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Chapter 5. Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer has long been the most popular browser in the world, but before the launch of Windows Vista, it had became the most maligned browser in the world as well. There's good reason for that. Although newer browsers such as Firefox continually added new features such as tabbed browsing and security help, Internet Explorer changed little from version to version. It began to look down at the heelsand worse, it was becoming less useful than Firefox and other browsers.

The launch of Windows Vista changed all that. Microsoft took the opportunity to give Internet Explorer a thoroughgoing makeover, and it is a success. The Vista-based browser now includes tabbed browsing, plenty of security features, and a more modern, streamlined interface, making it easier than ever to use.

This chapter offers a guide to all of Internet Explorer's most valuable features and shows you how to customize them. It doesn't, however, cover general Internet features, such as adding a new connection or troubleshooting connections. For that, turn to Chapter 7.

Here is an alphabetical reference of entries in this chapter:

Add-On Manager

Internet Options

Pop-Up Blocker

Alt Menu

Internet Options Privacy Tab

Print Preview

Content Tab and Content Adviser

Internet Options Security Tab

RSS Feeds

Delete Browsing History

Page Menu

Search Bar

Favorites Center

Phishing Filter

Tab Options

Internet Explorer

  


Internet Explorer: \program files\internet explorer\iexplore.exe

A web browser used to view web content.

To open

Start All Programs Internet Explorer

Use the Internet Explorer icon on the Start menu or on the Quick Launch Toolbar.

Command Prompt iexplore

Usage

iexplore [-nohome] [url]

Description

Internet Explorer is a full-featured web browser that you can use to navigate the Web, as well as view web content on your local network or hard drive. Web content is typically in the form of web pages (.html), but it can also be images (.gif, .png, and .jpg), FTP sites, or even streaming video or audio (via Windows Media Player) (see Figure 5-1).

Figure 5-1. Internet Explorer 7.0, the default web browser in Windows Vista


You navigate in Internet Explorer by clicking hyperlinks in web pages or by typing addresses in Internet Explorer's Address Bar. You can "bookmark" frequently visited sites by creating Internet shortcuts (similar to Windows shortcuts), stored in your Favorites folder, your Desktop, or anywhere else on your hard disk.

Use the Back and Next buttons (as well as the Alt-left arrow and Alt-right arrow, respectively) to navigate through the history, which is empty in each new Internet Explorer window or tab that you open. Use the Stop button (or press the Esc key) to stop the loading of a page, and use the Refresh button (or press F5) to reload the page, displaying any changes that might have been made or displaying an updated version of a dynamically generated page.

The Home button loads the currently configured home page(s) into the browser window. The home page is merely a shortcut to a single web site, and you can change it by going to Tools Internet Options.

If you start Internet Explorer from the command line or Start box, you can use either of the following options:


-nohome

Starts Internet Explorer without loading the home page (blank). You can also configure Internet Explorer to use a blank page (about:blank) as its home page, effectively causing Internet Explorer to always start without loading a home page.


url

The Uniform Resource Locator, which is the address of a page to load. If you omit url, Internet Explorer will display the home page.

Here are descriptions of some of the features of Internet Explorer:


Windows Update

Updates to Internet Explorer are frequently made available on the Windows Update site. Windows Vista comes with Internet Explorer 7, but subsequent versions will add support for new standards, new features, bug fixes, and probably a few new bugs. If you're upgrading to a new major release, always take advantage of the feature that saves the old system files, allowing the new version to be uninstalled in case you run into a problem or incompatibility.


AutoComplete

Internet Explorer has an auto-completion feature, which encompasses several features to help reduce typing. While you're typing web addresses, Internet Explorer checks your browser history for any matches and displays them below the Address Bar. The more characters you type in the Address Bar, the narrower the list of suggestions will be, until the list disappears. To choose a URL from the list, just use the arrow keys on your keyboard and press Enter, or use your mouse.

You can also type an address without the http:// prefix, the .com extension, and even www (if applicable) in your addresses, and the site will still be found and loaded, as long as it is in the .com, .edu, or .org domain. To add new domains to be included in AutoComplete, use the Registry Editor to add them to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\InternetExplorer\Main\UrlTemplate.

