Better browsing on the Kindle

The Kindle’s “experimental browser” is never going to be a replacement for a desktop browser.  No matter if you’re using wifi or 3G, it’s always going to be slow.  After all, this is a 532 MHz processor with 128k of RAM.  Also, the screen is only 600×800 pixels, so most websites won’t display properly without panning and zooming. But, there are a 2 things you can do that makes for better browsing.

Mobile Websites

Many popular sites have alternate pages designed specifically for viewing on the smaller screens of smartphones; these are perfect for the Kindle.  By eliminating menus, images and other bloat, these sites are also much more lightweight, so they load quicker.  Plus, mobile sites have far fewer ads. 

Some sites work great on the Kindle (like Google Voice) while others are awkward/broken (like the default Gmail).  Finding the best mobile versions of your favorite sites is sometimes a chore, so you’ll probably find it easier to do some searching using your desktop computer and make note of the sites you’re interested in.  Most mobile sites preface their URL with “m” or “mobile”, so instead of going to www.cnn.com, you’d go to www.m.cnn.com.  A few sites make use of the new top level domain “.mobi”, so instead of going to www.foxnews.com, you’d go to www.foxnews.mobi.  You can also check Kinstant, Cantoni, or do a Google search.  If all else fails, you can try loading the website via Reading the Net which will rebuild your website to make it Kindle-friendly.

Now you could just bookmark each of your favorite sites using your Kindle’s browser, but there’s a better way…

Book of Bookmarks

Normally, to start the Kindle browser you go to home, menu, experimental, launch browser and then to load a bookmark, you’d go to menu, bookmarks and select the site you’re after.  This is far too many steps.  If you have a book with all your bookmarks, it’s much easier to just open that book and click on the bookmark you’re after–it will even turn on wireless automatically.

For an pre-made book of bookmarks, check out Reading the Net’s Book of the Web.  If you browse to this site on your Kindle, you can even download their book of bookmarks directly.

Making Your Own Book of Bookmarks

Making your own customized book of bookmarks isn’t overly complex either.  The book is nothing more than a collection of links that you email to your username@free.kindle.com address.  It doesn’t require any special software and you don’t have to learn a lot of html/css to do it—just copy and paste. 

Here’s a sample file you can start with.  Clicking the sample file will download a file called Kindle Bookmarks Sample.txt to your computer.  Email this file to your username@free.kindle.com address with the subject “convert”.  (If you haven’t setup your Kindle email, see here.)  Be sure wireless is turned on and in a few minutes you should have a new book on your Kindle called KindleBookmarksSample that looks like this:

screen_shot-19638

To remove one of these links, open the Kindle Bookmarks Sample.txt file with Notepad (not Microsoft Word) and delete the line associated with that link such as:

delete-line

To add a new link, just copy and paste an existing line (like the blue area above) and fill in the link/description.  Each link should include the “http://” and the description can be whatever you choose:

edit-line

Once you’ve got all your links filled in, save the .txt to your computer (rename it to whatever you like) and email this file to your username@free.kindle.com address with the subject “convert”.  Be sure wireless is turned on and in a few minutes you should have a new book on your Kindle with your own custom book of bookmarks.

A Few Good Links

Gmail: the default m.gmail.com link doesn’t work properly, use http://bit.ly/gmailmobile

Reddit compact: is the modern interface with thumbnails, thumbs up/down and it automatically pulls more content when you reach the bottom of the page.  http://www.reddit.com/.compact

Reddit mobile: is the older html version.  It loads quickly but lacks some of the advanced features.  It’s better for jumping back and forth between Reddit and Imgur.  http://www.reddit.com/.mobile?keep_extension=True

Weather: some of the best mobile weather comes straight from the National Weather Service.  Browse to http://mobile.weather.gov/ input your ZIP code and grab the links for “Detailed 7-day Forecast” and “Your Local Radar.”

Wunderground: Everything is loaded on a single page: current conditions, radar, and forecast with links to marine weather and tides.  Add your zip code after “query=”  http://m.wund.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?brand=mobile&query=ZIPCODE

Note to anyone looking to improve on this

At some point I’d like to jazz up my book of bookmarks but until azw3/kf8 rolls out to the Kindle Keyboard we’re stuck with only the most rudimentary html and virtually no css.  It’s like making a website using Netscape Navigator circa 1996. Tables are a train wreck on the Kindle—you end up having to click on each cell before you can click each link.  Images are awkward—they have to be in the foreground and clicking on them opens only the image, not the link.  Floating and absolute positioning are impossible.  On my wish list: 2 columns with divs replacing the links so each entire div is clickable and images/icons for each site.

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