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How To Pick A Browser

When it comes to internet browsers it’s not like the old days where you just used whatever came installed on your machine. Even if you have a basic Windows machine today Microsoft gives you more than one! Will you use Internet Explorer or Edge? But neither of those is even the most popular. You have Google’s Chrome, which has over 50% market share. There is Safari on the Mac. And Firefox just released a new version as well. Does it matter? Won’t any browser do? To answer that, ask yourself how much of your computing life do you spend in your browser? I’m guessing it might be more than perhaps all the other applications on your computer combined, right? So there might be some thought you’d want to put into this choice. Hopefully I can provide a little guidance, as they aren’t all created equal, and depending on your needs, there may be a clear cut choice.

Five Considerations

I think there are basically five considerations when choosing a browser: 1) Security, 2) Convenience, 3) Performance, 4) Bookmarking, and 5) Extensibility.

Security

All browsers boast about security, but they all provide different ways to protect you. Some do them automatically, others require setting changes, and still others need add-ons. A great article entitled Which Web Browser is Best for Security written by Claire Broadley has in-depth comparison charts of all the major players, and a beautiful infographic that gives us a nice view of the entire browser marketplace. Be sure to give it a read. In my opinion it’s a fairly even horse race, however Google Chrome edges out the competition because they have the fewest days on average between updates. That means they are more frequently applying patches to guard against new security flaws and threats. On the other hand, since they are the most popular browser, they are more frequently targeted as well. If you are on a Mac, I’d recommend Safari since it seems to be less a target than any other.

Convenience

All browsers are chock full of features that make them convenient to use, however my favorite feature is syncing. Syncing allows the same brand browser sync things like bookmarks, passwords, browsing history, and cookies between computers, tablets and smart phones. This is very handy if you compute from more than one device. Again, most browsers do this, but usually in different ways and to varying degrees of success. My favorites for this are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. I’d give Chrome the edge here again however since their smart phone browser is better in general than the one from Firefox. As I mentioned there are many other convenience features to consider, so you should determine what is most important to you and then rate them based on that. Some features to think about are 1) saving pages for offline or later viewing, 2) tab management, 3) Incognito or Private Browsing, and 4) customization of the address and search bars.

Performance

Performance is basically an “arms race” when it comes to browsers. They all try to claim they are the fastest. In reality they are pretty equal. When I gauge performance I usually prefer to see how many system resources the browser uses. There are tools to measure this. For windows, just hit the Windows Key and type in Task Manager and look at the Processes tab. Find your browser and note memory and CPU usage. Then compare that to other browsers. Chrome has traditionally fared poorly in this regard. The latest version of Firefox claims a very small performance footprint. In my experience I’d recommend either Firefox or Edge. They both behave themselves pretty well and aren’t going to cause your computer fan to kick in or slow other applications to a crawl. Your mileage will vary of course, but something to consider and keep an eye on.

I shouldn’t leave the topic without one other very important consideration — does the browser you are using work well with the sites and applications you use? Some sites work better or specific browser, and if the sites you visit don’t play well with your browser, time to try another browser.

Bookmarking

As much of what you do in today’s computing environment is web-based you likely have a ton of bookmarks to get you back to frequently used sites. That makes the bookmarking experience very important. It should be easy to tag and manage those bookmarks or favorites, and a trivial process to rename, move or even share them. If you find yourself confused by or struggling with your browsers bookmarking function, take some time to learn it, or determine that it doesn’t think the way you do, and try another browsers approach. The good news is that all modern browsers allow you to export and import bookmarks, so it’s fairly easy to bring them along as you kick the tires on other browsers. Some browsers even automate that for you and when setting them up will ask you if you’d like to import from some competing browser. Cool. I don’t know if there is a clear cut winner here. I like the way Firefox, Chrome and Safari handle this task. I will say that if this is at the top of your list stay away from Edge. Since it’s so new there are some very basic bookmarking features that it still lacks.

Extensibility

That may not be a word you are familiar with, but it basically means that your browser support add-ons or extensions that can give you new capabilities that the base browser didn’t come with. Firefox has had these capabilities forever, but Chrome has taken them to a new level. This is mostly because Chrome has to BE the application on things like Chromebooks, so it needs to be ultra flexible and act like a “swiss army knife” to meet many needs.