AutoComplete goes further to remember usernames, passwords, and even some form data. Be careful when having Internet Explorer "remember" sensitive data, as others will be able to access it as well. For example, don't store your bank PIN or credit card number if others have access to your computer. You can configure the AutoComplete options by going to Tools Internet Options Content AutoComplete Settings.

The AutoSearch feature extends AutoComplete by allowing you to initiate web searches from the Address Bar. To use AutoSearch, start by typing a keyword into the Address Bar (such as bozo). Internet Explorer will perform a search using your default search site. The default is MSN Search, but you can change it by clicking the down arrow next to the Search Bar and selecting Change Search Defaults.


Search Bar

You can also do searches from the Search Bar. Type in a term, and it will perform a search using your default search site. You can add multiple providers by clicking the down arrow next to the Search Bar and selecting Find More Providers. From the page that appears, choose another provider. To use a provider other than your default, click the down arrow next to the Search Bar, and select the provider you want to use for that search. You can also change the search default by clicking the down arrow next to the Search Bar and selecting Change Search Defaults.


Cookies

Cookies, first introduced by Netscape, allow a web site to store specific information on your hard disk. For example, if you visit an online store that has a shopping cart, that web site will be able to keep track of who you are by storing one or more cookies on your computer. This allows thousands of people to simultaneously access a site yet have their own separate and distinct shopping carts. Cookies are often the target of privacy advocates, because it's possible for web site administrators to use cookies to track which pages certain visitors view at their site. However, cookies are available only to the sites that assign them (a cookie defined at Amazon.com cannot be read by any other web site), so the actual risk is minimal. You can adjust how Internet Explorer handles cookies by going to Tools Internet Options Privacy tab.


The Information Bar

Whenever anything untoward happens when you browse the Weban ActiveX control tries to download, a web site tries to get around Internet Explorer's security settings, etc.the yellow Information Bar appears just below Internet Explorer's address bar with a Security Warning. Clicking the Information Bar provides more information and a context menu with possible actions, from giving your OK to switching off any future alerts. This toolbar is usually hidden, appearing only when a security "event" occurs.


Pop-Up Blocker

Pop-up ads are among the Web's most annoying annoyances, and Internet Explorer can block them, making web surfing much more enjoyable and clutter-free. You'll find its full options in the Tools menu (Tools Pop-up Blocker, shown in Figure 5-2), or by clicking the Information Bar when it blocks an offender.

Figure 5-2. The Pop-Up Blocker, which makes surfing the Internet much more enjoyable

The Pop-Up Blocker is automatically activated, although you can switch it off. When it blocks a pop up, a yellow bar appears at the top of the current page. Click the bar and you can 1) temporarily allow pop ups during your visit to the site and see exactly what each pop up is (for instance, an urgent news post or logon screen), 2) give the web site permission to display pop ups whenever you visit; or 3) open the Pop-Up Blocker settings window. From here, you can choose to block every pop-up window you encounter except for those you OK on the spot, switch off the blocker entirely, or have the blocker determine which pop ups to suppress and which to let through.


Download Blocker

By default, Internet Explorer stops all downloads. That may be overkill, but even careful users occasionally click the wrong box or get tricked by a misleading message. In the bad old days before the Download Blocker was baked into Internet Explorer, it was also annoying to have to constantly swat down requests to install ActiveX components with names such as "uber1337 Password Manager 1.843 by clicking this you agree to let us show you a million ads watch your movements and dial porn sites in Paraguay." These requests are now blocked by default. You'll find the full settings list by clicking Tools Internet Options, the Security tab, and the Custom Level button.

The Download Blocker stops any program that tries to install anything without your permission and flashes a warning via the Information Bar. Ignore the warning, and nothing will be downloaded. However, click the Information Bar to display download options and further information about exactly what the site is trying to send you.

If you trust the web site (say, Macromedia) and you know you need to accept the download (say, the latest Shockwave player), you can give the site a permanent thumbs up by selecting "Always install software from companyname" (Internet Explorer fills in the company name for you). If the site is totally untrustworthy, you can click "Never install software from companyname" and blacklist it forever.

