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Six clicks: Can your browser do these tricks?

All web browsers are not created equal. Each of the top six browsers has a unique killer feature.
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1 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

One killer feature apart from the rest

Modern browsers all do a good job of rendering HTML5 and managing things like tabs and bookmarks. But each of the top browsers also has its own personality.

Don't believe us? We've found a unique killer feature for each of the top six browsers: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, and both versions of Internet Explorer (desktop and Windows 8).

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2 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Google Chrome highlights noisy tabs

It’s happened to everyone who’s ever used a web browser. You’re rolling along, with so many tabs open that they’ve begun scrolling off the screen, and suddenly an ad or video clip begins playing. Which tab is the annoying one? The only way to find out is to click and scroll and click and scroll.

Until Chrome version 32 arrived on the scene, that is. Beginning with that release, every open web page currently making noise is identified by a small speaker icon on its tab, meaning you can find and silence the offender with a quick scan.

This is one feature every browser should have, and probably will, someday. But for now it’s a Chrome exclusive.

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3 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Internet Explorer Tracking Protection Lists

The ugly secret of the Web is that you’re being tracked just about everywhere you go by advertisers and analytics companies that scoop up your personal data and store it in giant databases outside your control. There are plenty of third-party add-ons that claim to protect your privacy, but only Internet Explorer (version 9 or later) has this capability built in.

When you turn on Tracking Protection, you can use a list that Internet Explorer builds on the fly, as you use the browser. Or you can use a third-party list tailored to block specific domains known for their tracking behavior. Microsoft even created a list aimed at preventing Google from collecting data as you visit third-party sites.

If you care about privacy, it’s a good tool to keep at your disposal.

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4 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Safari sharing

Safari is, perhaps, the most boring of all browsers, not known for its innovative interface or cutting-edge features. But because mobile Safari is the only option on the wildly popular iPad, it’s insanely popular. And on both OS X and iOS it has one built-in feature that none of its rivals do.

When you visit a web page in Safari, you can share it easily via Twitter or Facebook (or email) using the Share tool. This feature doesn’t require any third-party apps, and it lets you bypass annoying widgets that add extra information (including tracking codes) to your tweet or post. If you haven’t previously connected either service to your iPad, you’ll be prompted to do so the first time you use this feature. After that, it’s a simple matter of tap-and-share.

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5 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Firefox Master Password

Every modern browser offers the capability to save usernames and passwords for sites that require you to sign in. That’s convenient, but it also introduces a security risk: If you leave your computer unattended, someone can visit your bank, a shopping site, or your web-based mail or social media account and automatically log in as you.

Unless you’ve saved those credentials in Firefox, that is. Mozilla’s browser offers the option to assign a Master Password to protect those credentials. When you turn on that setting, an intruder who sits down at your PC will be unable to browse through your list of saved usernames and passwords unless they can supply the Master Password. It’s up to you to choose a strong password that’s not easy to guess. But you knew that already, right?

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6 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Internet Explorer (Windows 8 only) Reading View

In Windows 8, Internet Explorer has a single rendering engine, but two distinct personalities. So distinct, in fact, that one killer feature is only available when you leave the desktop.

Ads, widgets, ugly formatting, and overcomplicated navigation aids can make the experience of reading a web page unnecessarily difficult. With the Immersive (nee Metro) Windows 8 version of Internet Explorer, you can clear away the clutter with one click of the Reading View button.

Reading View is similar in design to the Reader feature in Apple’s Safari browser. But Microsoft’s designers added the capability to customize the background color (sepia is especially easy on the eyes when using a large monitor) and to set a standard font size.

In fact, Reading View is so convenient you might be tempted to use the plugin-free Windows 8 Internet Explorer even on a desktop PC. If you do lots of online reading, your eyes will thank you.

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7 of 7 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Opera Speed Dial

Bookmarks are so 1994.

Here in the 21st Century, your day is likely to start with a handful of related sites that you scan quickly. For common work-related tasks, you'll probably want to open two or three sites where you can research and share information quickly.

That's where Opera's Speed Dial feature comes in handy. Speed Dial is Opera's default for new tabs, where you can bookmark single pages for quick access. But you can also save groups of bookmarks here in folders. To see all the bookmarks in a single folder, click the Speed Dial icon. To reopen the entire saved collection, right-click and use the Open All menu choice.

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