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Library Subject Guides

IT Essentials



The internet enables us (via our devices) to access more information than ever before and communicate easily with people anywhere in the world at any time. Here we look at some ways of using the internet and your browser, including searching and communicating online. We'll also look at getting connected to the internet at the University of York.

Wifi and wired networks

A mobile phone showing a wifi network icon

To connect to the internet and use the world wide web, you need an internet connection, which tends to come as wifi (wireless) and wired connections.

Wifi is a way of transmitting computer data through the air using radio waves. You may be aware of it as a way of connecting to the internet using a range of devices including computers, tablets and smartphones. Wired internet connections use wires to connect devices to the internet, so tend to be used for static devices like desktop PCs.

The University of York wifi network is called eduroam. To connect your device to eduroam, see the IT Services setup guides. Once you've connected your device to eduroam, it will automatically connect whenever you are on campus or any other institution that is part of the eduroam network. Users of eduroam from other institutions should also be able to connect to York's eduroam network.

It's also possible to connect some devices to the wired network at the University. For example, University desktop PCs in offices will be connected in this way, and it's also possible to connect devices to the wired network in University accommodation. For more information see the IT Services wired network guidance.

Browser essentials

A web browser is the programme/app you need to view websites. You will already have a browser on your device. It will be Microsoft Edge if you have a Windows PC, or Safari if you have a Mac or iPhone/iPad. There are other browsers you can download including Google Chrome (our recommended browser) and Firefox.

Microsoft Edge icon Safari icon Chrome icon Firefox icon

Browsers allow you to create 'bookmarks' to web pages you visit regularly. If you log into your browser, these bookmarks can be accessed across any device with that browser. You can also add plug-ins and extensions to your browser: these are pieces of software that add functions to web pages or the browser itself (but you need to be careful with these, as they tend to be given access to 'read' all of the web pages you visit.

We recommend using Chrome at the University because we use Google for email and calendar and cloud storage. If you are using Chrome with your University account, you can access your bookmarks and extensions on any University computer by opening Chrome and clicking on the person icon in the top right hand corner to log in.

Searching online

Often you will use a search engine like Google to search online. Search engines are websites that look through the web for pages matching the search terms you enter.

For guidance, see Google's help page 'How to search on Google', or the 'Expert Search tips' at the bottom of that page for more advanced options. Most of this guidance is relevant whatever your search engine of choice is.

There is no specific search engine to use at York. Many people use Google because it is familiar (and is the search engine that is used when you search in the top "address" bar when using the Chrome browser). See below for a guide to Googling, particularly in an academic context.

The ability to use search terms to find what you are looking for is not only useful on a search engine. Many of the Google Workspace applications you will use at York, including Mail and Drive, use searching to help you find your documents and emails.

Communication and social media

There are many ways to communicate online. Email may seem the obvious choice, particularly when communicating with others in an organisation, but it's worth considering whether it's always the best option. Instant messaging, social media a web page/blog, or collaborative documents may be more effective in some cases.

Instant messaging

Instant messaging can allow for quicker exchanges and stop emails getting lost in a busy inbox. As well as using your University email account, you can use Google Chat as an instant messaging tool. University staff can also make use of Slack.

Social media

Social media platforms are online tools that allow you to create and share content and interact with others. There are huge number of social media platforms out there, including big names like X/Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Blogs tend to have longer written content and there are a range of blogging platforms that can be used.

For guidance on choosing social media platforms and using them effectively in an academic landscape, see our guide to Social Media.

Web basics

The resources on this page will help you to use the web, but if you want to learn a little more about what's happening behind the scenes, there's resources out there, including the following course:

Pop-up boxes

A dachshund popping up out of a box

Pop-up boxes are new browser windows that open when you click a link on a web page. These can be for legitimate reasons, such as selecting a date for an appointment, but the term 'pop-ups' has become synonymous with intrusive advertising and pages designed to make you click on things that might harm your computer.

If you have any doubts about the validity/security of a pop-up then you should not click anything on it. Instead, use the 'X' button in the top corner to close the window.

Modern web browsers often block pop-ups by default. For example, Google Chrome automatically blocks pop-ups. If you need to view a pop-up that you know is safe, you will have to go into Settings and add the website in question to the list of allowed websites for pop-ups.


Edible cookies

Photo by Jade Wulfraat on Unsplash

Cookies are also a common feature you'll experience on most websites. A cookie is a small text file downloaded onto your device when you visit a website. Information saved by cookies allow the site to do things like keep you signed in and remember which stories you've read.

If you want to take more control of cookies and other website data that is stored on your device, you can do so in most browsers by going into settings and turning cookies on or off.

The University of York provides a legal statement on the use of cookies on web pages.