Advanced web browsing on Android tablets

Jack Wallen provides some tips for improving the browsing experience on Android tablets.

For many users, standard browsing works fine. You open up your browser, and you do your thing. For other, more advanced users, the standard means of browsing just isn't enough. This is especially true on a tablet, where power and efficiency is at a prime. Fortunately, the built-in Android browser has a few tricks up its sleeve to make the power user happy. I want to address a few of this power-user tips to make your Android tablet browsing experience as good as it possibly can be.

Let's get to the point, shall we?

Speed up your browsing

The Android browser does Flash out of the box. However, one issue this brings up is when a web site has a lot of active Flash ads, which can cause the browser to drastically slow down. Fortunately, there's a way around that. Simply switch the plug-ins setting from "Always on" to "On demand" by following these steps:

  1. Open your browser
  2. Tap the menu icon (upper right-hand corner)
  3. Tap Settings | Advanced
  4. Tap Enable plug-ins
  5. Select "On demand" (see Figure A)
Figure A

On demand means you decide when a plug-in is run.
With this setting in place, you will have to tap a section of a site that requires a plug-in (see Figure B). Figure B

Tap the arrow to activate the plug-in.

Always browse as a normal browser

Some tablet browsers want to send a User Agent String (UAString), which causes the site to render in mobile mode. This isn't always the best layout for a tablet, because it has far more screen real estate than a smartphone. You can shut this off all together, but you have to unhide some hidden features in the browser before you can get to the UAString settings. Here's how you do it.

  1. Open up the browser
  2. Enter about:config in the address bar (you won't see anything happen)
  3. Now, tap the menu icon in the upper right corner and select Settings
  4. Tap the newly revealed Debug menu (see Figure C) and make sure UAString is unchecked
Figure C

To ensure your browser always renders a page in regular mode, UAString must be unchecked.

Quick Controls

Want to get a peek at what the next version of the browser will have to offer? From the Labs settings tab, you can enable Quick Controls. The Quick Controls is a small navigation menu that appears when you place your thumb on the right edge of the screen (see Figure D). This menu allows you to do everything from bookmark a site, navigate backwards and forwards, add a new tab, close a tab, refresh a page, and open the Settings menu. Figure D

Tap your thumb on the right edge of the tablet, and then tap the menu button you need.

To enable Quick Controls, do the following:

  1. Open the browser
  2. Tap the menu icon in the upper right corner
  3. Tap Settings
  4. Tap Labs, and then enable Quick Controls

Be aware, when you enable Quick Controls, you lose the menu bar, tool bar, and such. Effectively, your browser will seem like it's in full screen mode. The only way to enter a URL is to open the Quick Controls and then tap the URL button (looks like a globe).

Google Instant

This feature can cause data overages, but if you're not concerned with that, it's a handy feature to enable. When typing Google searches, Google Instant will pop up results as you type. Here's how to enable this feature:

  1. Open up the browser
  2. Tap on the menu icon in the upper right corner
  3. Select Settings
  4. Tap on the Labs tab
  5. Make sure Google Instant is enabled (has a check)
Now, when you type in the Google search bar, results will populate a drop-down as you type (see Figure E). Figure E

Enter my name, and you start seeing results right away.

You now have more advanced settings and options for your Android browser. The Android tablet browsing experience need not feel like you're still working on a smartphone. Instead, you should be able to enjoy a full-blown browser on the faster, larger hardware. Do you have any advanced Android browser tips to share? If so, please share it in the comments below.