to turn any Web page into a locally-stored PDF file -- or you can share it with certain apps. Let's try that.

  1. Open Dolphin Browser HD
  2. Swipe from left to right on the far left-hand side
  3. Tap Quick access on the bottom left
  4. Select Add-ons
  5. Click Web to PDF or (if it doesn't appear, first tap Get more Add-ons)
  6. Tap Accept & download
Now, when you're browsing, you can swipe right to left on the opposite side of the screen. A small vertical taskbar will appear, and you should see a MyPDF icon. When you tap it, you'll be prompted to name the file. Type in the name, then tap Save (see Figure 1). Figure 1

There are some caveats to this, as it's not as functional as it could be. For example, if you're on a page that requires logging in, say Google Docs (in the browser, of course), and you're working on a document, if you save the page as a PDF, it won't actually save the document page -- it just saves "docs.google.com." So, it's not useful for any pages of that nature. However, it does work for Web pages that you want to be able to read without a connection, or perhaps send to someone as a PDF (like a Web-based report).

Another great add-on is called Screen Cut. This one is pretty self explanatory. Logically, the process for obtaining it is the same. Once it's downloaded, you can access Screen Cut the same way that you access MyPDF -- from an icon (that has a yellow frame) when you left-swipe a Web page. After you tap the icon, Screen Cut gives you three options:

  • Capture Region: define the parameters of the screen shot
  • Capture Visible Content: logically captures what you can currently see on your screen
  • Capture Whole Page: captures all of the elements on the page

This add-on is great for remotely sharing specific content with your colleagues or bosses when you don't need, or want, to show all of it. Let's walk through the full process.

  1. Swipe right to left on the right side of the screen
  2. Tap the Screen Cut icon
  3. Make a selection -- for Capture Region, slide the borders to define the area you want to capture (see Figure 2)
  4. You'll be prompted to either save it to your device or share it. How you can share it depends on compatible apps, but the standard ways are Gmail, Google+, and Bluetooth
  5. Tap Save to SD
  6. To see the shot, tap your home button, select Apps, and then click Gallery
  7. Tap on the Screenshot folder
  8. Also, whenever you want to hide the taskbar, swipe on the same side in the opposite direction. This applies to the left taskbar as well.
Figure 2

The next feature I'd like to talk about is Tab Reload. This has numerous useful applications. Say you're a stockbroker, and you need as close to real-time information as possible. Tab Reload will automatically reload a specified tab, depending on your parameters. Follow these steps:

  1. Once you've downloaded the add-on, swipe right to left on the right side of the screen
  2. Tap the Tab Reload icon (it looks like a Web page with a large classic refresh icon laid over top)
  3. You can choose Never, 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 15 minutes

Next up is Morning Coffee. This add-on has a lot of potential to expedite your browsing experience. It will let you open Web sites you visit everyday whenever you start Dolphin. Caveat: It only saves four tabs, which means it's limited to four of your regularly visited Web pages. Here's how it works:

  1. Once you've downloaded the add-on, swipe right to left on the right side
  2. Navigate to the page you'd like to have load upon startup
  3. Tap the Morning Coffee icon from the taskbar (see Figure 3)
  4. You can rename the site or leave it as is, and then tap Add or Save
  5. You can also manually add a page by typing in the URL and site name
  6. At any time, you can tap Morning Coffee, then Open, and it will load each page you've saved to the add-on in new tabs
Figure 3

It's easy to see how this makes Web browsing more efficient. On a tablet, even the savviest of soft keyboard typists will save considerable amounts of time by simply having to tap a couple of times to open their regular pages.

Now, I'd like to highlight some of the built-in features of Dolphin. Where the stock Android browser falls short, Dolphin certainly picks up the slack in most respects. The Bookmarks, History, and Most Visited options in the left task bar mimic that of a desktop browser -- and business users certainly benefit from a desktop-like browsing experience on their mobile devices.

Follow these steps to bookmark a page with Dolphin:

  1. Navigate to the page you'd like
  2. Swipe left to right on the left side of the screen
  3. Tap on the star with a plus sign In the lower left-hand corner (see Figure 4)
  4. You can rename the bookmark name or use the default, and then tap Add
Figure 4

Now when you open your left taskbar, that page will be listed along with some pre-programmed bookmarks.

The left taskbar also allows you to access Dolphin settings, gestures, and history. Gestures is another great stock feature. At any given point, you should see a translucent icon in the bottom left or bottom right corner of the screen with a hand extending a finger. This is how you access gestures. To make use of it, you first need to create a gesture for a page. Let's use TechRepublic as an example:

  1. Navigate to TechRepublic
  2. Press and hold on the URL in the address bar
  3. Tap Create gesture for this page
  4. It will automatically show a 2, so select Clean (unless you want to use that, of course)
  5. Draw whichever gesture you'd like to use (like a capital T or a flag)
  6. Tap Done
  7. You can either test the new gesture or click No thanks

Now no matter what page you're on, you can tap that icon in the corner, draw the gesture, and Dolphin will navigate you to the specified page. However, if you want to open it in a new tab, make sure you open a new tab and enter the gesture there.

All in all, this browser is the closest I've found to a desktop browser. It is 99 percent as functional, and in some respects can increase your browsing efficiency even more so than a desktop browser, especially with add-ons, which are free. Dolphin is a stellar app for work-intensive browsing on the go.

What browser do you prefer on your tablet? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

About

Brandy Courtade has spent her whole life tinkering with whatever gadgets and technologies she can get her hands on. She contributes to the IT news analysis site Infoboom and is also a Gadgets Examiner for Examiner.com.

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