There are add-ons and extensions for almost everything. Some very specific to applications and websites, and others that work across all sites. Some of the most popular are password managers like LastPass and 1Password, or ad blockers like AdBlock. One of the first things I do when setting up a new browser is to load a few of those “must have” extensions. My list includes: LastPass, OneNote Clipper, Shareaholic, Authy, Draft, and Pinboard (all links go to Chrome Store). These are available on Chrome and Firefox for the most part. It gets a little sketchy on Edge, Internet Explorer and Safari. Clear cut winner here is Chrome.

Conclusion

So which browser to choose. All provide some advantage and disadvantages. My advice would be to try them all. Live with each for a month and then make a decision. It will impact your productivity and online stewardship. Which one do I use you may ask? That depends. Primarily Chrome for many of the reasons mentioned above, but I have to say I have been tempted by the recent promises of improved performance and usability by Firefox. But again, it really doesn’t matter what I use. It’s a personal preference, and maybe even sometimes it’s the little things not even mentioned above, perhaps you just like the logo, or the “back button.”

I hope this at least has given you pause to consider the options you have and some of the considerations. Browsers can truly save you time, make you a little more productive, and improve the general enjoyment of your computer and the internet.

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More Favorite Productivity Tips: Cleaning Up Your Desktop

Being in the technology business for many years means I have seen a lot of computer screens and a lot of user desktops. While I have never done a scientific study, I’d guess that an easy majority of them are so full and seemingly disorganized that the user probably knows where a few key files are, but the rest…forget about it. It seems that “desktop” is a dumping ground, home base, halfway house, and miscellaneous whatever, all rolled in to one. At times I’ve been guilty of it too. My ministry productivity quotient went way up however when I finally followed these three simple tips to a healthier desktop.

Tip One: Your desktop should be reserved for documents you need to have one click access to.

Not all documents are created equal, and their relative importance can change over time. Take a look at your desktop right now and identify at least one document you haven’t opened, looked at or otherwise thought about in the last three months. Find any? If you did, it’s like trying to drive down the road and having abandoned cars just sitting there, in your way, slowing you down. Why are they there? Why aren’t they parked in someone’s garage, or towed away, or taken to the dump?

It’s your job to keep the path between you and your destinations as fast and friction free as possible. Not littered with all kinds of things that are just taking up space, making you look at them over and over again for no good reason. And then each time you look at them you think, “I should really clean this place up.” What a waste of brainpower. Knowledge workers like you need clear, distraction free paths to your work. Not an obstacle course. Clear those unneeded or unused documents away. Put them in folders. Delete them. Take a few hours. They’re digital. It won’t take long. You won’t even need to break a sweat.

Tip Two: Don’t use your desktop for applications

One of the wastes of computer desktop space is to leave or put shortcuts to application start up icons there. So you have your Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Email Client, Browser…and the list goes on. Whether you use Windows or Mac you have a Start/App Menu AND  a Task Bar/Dock. Use them for those frequently used apps. While I’ve seen some computers that do have them there, they ALSO have links to them on the desktop! Great! Two ways to get to the app. Sound more productive? Not really. You only need one. In fact, you really don’t need any icons to apps on the desktop or the taskbar/dock. Wait a minute…what? That’s right. The fastest way to open an app is to not even take your fingers off the keyboard. “Resist the mouse!” Say it with me. “Resist the mouse!”

Just tap the Windows key (on a PC) or the Command Key plus Spacebar (on a Mac) and type the first couple letters of the app you want to open and hit enter. More than likely those first couple letters will net you the app you are looking for. Your computer is smart. Let it do the work for you. Give it a try. I almost never use the mouse to open an app. Opening Microsoft Word is as easy as Windows Key -> “wo” -> Enter Key. Opening the Chrome browser is Windows Key -> “ch” -> Enter Key. Sweet!

Tip Three: Change the default location of your desktop to a cloud service.

I saved the coolest tip for last. Perhaps the geekiest too. Unfortunately I think this tip is only for you Windows users. Did you know you can change where your desktop files are stored? Basically that means that whenever you “think” you are throwing something on your desktop, you are “really” storing it in a location of your choosing. My recommendation, if you are OK with the security side of it, is pick a cloud service. I use OneDrive for instance, and have it sync to my computer. Then I change the desktop location to it, and presto, I have anything that is sitting on my desktop also synced to the cloud. This makes it easy to get at my most active files from almost anywhere and any computer…or mobile device.

It’s actually very easy to do. Here is a quick tutorial on it. Another option is to use Google Backup and Sync to make sure your desktop data is stored in the cloud. One of the most frequent “oh no” moments I’ve observed in helping co-workers is when they realize they were saving stuff else where, to the cloud, etc. But neglected to consider the stuff on their desktop. Important stuff!

