#iPadOnly book » Section 3 - There's an app for that! » Chapter 11 - Web Browsing

Chapter 11 - Web Browsing

You can hold all of the Internet in your hands…

The iPad is much better at web browsing than a laptop or a smartphone. By tapping to open web links, swiping to scroll up and down the page, double tapping to zoom in and out, pinching, swiping left and right… browsing on the iPad feels magical. It feels like you’re touching the Internet.

This is what the iPad was created for - to be your ‘touch-terminal’ for the Internet. And we believe they did an amazing job. Both of us prefer browsing through web pages on the iPad rather than any other machine. It just feels right.


Safari is the default web browser on the iPad. According to Apple it’s the best browser on the iPad as they won’t let you change your default browser to anything else. There are other browsers on the iPad but Apple forces them to use the same web-browsing engine (iOS Webkit) so they don’t seem to be that different. But they are. And the other browsers are really cool. Especially since Safari on the iPad cannot have plug-ins, meaning, you cannot add too much additional functionality to it as of iOS7.

Augusto prefers to use two different browsers

Augusto uses two browsers, one for work (Chrome) and one for play (Safari). Both sync with the iPhone and the Mac and allow him to keep focus on work and play where appropriate.


Note: In iOS8 you’ll be able to make other apps work with Safari through Extensions and Sharing Sheets. This way you’ll be able to not only Tweet a link, but also add it to some other app, or even create a task from it in e.g. Nozbe. However, as of this writing iOS8 hasn’t shipped yet and more importantly, the new apps using this new functionality haven’t surfaced yet. That’s why until iOS7 we had to use “Bookmarklets” to enhance Safari.

A Bookmarklet is a special script that can be saved to Bookmarks and instead of taking you to a web site like the traditional Bookmark does, it launches a special script that helps you get something done.

A few examples: Pocket as well as Instapaper are the apps we use for ‘saving articles to read later’ (more on that in another chapter) and both offer a Bookmarklet. When you’re visiting a web site on the iPad and you tap on the Bookmark bar and then on the Pocket or Instapaper Bookmarklet, it saves this page in the app for ‘reading later’. Evernote, as well as Nozbe, have similar Bookmarklets. Nozbe adds a web site as a task and Evernote clips the web site as a note. Bookmarklet is a very cool ‘hack’ that improves Safari’s functionality without modifying the browser. All you do is just save a piece of code as your Bookmark.


There are some things you can’t do with Bookmarklets. Even though Safari can prompt you to save passwords, we don’t like the way it handles this and we feel we need more control. This is when we turn to 1Password.

We hate remembering passwords. Also, the ones we can remember are not necessarily very secure. 1Password does a much better job at remembering and creating good ones. We store all of our passwords and confidential information in the 1Password app. 1Password also helps creating secure passwords and you can define how long you want it to be, whether or not to use digits, symbols and much more.

The latest version of this app is universal, designed for iOS7 and it works on both our iPhones and our iPads. There is also a desktop version for the Mac and PC and they all sync together via Dropbox or iCloud (or both if you want).

It’s one thing to store passwords, and another thing use them in everyday work. On the Mac were used to browsing the web in Safari and having a 1Password plugin ready. When we needed to log in to some site, we’d click on the 1Password plugin and it’d fill out the info for us. Up until iOS7 this situation is actually reversed. The 1Password app has a web browser built in. You click on the 1Password app and open a web browsing window and navigate to any site you want. And when you want to log in somewhere, just tap on the navigation bar and you’re logged in! This also creates a secure environment. To go to an online banking site just go to 1Password and log in there. It feels like a closed and secured silo that keeps the information safe from anyone else.

The great news is that in iOS8 you’ll be able to do both - either log in through 1Password’s browser or use Safari and access 1Password’s data through an extension. We’ve already seen the video demos on 1Password site and we can’t wait to check it once the iOS8 ships.

