A reader asks the Geek for help after his phone’s browser trips up on JavaScript.

Q: My Samsung Galaxy S8 sometimes won’t let me open items I receive via email. It says I need to install JavaScript in my browser. Trouble is I don't know which browser my phone uses as default. I search the web using both Edge and Chrome.


When I Google "Install JavaScript" I don't have much luck following the directions.


Can you help?


– Cort P., Niceville


A: The timing and topic of your question make it seem like this is an extension of the column from a few weeks ago (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. No. 664, April 12, 2020) in which I was discussing JavaScript, and scripts in general. If that’s not the case, I suggest you visit my website in order to give it a quick read. To that column, I would add that since a script consists of computer instructions, you should be very careful in situations like this. There are many safeguards built into JavaScript, but it is still possible to use it to write malicious scripts that perform less-than-desirable operations on your computer.


Let’s start at the beginning with your question. The Samsung Galaxy S8 runs Android as an operating system. Most Android phones have Google Chrome as a browser, which makes sense, since Android is an open-source software project headed by Google. However, as the owner of the hardware platform, Samsung has their fingers in there also. They can choose whatever defaults they like, including a different browser. Samsung Galaxy devices may come equipped with a Samsung-produced mobile browser Internet browser. Users can install also over a dozen third-party browsers on their Android devices. I imagine if you had done that you would know with certainty what the default browser on yours is.


Even if you have multiple browsers installed, you can determine which one is the default easily enough. Start by opening the Settings app, and then tap on “Apps.” Tap the three dots icon in the upper-right corner, and select “Default apps” from the dropdown menu. Tap “Browser app” and Android displays a list of the installed browsers, along with an indication of which one is the default. It’s important to know that just because one particular browser is marked as default, that doesn’t mean you can’t run the others. Being default only means that when you take some action that requires a browser, such as clicking a link in an email, that particular browser opens automatically. You can open any other browser manually, or change the default at any time.


Now that you know (hopefully) which browser is the default, perhaps your Google search will be a little more productive. Remember The Geek’s Rule on performing searches: less is more, and more is less. That means when you enter too few terms in your search, such as “Install JavaScript” you are going to get way too many search hits, most of them irrelevant to what you’re looking for. To narrow down the results to a more manageable level, you’ll want to add the name of your hardware platform and the name of your default browser to the search. Generally, the more search terms you use, the fewer results you get, and the more accurate those results become.


Even when a browser natively supports JavaScript, it is often disabled by default for the very reasons I mentioned above about potential malicious scripts. It therefore occurs to me that whatever browser you might be using JavaScript could merely be disabled. The exact method to enable it varies, but generally, you open either the browser itself, or the same “Apps” option I mentioned above, and look for a setting that says something like “Enable JavaScript.” It’s often buried under “Advanced Settings” or even “Security.” If you can’t find it easily, the same search engine tricks that I mentioned above about fully-describing what you’re looking for should produce useful results for this as well. Good luck!


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