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by Ray DeCosta

Q. Many websites that I visit have pages that don't display properly. Often lines of text appear on top of each other and are unreadable. In other cases, the text is jammed together up against one side of the page or the other. What is going wrong here?

A. This "text cramming" may be caused by poor website design and, if so, there's nothing you can do about it. However, it is more likely the result of using an older Internet browser that is no longer standards-compliant. Web design is constantly evolving as new features are added to the code used to create and display pages on your computer.

In addition, security enhancements are improved with each new version and for your own safety, you should update your browser whenever an update is offered to you.

Right now, Internet Explorer (IE) is up to Ver. 9 and Firefox (FF) is using Ver. 10. If you are using Windows XP, there's a complication in updating because Microsoft will not allow you to use IE Ver. 9. Instead, for technical (and possibly marketing) reasons, you are limited to using Ver. 8. This is problematic because about one-third of all computers still use XP and are therefore prevented from upgrading!

If you are using a much older browser technology such as IE Ver. 6, you may find that some websites do not work properly, if at all. Ver. 6 support from Microsoft is fading away and due to its antiquated status it can't be used effectively any longer to display certain important items. In this case it's almost mandatory that you update to Ver. 8 or to 9 if you have an operating system higher than Windows XP.

As an alternative to being stuck at a lower-level IE, this might be the opportunity for you to change over to Firefox and have access to a modern browser which you will always be able to update. The install procedure is very easy and will automatically copy over all your Favorites to the new browser.

More information about Firefox, including the free download file, is available here.

Published: Courier 3/4/12 - Page 5C