In most cases, however, you'll probably choose the middle ground and select "Ask me every time" so that you can make the decision about any potential download on a case-by-case basis.

Make sure you confirm what a component does before disabling it, or you could lose important Internet Explorer functionality. If the name doesn't supply enough details (for example, Shockwave ActiveX Control), search Google for the add-on's name, or search the add-on publisher's site for information.



The Add-on Manager

In the course of your web travels, all sorts of "enhancements" to Internet Explorer may be added by the web sites you visitActiveX components and browser extensions that add features, browser helper objects that display flash and PDF files, and so on. If an add-on has been installed by accident, or you simply want it out of your hair, the new Manage Add-ons screen lets you turn it off like a light bulb. To actually uninstall software, you still must use the Add or Remove Programs control panel. To access this control, select Tools Manage Add-ons Enable or Disable Add-ons. You'll see a list of any add-on components you've allowed onto your system (see Figure 5-3). To enable or disable an add-on that's on your system, just select it in the list, then click the Enable or Disable radio button below and click OK.

Figure 5-3. Managing those little add-ons that "improve" your browser without your knowledge

Notes

  • If Internet Explorer is the default browser, you can also go to Start Start Search and type any web address to open the page at that address. However, you can set any browser as the default. Typically, during installation of another browser, such as Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/firefox) or Opera (http://www.opera.com), there will be an option to make that browser the default. Once you have installed one of these other browsers, the procedure to make it the default varies. In Internet Explorer, go to Tools Internet Options Programs tab, and turn on the "Tell me if Internet Explorer is not the default web browser" option. Then, after closing all open Internet Explorer windows, open a new Internet Explorer window; when prompted, verify that you want to make Internet Explorer the default.

    Another way to specify whether Internet Explorer should be your default browser is to choose Start Default Programs Set your default programs, to change whether Internet Explorer should be your default browser.


  • Go to Tools Internet Options (see "Internet Options," later in this chapter) to set the various options relating to the display of web pages, security on the Internet, related Internet applications, and other, more technical Internet-related settings.

  • The files that make up web pages, .html files, are simply plain-text files and can be viewed or modified with a plain-text editor, such as Notepad. In fact, if you select Page View Source, Internet Explorer will display the code for the current page in a new Notepad window. However, if you're not familiar with HyperText Markup Language (HTML) code, you can use any modern word processor to create and modify web pages. Most Internet service providers (ISPs) will even host your pages for you, effectively giving you your own web site.

  • When you type the name of a folder on your hard disk into Internet Explorer's Address Bar, Windows Explorer will open in a new window and the contents of the folder will be displayed. (You'll get a security warning that says, "A website wants to open web content using this program on your computer." Click Allow to continue.) Likewise, if you type an Internet address into the Address Bar of an Explorer window or a single folder window, the window will be replaced with Internet Explorer and the page will load.

  • If you find the text size on any page to be too small, go to Page Text Size and choose the text size to your liking.

See also

"Manage Network Connections," in Chapter 7, "Windows Explorer," in Chapter 4, and "Internet Options," "Tab Options," "Phishing Filter," "Print Preview," and "RSS Feeds," in this chapter

What's new in Vista

With Windows Vista, Microsoft gave Internet Explorer one of its biggest face-lifts in years. In fact, it gave it more than just a face-liftit also added significant new security features, both ones you see and ones you don't see. Before the development of Windows Vista, Internet Explorer was looking long in the tooth and had become inferior to competing browsers; it didn't allow tabbed browsing, for example, and it was notoriously insecure. With the release of Windows Vista, though, all of that has changed. Here are the highlights of what's new in Windows Vista:


Tabbed browsing

The most noticeable change in Internet Explorer is that you can open multiple web pages, each in its own tab, as shown in Figure 5-4. To open a new tab, click the small tab to the far right, and a blank tab will open. When you click a link on a page, it will open as it normally wouldin the current tab, or in a separate window if the HTML on the web page has told it to do so. But if you want, you can have any link open in a new tab instead. Simply right-click the link and choose Open in New Tab. To control how tabs operate, go to Tools Internet Options and click Settings next to Tabs on the General page.

