5 Easy-to-Use Services to Make Web Surfing Better

old man using laptop

In today’s fast-paced world, it seems we are spending more and more of our time on the web, whether we want to or not.

For younger generations navigating devices, apps, and web pages comes as second nature but for others the ever-changing online landscape can be overwhelming. All the shortcuts web developers add to their programs in order to make them easier to use can sometimes make things more complicated, less intuitive. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of ways to make browsing the web truly a breeze.

If Microsoft Word is Too Complicated . . .

iA Writer is a great tool for those who feel that other writing programs have gotten too complicated (read: button-happy) for their own good. It’s a minimalist writing tool that allows users to focus simply on the writing.

Keeping the app distraction-free relies on making things intuitive. The formatting, for example, can be edited with straight-forward buttons, but for more complicated formatting, writers can optionally use simple markdown (plain text formatting that is easily converted to HTML). iA Writer provides a simple tutorial for this purpose.

Furthermore, the word processor has functions that allow you to focus on active sentences or paragraphs by washing out any inactive text, really limiting distractions. iA Writer also uses file transclusion, which is a fancy way to refer to a simpler process of embedding images, tables, and blocks of texts.

Another feature is the “Syntax” button, which highlights different parts of speech that you’ve used in your writing. This is great if you want to focus on improving specific areas of your writing. A downside to iA Writer is that to-date, it is only available on Mac, Android, and iOS. However, similar apps are available for Windows (Scrivener, for example)

If you aren’t a heavy writer and aren’t looking for a suite of tools for that purpose, give Google Drive a go. Google Docs specifically are much more pared down than Microsoft Word, with all the same functionality. Plus, Google Docs is completely free. All you need to do is create a Google Gmail account. Even though you need a browser or an app to use docs, you can easily edit and create documents online or offline.

simple tool for writing iA
Screenshots of iA Writer app (iOS version)

If You Hate Annoying Ads . . .

It is no secret that people of all ages hate online advertising. Ads have always been annoying, but they’ve reached a whole new level of intrusiveness; even the government has gotten involved when companies have gone too far.

The good news is, there is a way to limit and even stop online ads.

With the StopAd application, available on Windows, iOS, and Android (with Mac OS on the way), you can now completely block all online ads and begin enjoying your online experience without obnoxious, deceitful ads ruining your experience. Since StopAd installs directly on your device, uses cutting-edge AI, and doesn’t participate in acceptable ad programs, it blocks ads much more effectively than similar extension services.

StopAd can save you a ton of time, too. Once you download and install StopAd, it begins to work automatically to block ads in all major browsers as well as apps like Skype, uTorrent, and more. StopAd is completely customizable—and it’s free.

If You’re Tired of Browser Tracking . . .

This one is a relatively simple fix which requires no downloads or installations.

All you have to do is go into your browser settings, whether you’re on a handheld device or computer, and shut off cookies.

If you don’t clear out your browser’s cache, companies can track you indefinitely and hackers can gain access to a host of information.

Check the link for a more detailed description of tracking, cookies, how they work, and how to stop browser tracking.  Another way you can cut down on tracking is to stop signing in to accounts with Facebook. Many sites offer this feature to make browsing their site more convenient; however, when you sign in with Facebook, you’re linking the two sites, making tracking easier.

To completely shut out browser tracking when browsing online, you can use search engines such as Duckduckgo or Startpage. Google’s incognito setting and Microsoft’s Do Not Track Setting are not always effective as browsers typically leave it up to the website itself to respect “do not track” requests. Since there currently no protections regarding consumer tracking, these browsers are the safest way to go.   

screenshots of duckduckgo app
Screenshots of DuckDuckGo app (iOS version)

If You Want to Waste Less Time Online . . .

The internet is arguably the single biggest time waster on the planet—especially on tablets and phones.

Between Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more, it’s no wonder that we’ve all become guilty of losing an afternoon (or more) online. Thankfully there are great tools to cut down on wasting time.

Some of our favorites include Space (iOS, Android), Offtime (iOS, Android), and Moment (iOS).

Space is useful in that it tracks your usage and generates easy-to-understand “addictive scores.” It tracks how often you unlock your screen, and comprehensively logs your daily usage.  The idea is that if you have true insight into how often you are actually using time-wasting apps, you’ll use them less.

Similarly, Offtime can track your usage, including how often you’re on certain apps and on your phone in general. It also allows you to set limits for apps and filters apps according to your preferences. You can take advantage of various settings templates for Family, Work, and Me to customize your daily usage.  

Moment tracks your usage and allows you to set limits and notifies you when you exceed them. It’s an aggressive app in that when you exceed your limits in floods your phone with annoying messages alerting you to your overusage. Just the same, Moment can be customized for individual-use or family-use.  

simple services Space iOS
Screenshots of Space app (iOS version)

For People Who Hate Spam . . .

As long as there has been email there has been spam, and it’s somehow much worse than the spectacle that is canned ham. Email providers have graciously created filters that help keep a lot of spam out of our inboxes but every so often, 1 (or 10) sneak through.

One simple but underutilized tool is to train your spam folder. Search through your buttons in your inbox, likely there is an option to “mark as spam.” The more messages you mark, the faster your email’s filter system will learn your preferences.

If you haven’t tried it yet, you might switch to Gmail, Google’s email provider. Gmail boasts an excellent spam filter. The service allows you to link up other emails, including from other providers like Yahoo! or AOL, so all your messages can be read through Gmail. To link up your address:

  1. Create a free Gmail account, or log in to the one you have.
  2. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner, and select “Settings.”
  3. Go to the “Accounts and Import” tab.
  4. Next to “Check mail from other accounts” click “Add a POP3 mail account you own.”

Finally, if you’re simply drowning in spam, just hit the reset button—that is create a whole new email account. A new account means that the email address is not on any lists, and you have the ability to be more selective on who gets your details.

The bottom line? No one has time to navigate the ever-changing world of the internet.

The best we can do as consumers is find the apps and programs that work for us and try to make those apps fit into our lives. Thankfully, new apps are created daily that ensure the current apps will fit into our lives almost seamlessly.

What apps or tools do you use and love?