So just take care to use the desktop wisely. It is a great surface on which to work. Quick. Easy. Efficient. You can now make it even better.

Additional Resources

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Called Worker Compensation Bible Study

If you are a called worker or church leader responsible for called worker compensation, you’ve probably heard about the newly released Called Worker Compensation Calculator. In fact, last month I wrote a brief ministry resource blog post on the topic. What maybe wasn’t clear are the great resources that have been created around the whole topic of compensating those who have dedicated their lives to full time ministry. The most recent offering is a brief video Bible study that can be used by calling bodies to think properly and biblically about the entire process of support called workers. The video is embedded at the bottom of this post.

A summary of the Bible study reads:

This brief Bible study on called worker compensation focuses on a few key passages, reminding calling bodies of God’s grace in providing public ministers of the gospel and their God-given responsibilities toward those who minister to and with them. The study offers guidance to congregations and schools regarding a process to follow and tools available to assist them in a careful, prayerful, and thoughtful approach to compensation.

The PowerPoint slides that Professor Treptow shared with the study is also available. Used together the video and PowerPoint slides would be a great tool for a church council and/or school board to work through before the budgeting season begins. What a great way to prayerfully approach the important work of called worker care.

Related resources

 

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WELSTech Google Group

As a person trying to figure out the best suited technology for a specific ministry application, wouldn’t it be great if you had an on-demand resource to help you? Great news! You do…the WELSTech Google Group. This group represents some of the smartest technologists our synod has to offer, and even better, they are very interested in engaging in tech-in-ministry conversations. What a blessing and a resource!

Some recent conversations have included topics like online giving solutions, electronic whiteboards, Hymnsoft running on Windows 10, getting Google Apps for Non-Profits up and running, and creating ADA compliant digital documents. Many years of these helpful conversations have been captured and made available for anybody willing to look.

Over the years many questions and answers have been shared. So if you are a seasoned technologist with experience and answers, or someone just getting started and feel overwhelmed, this resource deserves your attention. A true testament to what it means to “walk together” as a synod.

It’s very easy to join and use. You will need a Google account of some kind to request an invitation. Just visit https://groups.google.com/a/groups.wels.net/d/forum/welstech. Once in, you can email questions to the group at welstech@groups.wels.net. Simple. In settings, you can tell Google Groups to send you a daily summary, send combined messages 25 at a time, send them as they come in, or not to receive any emails at all. Very flexible and options to work the way you want them to.

If you’d like to search the archive, that’s easy too. Just visit the website https://groups.google.com/a/groups.wels.net/forum/#!forum/welstech and use Google’s excellent search tools. Years of previous conversations are available. See the quick video tutorial below for a walkthrough. Enjoy.

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Top Ten Reasons to visit WhatAboutJesus.com

Perhaps one of the unsung heros of all the WELS internet properties is www.whataboutjesus.com. It’s primary purpose is to answer that very question that many people ask…what about Jesus? Who is he? Was he real? Why should I believe in him? How will he change my life? If you are not familiar with the site, I’ve put together a little “top ten” list of why you might want to tag this site as one of your “go to” digital evangelism tools.

#1: It addresses many of the common questions a person might have about Christianity in general, and Jesus in specific.

#2: It will provide even the seasoned Christian with a refresher on core theological topics and help them be even better prepared to “give the reason for the hope that they have.” (1 Peter 3:15)

#3: It provides daily devotions that can be read, emailed, or listened to via podcast. And then shared of course!

#4: It provides worship helps that will prepare new and old Christians for worship the following Sunday by listing the common readings and brief questions and answers on each.

#5: It provides “catechetical” aids that cover things like the Apostles Creed, Communion, the Lord’s Prayer, and other key topics that can sometimes be confusing.

#6: It provides an easy way to submit a prayer request. These requests are then passed along to people who have volunteered to pray for you and the requests you have. Everything is kept very confidential.

#7: It provides biblical answers to the relevant questions someone might have today concerning life, friends, and society. This site is not a stodgy set of “theological truths” that are hard to read, little lone understand. This is relevant content!

#8: It provides Bible studies that can be used in many contexts. They include studies on John, Colossians, Romans, Great Chapters of the Bible, and significant people of the Bible.

#9: It’s design is fresh and mobile friendly.

#10: It has a name that is easy to remember and share… What About Jesus? .com! (i.e. www.whataboutjesus.com)

As you can see it has a wealth of resources and many uses. Bookmark the site and remember to share it with your Christian friends as well as those who are just beginning to ask… “what about Jesus?”

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