Figure 5-4. Internet Explorer tabs


No more menus

Use Internet Explorer for a short time, and you'll notice something odd: the familiar menus have vanished and have been replaced with a new set of menus on the far-right portion of the page. If you want to use the old familiar menus, press the Alt key and they will magically appear.


Phishing filter

Phishing has become the newest scourge of the Internet. In a phishing attack, you're sent an email that purports to be from a legitimate financial site, such as your bank, PayPal, or eBay. You're asked to click a link to log in to the site, and often you're told you need to log in as a way to guarantee your security. When you click to the site, it looks legitimate, but it is in fact from a scammer, who steals your password and login and proceeds to empty your back account or use your account in other nefarious ways.

Internet Explorer's phishing filter solves the problem by stopping you in your tracks when you visit what it believes to be a phishing site. A page warns you that you are about to head to a "reported phishing website." You then have the choice of closing the web site, or ignoring the Microsoft recommendation and visiting it.

If the filter instead detects what it says is only a suspected phishing site, you're let through, but a yellow button appears next to the Address Bar and labels the site a "Suspicious website." You can then decide whether to stay at the site or head away.


RSS feeds

With Really Simple Syndication (RSS), you can get news and weblogs (blogs) delivered straight to your PC. You get a preview of the content available on the blog or web site, or you receive the full content, depending on how the site set up its feed. If you get a preview and you want to read the full post or news item, you click on the feed and are sent to the site or blog.

Vista's Internet Explorer includes an RSS reader for subscribing to and reading RSS feeds, shown in Figure 5-5. When you're on a page that has an RSS feed, the RSS icon on the Internet Explorer toolbar turns orange. Click the icon to read the feed using Internet Explorer's built-in RSS reader.

Figure 5-5. Reading RSS feeds with Internet Explorer

The reader lets you sort items by date, title, and author. A search box lets you search through all the feeds. To configure how Internet Explorer's RSS reader works, choose Tools Internet Options Content, and in the Feeds section, click Settings.


Protected Mode

Internet Explorer has long been a target of malware writers. Partly that's because it's the most popular browser on the planet. But part of the reason is that Internet Explorer includes hooks directly into Windows itself, and so a hacker can wreak havoc on Windows using Internet Explorer.

In Windows Vista, Microsoft has taken a big step toward solving that problem. It runs in Protected Mode, which shields your filesystem and Registry from any actions taken by Internet Explorer or any Internet Explorer add-ins. So even if a piece of malware breaks through all of Internet Explorer's security features, it can't do harm to your PC, because Protected Mode in essence locks Internet Explorer in a safe box.

Internet Explorer hot keys

Many people like using the mouse, but those who are more keyboard oriented are always looking for fast ways to access Internet Explorer features. That's where hot key combinations come in; rather than having to mouse around, you can press a simple key combination, such as Ctrl-D, to add a site to your Favorites. Table 5-1 lists Internet Explorer hot keys. For hot keys related to tabs, see "Tab Options," later in this chapter.

Table 5-1. Internet Explorer hot keys

Key combination

Action

Alt-left arrow

Go to the preceding page.

Alt-right arrow

Go to the next page.

Ctrl-Tab/Shift-Ctrl-Tab

Go to the next/previous tab.

Escape (Esc)

Stop the page from loading.

F5 or Ctrl-F5

Refresh the page.

Alt-Home

Go to your home page.

Alt-D

Give focus to the Address Bar.

Ctrl-Enter

Add "www." and ".com" to what you typed in the Address Bar, then navigate to the site.

Space bar/Shift-Space bar

Scroll down/up the web page.

Alt-F4

Close Internet Explorer.

Alt-M

Activate the Home button on the Command Bar.

Alt-J

Activate the Feeds button on the Command Bar.

Alt-O

Activate the Tools button on the Command Bar.

Alt-L

Activate the Help button on the Command Bar.

Alt-C

Open the Favorites Center set to display favorites.

Ctrl-Shift-Q

Bring up a list of open tabs.

Ctrl-D

Add sites to Favorites.

Shift-click

Open a link in a new window.

