Most file managers, whether using Explorer in Windows, Finder in Mac OS X or Nautilus (or Dolphin) in Linux, have multiple ways to navigate a file system. One option is to use an editable location bar. In Linux, this means to navigate to a folder named Music, inside the Home folder of a user named EricCFlem, you would type the following:
If you want to go back to the ericcflem folder, you would either retype the first part, or highlight “Music” and remove it. This can be great for those times you know exactly where you want to go (especially as many file managers have “intelligence” so that when you start typing the name of a folder, it gives you all the options that start with those letters), but can be a little unwieldy if you want to go “back” in the folder hierarchy, as you need to go back to the beginning and start over, unless you’ve already visited a folder on the way to where you are currently.
The way I like navigating through my file system is by way of what are known as breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are hard to describe, but instead of being editable, you click where you want to go. So if you are in the same Music folder as listed above, all you need to go to go to the EricCFlem folder is click it. To go to the Home folder, click it.
In web browsing, a similar navigation tool can be useful. And for Google Chrome users who want it, a new extension makes it possible. It isn’t a tool that’s going to be useful on every website, but for some it can save a lot of time.
Let’s imagine a completely made-up website as an example. You click on the website, then click on a calendar to view a list of upcoming events. When you look at your browser’s URL bar, you notice the following address:
By clicking on a single link, you’ve navigated from the main page, to the calendar, located in the events section of the resources area of the website. If you want to go to the main “events” page, you would need to backspace over “calendar” in the URL, then hit enter. To go to “resources” you’d need to erase both “calendar” and “events” from the URL.
With Breadcrumb Navigator for Google Chrome, it’s a lot simpler. Just click the little icon that appears inside the right portion of the URL bar, and you’ll be shown a breadcrumb “version” of the URL for the page you’re currently visiting. Want to go to “resources” or even back to the main page? Just move your mouse from left to right, and at each step of the way you’ll see the level of the website you can use. It’s really simple and intuitive.
Unfortunately, not all websites are designed this way. With more and more sites using content management systems, a nice hierarchy might not be available, and thus the Breadcrumb Navigator extension is a bit useless. A good example of a website that works well with Breadcrumb Navigator is the Apple homepage. There, you’ll get links like this:
At each step (from apple.com to apple.com/ipod and from there to the full URL), you can click and be taken to a page. ESPN.com is another website that generally works well, with numerous addresses like the following:
It looks as if you could go to pages dedicated to “nba” or “truehoop” or “miamiheat” or “news” and in this case, those pages do exist. But not always, and that’s something that is true of almost all websites. Parts will work with Breadcrumb Navigator and others will not.
Still, for those websites (or portions of websites) formatted in a breadcrumb-friendly manner, it’s a great utility and one that Google Chrome users might want to install. You can browse using Breadcrumbs or in Folder view, both of which make navigating some websites a lot quicker. So give it a try; it’s kind of a new way of browsing the web, but maybe it will work for you.