If you want to read a story later or need to check your budget before buying what’s in your electronic shopping cart, having your web browser remember where you’ve been is a good idea.
For the four most popular web desktop browsers, that’s an easy task. But sometimes finding what you’ve saved is a little trickier.
Bookmark a web page you want to return to
• Chrome, the most popular browser in the U.S. and worldwide, has a ☆ star symbol to the right of the web address that allows you to bookmark a page, and by default you’ll see the page in your Bookmarks Toolbar right above the web page itself.
• Safari is the browser included with all Macintosh computers, and Apple doesn’t make a version of Safari for Windows computers. When you use your mouse to hover over your web address without clicking, you’ll see a + plus sign at the left side of that box. Click it to add the page to your Reading List.
To find your page, click the Show sidebar icon in the upper-left corner of your screen. It looks like a web page with a left column.
In that sidebar, you’ll see two tabs at the top, one with a book icon and another that looks like reading glasses. Click on the reading glasses to find the web pages you added to your Reading List. If you don’t have too much on your Reading List, you can also see the web pages you’ve saved if you click on the box that contains the web address. A pop-up box will display the Favorites that Apple has selected for you, plus a Privacy Report and your Reading List.
• Edge, the default browser for Windows 10 and 11 users, has a ☆ star symbol to the right of the web address also lets you bookmark a page, similar to Chrome. When you save it, you can choose to add it to your Favorites bar, Other favorites or another folder you designate.
The star with three lines to the right is the symbol for your Favorites. The list that pops up includes both the Favorites bar and Other favorites. If you have a lot, you can search them using the magnifying glass icon.
• Firefox has a ☆ star symbol to the right of the web address that also lets you bookmark a page, similar to Chrome and Edge. When you save it, you can choose to put it in your Bookmarks Toolbar right above the web page, in a Bookmarks Menu or in an Other Bookmarks folder to help with organization.
To find all the items you’ve saved, a pull-down menu at the top of the browser window is helpfully titled Bookmarks. When you click on it, choose Manage Bookmarks to display a pop-up box that lists the folders where you’ve filed the web addresses.
What if you forgot to save the location?
If you didn’t create a bookmark while you were on a site, don’t worry. Your computer generally remembers where you’ve been.
If you haven’t cleared your cache since you visited the site, you can start typing a key phrase about the website into your browser’s search bar at the top of the page. Your browser will attempt to fill in with a place you’ve gone to before, a search suggestion and additional detailed web addresses in a list that will pop up below the search bar.
You might not land on the exact location you want immediately, especially if you explored several pages on a website. But you’ll probably get close enough to find what you were looking for more quickly.
How to see your entire search history
On Apple Macintosh computers, the four most popular desktop browsers make it easy to see what you’ve been viewing on the web. Look for the History tab in the lineup across the top of your screen. In all four browsers, the lineup will start with File, Edit, View and History; each browser will have different names for many of the remainder of the tabs.
On PCs running Microsoft Windows 10 and later, you’ll find History under the menu icon to the very right of your search bar — three vertical dots on Chrome, three horizontal dots on Edge or three vertical bars on Firefox.
• Chrome on a PC has you click two different History options to get to a tab with all your previous web pages. On a Mac, Chrome will first show you Recently Closed and Recently Visited websites. An option at the bottom of that list to Show Full History will give you an exhaustive minute-by-minute lineup of where you’ve been, even giving multiple entries for the same page if you’ve refreshed or clicked for more details within a page that expands.
On either a Mac or a PC, you can click on individual items to go to that web page. You can click on the three vertical dots to the right of the page title in the list to see where else on a site you’ve gone and on what date. You also can choose to remove individual listings from your history directory. The list will go as far back as when you last cleared your browsing history, which is true of all browsers.
• In Safari, clicking History | Show All History in the menu bar will open a list of all the sites you’ve visited today, then others by date. Click on the ► right-pointing triangle to turn it into a ▼ down-pointing triangle that lists that day’s site visits. This is sometimes referred to as an accordion that you expand.
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Double-clicking on a web page listing will bring you to it again. Right-clicking will give you the option to Open in a New Tab, Open in a New Window, Copy or Delete.
• In Edge, choosing History will bring up a list of All by date, Recently closed or Tabs from other devices, arranged by tabs. Edge will synchronize your browsing history across devices if you permit it, so you can sync your smartphone or tablet information with your desktop.
Double-clicking on a site will open it again. Right-clicking will give you options to Open in new tab, Open in new window or Copy link.
• In Firefox, History | Manage history (on PCs) or Show All History (on Macs) will pop up a Library of your websites, organized by Today, Yesterday, Last 7 days, This month, the five previous months and Older than 6 months.
Double-click on the grouping you want to open the list. Double-click on an item to call it up again.
Right-click on an item to see eight options, including two not offered in other browsers: Open in New Private Window, which allows you to surf on the site without leaving much of a trail, and Forget About This Site, which removes all data stored in Firefox about that entire domain. That includes bookmarks, cache, cookies, history and passwords. If you choose that last option, the information is difficult to retrieve unless you have a backup of the files.
Linda Dono is an executive editor for AARP. Previously, she served as a reporter and editor for USA Today, Gannett News Service and newspapers in four states, including the Cincinnati Enquirer.