Shift-F10

Open the right-click context menu for the currently selected item.

Ctrl-mouse wheel up/down

Zoom in/out by 10 percent.

Ctrl-(+)

Increase zoom by 10 percent.

Ctrl-(-)

Decrease zoom by 10 percent.

Ctrl-0 (zero)

Go back to the original size.

Ctrl-E

Go to the Toolbar Search Box.

Alt-Enter

Open your search query in a new tab.

Ctrl-down arrow

Display the search provider menu.

Ctrl-I

Open the Favorites Center to your favorites.

Ctrl-H

Open the Favorites Center to your history.

Ctrl-J

Open the Favorites Center to your feeds.



Alt Menu

Brings back the pre-Internet Explorer 7 menus.

To open

In Internet Explorer, press the Alt key.

Description

One of the biggest changes to the Internet Explorer interface in Vista and Internet Explorer 7 is that the menus just beneath the Address Bar seem to have vanished. In fact, though, they haven't vanished; they've just been hidden. You can make them appear again by pressing the Alt key. The items on the menu are available somewhere else in the Internet Explorer interface. For example, the Favorites menu gives you access to features that are more easily accessible in the Favorites Center. But if you're one of those people who enjoys the traditional Internet Explorer menus, you can always get to them by a simple press of the Alt key.

Notes

  • Once you get used to the new Internet Explorer interface, you most likely won't need to rely on the old menus. But if you're having trouble finding a particular feature, they're worth turning on (select Tools Menu Bar to keep them on permanently).


Content Tab and Content Advisor

Controls content you can view and use in Internet Explorer.

To open

Internet Explorer Tools Internet Options Content

Description

This tab on the Internet Options dialog box controls a variety of miscellaneous content-related settings, including the Content Advisor, which can control the kind of web sites users of the PC are allowed to visit. It includes the tabs shown in Figure 5-6.

Figure 5-6. The Content tab, which lets you configure how Internet Explorer should handle a variety of miscellaneous content


The following is a list of what is available on the Content tab:


Parental Controls

Clicking this button brings you to the Parental Controls Control Panel applet that lets you decide how children can use the computer and Internet. It lets you set time limits on computer use, as well as control what sites they can visit, what games they play, and what programs they use. For more details, see "Parental Controls," in Chapter 8.


Content Advisor

This section lets you use a ratings system to control the kind of Internet content that can be viewed on the computer. It's questionable how useful the Content Advisor is, because it depends on a system in which sites rate themselves for violence, nudity, sex, and profanityand very few sites actually do the rating. And, of course, because the site does its own ratings, it may not rate itself accurately. The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) (http://www.icra.org) oversees the rating system. Click Enable under the Content Advisor, and you'll come to the tabbed dialog box shown in Figure 5-7.

Figure 5-7. The Content Advisor, which lets you fine-tune what content can be viewed on the Web

Following are details about each of the tabs:


Ratings

This lists a variety of objectionable contentfor example, "Depiction of drug use," "Violence," and "Sexual material." Highlight each and then move the slider to specify how the content may be viewed on a scale starting with "None" and ending with "Unrestricted."


Approved sites

This tab lets you specify sites that you want to either always block or always allow to be viewed.


General

This lets you customize a variety of Content Advisor settings, such as whether to allow users to view web sites that have no ratings. It also lets you add other rating systems and create a supervisor password that can be used to allow users to view restricted content.


Advanced

This lets you consult rating bureaus for every page you visit, or use the Platform for Internet Content Selection Rules (PICSRules), which is a series of rules created by the PICS rating system that you can apply to determine which site can be visited, and which blocked. This is an old ratings system that doesn't appear to be used much, if at all.


Certificates

It's fairly easy for one site to masquerade as another. Digital certificates, which use cryptography to create unique identifiers that can't be forged, can be used by sites that want to prove their identity to you. Here, you can identify which certificate authorities (certificate issuers) you want to trust. If Internet Explorer receives a certificate by an authority it doesn't know about, it will either display a warning or not display the associated web page at all, depending on your settings. Companies sometimes self-certify their pages, especially in an intranet context, and you will get a warning when you try to connect to one of these sites.


