What’s a cache and how do I clear it?

cache /kaSH/

Noun
A collection of items of the same type stored in a hidden or inaccessible place.

Verb
Store away in hiding or for future use.

We’ve all experienced the agony of “lag,” a slow internet connection. Those few extra seconds before your favorite online newspaper displays or your youtube video begins playing can seem like an eternity.

What you might not know is that your browser is squirreling away every bit of information that it can about the websites you visit, to try and reduce the amount of time you have to wait to see those pages in the future. For example, if you visit an online newspaper, your browser might simply memorize that that site always uses the color red for links, a sans-serif font, and other style information about the site using a special memory called the cache. Now, when you click on an article, your computer only needs to request the actual text of the article be sent to you, not all of the information about how it should lay out and display that article. This can make visiting each subsequent article on that site faster and faster, as smaller amounts of data need to be transmitted over the web.

This strategy usually works just fine, as most websites change slowly or not at all after they have been put online. But when it comes to a site that is still in development, you will most likely want to check frequently to see what the newest changes your designer or developer has made look like. And if your computer simply shows you the version that it had memorized the previous day and stored in your cache, you won’t be able to see what’s going on with your site!

Okay, but how do I clear my cache?

Luckily, it’s easy to ask your browser to fetch an entirely new version of a site, without using what is stored in memory.

For windows users: press ctrl-F5 while viewing the page you want to get a new version of in your browser. Some windows browsers will alternatively use the shortcut ctrl-shift-R

For mac users: Hold shift down as you click your browser’s refresh button will normally do the trick!

2017-11-15T14:15:42-08:00

About the Author:

Kimberly Genly
Kimberly Genly is an expert web developer, whose unique ability to understand and appreciate design, human behavior and complex technical systems all at once makes her stand out among developers when it comes to creating intuitive websites and web applications.

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