If you’re serious about your password security you should use 1Password to store the confidential information there and browse to particularly sensitive web sites from within it as well.

Yes. We know in iOS7 the iCloud Keychain got introduced and it syncs all the credentials between your devices. However the 1Password app is just a more complete and robust solution for our security needs.

Other Browsers we sometimes turn to:

Mercury Browser or Google Chrome

Both have great ‘private browsing’ mode - useful for visiting sites you don’t really trust. After you close the browser all the private info like history, cookies, etc., all trace of your browsing is gone.

You can also pretend to be on a Mac… when you’re still on the iPad.

Yes, these browsers can set up the ‘user agent’ as Mac/Safari instead of the iPad. Some sites are designed very well for the iPad. When they detect the iPad they offer a very nice browsing experience, other sites put the iPad in the ‘mobile camp’ and show the same tiny web site they have optimized for the iPhone. Well, iPad IS NOT an iPhone and it has a much bigger screen. Moreover, most of these sites have no way of ‘switching’ to the ‘desktop web site’. This is when Mercury Browser or Chrome shine as they can basically ‘lie’ to the web sites and identify the iPad as a Mac.

Additional reason for using these browsers is the “work” argument: both of us use them solely for work… and the default Safari for play. Additionally, our trust in Google’s goodwill has deteriorated over the last couple of years, so we’re never logged in to Google on Safari. Just in Chrome.

Puffin Browser

Back in the day there was a big battle between Apple and Adobe on why the iOS devices didn’t support a technology called ‘Flash’. It’s an old technology and HTML5 is better (at least that’s what Apple is saying). However, Flash used to be very popular back in the day and there are still websites built entirely using Flash. That’s where Puffin browser comes in - it allows you to browse Flash built web sites - it’s slow, but it gets the job done.

Dedicated apps

In this section we’ll discuss how the iPad changed ‘web browsing’ activity…

A web browser on the iPad is still important but the iPad has dramatically altered the way we browse the Internet. Want to visit the IMDB? Amazon? Ikea? BBC? CNN? Techcrunch? Well, you still can do it but when you’re #iPadOnly you can just download their apps to browse their content.

This is another cool thing of the iPad. When you’re on a traditional computer, to read these sites you’d have to go to their WWW web sites - no other choice. On the iPad you get their apps from the App Store and interact with them through the app. It’s much better. Like a different league. Here are some of the benefits:

1) No more bookmarks - just the home screen. There is no need to bookmark the sites you visit the most. No need to write their web addresses - they are right on the home screen. Just one tap away. Michael actually keeps them all in a ‘Browse’ folder on his iPad. It’s so convenient.

2) They look better - the apps are usually written from the ground up. They’re not just the sites wrapped around an ‘app frame’ - they are totally new apps, usually designed by new designers who take a fresh look at the site’s content, optimize the experience to the iPad’s screen and gestures… and the result is pretty amazing.

Have a look at the IMDB web site. It’s always been pretty ugly and for a movie freak like Michael, it was annoying. Now on the iPad, it’s a totally different ball game - now the app is his ultimate water cooler. He loves browsing it, learning about the movies, actors… and watching movie trailers.

3) The apps work better - most of these apps use gestures like swiping, scrolling, tapping, tap-and-holding, flipping and the like. It’s a lot more than you can do on a web site. It’s just fun and addictive. The web sites work better on the iPad thanks to their native apps.

The era of ‘appification’

The ‘appification’ of the web redefines the way we interact with the content on the Internet. To Michael, it’s another benefit of using the iPad on a daily basis. Thanks to the ever-increasing number of web sites that turn to apps we can literally ‘touch the Internet’ and interact with the web on a whole new level. Additionally, the iPad’s big screen enables us to appreciate the web content even more.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad he was so right - the iPad is significantly better at browsing the web than a personal computer or a smartphone. After more than three years of our #iPadOnly journey, we can’t highlight this enough.

Next Chapter: Chapter 12 - Reading

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