AutoComplete

Internet Explorer's AutoComplete feature remembers text you've typed into your browser, including web site addresses, names, passwords, usernames, and forms data. Click Settings, and a dialog box appears that lets you determine whether to use AutoComplete for each of those, or whether to turn off AutoComplete completely. See "Internet Explorer," earlier in this chapter, for more details.


Feeds

Click Settings to control how Internet Explorer handles RSS subscriptions. You can control whether it should automatically check for feeds, and if so how often, as well as whether to play a sound when a feed is found and whether to use the special RSS reading pane. For more information, see "RSS Feeds," later in this chapter.

Notes

  • It's questionable how useful the Content Advisor is. Rating systems have been proposed since at least as far back as 1997, but none has really caught on, and they are rarely used. If you're a parent and you worry about your children's use of the Internet, using the Parental Controls feature is a much better choice.

See also

"RSS Feeds," later in this chapter, and "Parental Controls," in Chapter 8


Favorites Center

Revisit your favorite web sites and read RSS feeds.

To open

Click the Favorites Center icon in Internet Explorer.

Press Alt-C when using Internet Explorer.

Description

The Web is a massive, chaotic place, and it is difficult to remember all of your favorite web sites, much less be able to navigate quickly to them. That's where the Favorites Center, shown in Figure 5-8, comes in. It lets you organize all your favorite sites in a logical fashion, in folders, so that you can revisit them. It also lets you organize and read RSS feeds.

Figure 5-8. Organizing your favorite web sites using the Favorites Center


To open the Favorites Center, click the Favorites Center icon (it looks like a star). It opens to the leftmost portion of Internet Explorer, and it overlays the web page you're viewing so that it hides the leftmost portion of it. To pin the Favorites Center so that it stays in place and the page underneath resizes so that no portion of the page is hidden, click the arrow on the upper right of the Favorites Center.

Pages are organized in folders, or you can put them in the top level of Favorites. To navigate to a web site inside a folder, click the folder, and then the site. To read RSS feeds, click the RSS icon, and select the feed you want to read.

You can also browse to pages that you've visited previously but haven't necessarily put into the Favorites Center. Click the History button in the Favorites Center to view a list of the sites you've previously visited. When you click the button, a menu appears that lets you list the sites by date, site name, sites you've visited most often, or sites you've visited today. You can also search through your history by choosing Search History from the menu.

When you're on a site that you want to add to your Favorites Center, click the + button, click Add to Favorites, and from the dialog box that appears, choose which folder to put it in (or create a new folder and put it there), and then click Add.

You can also add Tab Groups to the Favorites Center. First create a Tab Group by opening all the sites in their own tabs, as outlined in "Tab Options," later in this chapter. Then click the + button, and click Add Tab Group to Favorites. Give the group a folder name, then click Add.

To open the Tab Group in the Favorites Center, click the Favorites Center button, then click the folder that you want to open. Next, click the arrow to the right of the folder name. The Tab Group will now open, with each site in its own separate tab.

You can organize your favorites in several different ways. You can drag folders and sites to new locations within the Favorites Center, or you can instead click the + button, select Organize Favorites, and from the screen that appears, use tools to organize them. When moving a favorite from one folder to another, it's fastest to do it from directly inside the Favorites Center, but if you're going to be doing a lot of work, it's worth using the tools.

Notes

  • When you clear your History, as outlined in "Delete Browsing History," later in this chapter, your History list will be blank. It automatically populates itself as soon as you start visiting sites after you clear it out.

  • You can import favorites from another computer, or export favorites to it. To export favorites, click the + button with the star on it and choose Import and Export. The Import/Export Wizard appears. Follow the wizard's directions for exporting your favorites. Make sure that you save it to a location where the PC to which you'll import it has access, or save it to a device such as a Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash drive, which you can plug into the other PC. To import favorites, first export them from another version of Internet Explorer, then launch the Import/Export Wizard and follow the directions for importing them.

See also

"Delete Browsing History," "RSS Feeds," and "Tab Options"


Internet Options

Change the settings that affect Internet Explorer and your dial-up Internet connection.

To open

Control Panel [Network and Internet] Internet Options

Command Prompt inetcpl.cpl

Internet Explorer Tools Internet Options

Description

The Internet Options dialog is a densely packed dialog with every conceivable option for Internet Explorer. Settings are divided into the following tabs:


General

The General tab is shown in Figure 5-9. The "Home page" section allows you to choose the pages that load automatically whenever an Internet Explorer window is opened, as well as pages linked to the Home button on the toolbar. In the Vista version of Internet Explorer 7, you can have multiple home pages so that whenever you click the Home button, each home page will open in its own tab. To set multiple home pages, type each on its own line in the "Home page" section. Press Enter at the end of a line to move to the next line. Make sure to include the http:// in front of each page you want to load as your home page.

Figure 5-9. Internet Options' General tab, which lets you choose a default home page, change or add search providers, control how tabs work, and clear out your web browsing traces

The Browsing history section lets you delete your browsing history, temporary Internet files, cookies, saved passwords, and information you've typed into web forms. Temporary Internet files, also known as your browser cache, are stored in a folder on your hard disk that stores copies of recently visited web pages for quicker access the next time they're visited. The Temporary Internet Files folder is located at C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files by default (to open this folder, click Settings in the "Browsing history" section, then click "View files"). Cookies, a feature unrelated to Temporary Internet files, are pieces of information stored on your computer to allow certain web sites to remember your identity or preferences; click Delete Cookies to clear all cookies stored on your computer. To selectively remove cookies, open the C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies folder in Windows Explorer. See "Internet Options Privacy Tab," in the "Security" section of this chapter, for more cookie settings.

Internet Explorer keeps track of pages you've visited and displays links to those pages in a different color (purple by default, as opposed to the standard blue for links to pages you haven't yet visited). Items in your History are also accessed with the AutoComplete feature discussed in "Internet Explorer," earlier in this chapter. For details on how to control the length of time before pages are removed from Internet Explorer's history, and how to change your cache settings, see "Delete Browsing History," in this section of the chapter. For more information about clearing your Browsing history, see "Internet Options Privacy Tab," in the "Security" section of this chapter.

The Search section lets you remove search providers and set your default provider. Click the Settings button, and from the dialog box that appears you'll see a list of all your search providers. To remove one, highlight it and click Remove, then click OK. To make one of them the default search provider, highlight it and click Set Default, then click OK. Note that for some odd reason, you can't add search providers from this dialog box. Instead, you have to add providers via a menu that drops down from the Search Bar itself. For details, see the discussion of the Search Bar, earlier in this chapter.

The Tabs section lets you control how tabs appear and function. You're given a great deal of control over how they work, including whether they should even be used. For details, see "Tab Options," later in this chapter.

The remaining buttons allow you to control the default colors, fonts, and languages in which pages are shown. The Accessibility button essentially limits the control web pages have over their appearance.


Security

This tab lets you specify the security settings for different predefined zones of Internet content. There are four basic zones: Internet, Intranet, Trusted, and Restricted. By default, all sites are placed into one of the first two zones. All sites found on your local network are placed into the Intranet zone. All other sites are placed into the Internet zone. You can manually add sites to the Trusted and Restricted zones. Security settings for each zone are preset, but you can change these settings if you want. For each zone, you can specify High, Medium, Low, or Custom security settings. Security settings govern such things as whether ActiveX controls, Java applets, and JavaScript programs are used, how files are downloaded, and how user authentication takes place. For details, see "Internet Options Security Tab," in the "Security" section of this chapter.


Privacy

The Privacy tab controls when and how Internet Explorer accepts cookies, and allows you to customize the Pop-Up Blocker. Play around with the slider to choose among six different preconfigured privacy policies, or click Advanced to choose your own settings. The Medium or Low policy should be suitable for most users. You can also click Edit in the Web Sites section to selectively choose which web sites can store and retrieve cookies, and which cannot. You can view the cookies currently stored on your hard disk by opening the C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies folder in Windows Explorer. For details, see "Internet Options Privacy Tab," in the "Security" section of this chapter.


Content

The Content tab contains a number of miscellaneous functions that allow you to control what Internet Explorer can and cannot view. It also controls how AutoComplete functions, and how Internet Explorer handles RSS feeds. Many of the features in the Content Advisor section are not widely used and still have a few kinks to be worked out. For details about this tab, see "Content Tab and Content Advisor," earlier in this chapter. Additionally, this tab lets you go to Parental Controls to control how children can use the computer and Internet. For details about Parental Controls, see Chapter 8.


Connections

The Connections tab allows you to choose to have your dial-up or cellular data connection dialed automatically. If you're not using a dial-up or cellular connection but rather DSL, cable, or a direct LAN connection, most of this page will be of no use to you. The exception is the LAN Settings dialog, which lets you configure your proxy (if you have one). In addition, the Add VPN button lets you create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection. A VPN connection lets you create a secure, encrypted connection that in essence lets you use the Internet as though it were a private, secure network. You can use VPNs to connect from home to a corporate network, or to establish a secure connection at a public wireless hot spot. For details, see "Virtual Private Network Connection," in Chapter 8.

If you have one or more dial-up connections, they will be listed here. If you have two or more connections and you want to use the Auto Dial feature, choose one and click Set Default. Then, click either "Dial whenever a network connection is not present" or "Always dial my default connection," whichever you prefer.

Select a connection and then click Settings Advanced to choose how many times Windows will dial before giving up, and whether it should disconnect automatically if it detects that the connection is no longer needed.

The Setup button starts the New Connection Wizard. See Chapter 7 for more information on setting up new Internet connections.


Programs

The settings in the Programs tab let you choose settings for Internet-related programs. For the most part, when you click to change a setting, you're sent to another part of Vista to finish making the change. One exception is the "Default web browser" section, which lets you decide whether to use Internet Explorer as the default browser. If the "Tell me if Internet Explorer is not the default browser" box is checked, anytime you start up Internet Explorer (as long as it isn't already your default browser), it will ask you whether you want to make it your default browser. Thus, this setting is really just a shortcut to change file/program associations.

The Manage Add-Ons section is just a frontend to the Add-On Manager. See the discussion of the Add-On Manager, earlier in this chapter, for details.

The "HTML editing" section lets you choose which program you want to use to edit HTML files that create web pages. Choose any from the drop-down list and click OK.

The "Set programs" button in the Internet programs section is just a frontend to the Default Programs Control Panel applet. (See the discussion of the Default Programs Control Panel applet, in Chapter 3, for details.) The applet lets you set your default programs not only for Internet use, but also for all programs on your PC. Oddly enough, Excel is listed as a possible HTML editor, even though you can't really use it for that purpose.


Advanced

Advanced contains myriad Internet Explorer settings in a hierarchical tree (see Figure 5-10). They cover everything from accessibility to security, general browsing, multimedia, and printing. Many of these settings are rarely used and most are self-explanatory. Useful settings include:

Figure 5-10. The Advanced tab, which contains many settings that affect all aspects of web browsing with Internet Explorer


Notify when downloads complete

Normally, a message pops up when a download is complete, interrupting whatever you are doing. Disabling this feature is particularly helpful when you perform multiple downloads at once.


Use smooth scrolling

This specifies whether a page slides gradually when you click the scroll bar, a feature that can be especially distracting.


Underline links

This specifies whether links on pages should be underlined always, never, or only when you hover your mouse pointer over them.


Multimedia

Multimedia can be a great part of the web experience, but it can also slow down the delivery of web pages. The multimedia section lets you control whether certain multimedia elements, such as pictures, videos, and sounds, are downloaded for display. Thankfully, all those awful sounds in web pages can be silenced for good! This section also lets you turn on and off Always Use ClearType for HTML, which makes for better viewing on laptop displays and LCDs. However, ClearType can actually make the displays on traditional CRT monitors worse, so if you use a CRT monitor, turn off ClearType. (Note that if you change your ClearType setting, you'll have to restart Internet Explorer for it to take effect.)


Printing

This enables or disables the printing of background colors and images when you print a web page. You can increase print speed considerably with this option disabled.


Security

It's best to leave the default security settings for Internet Explorer. There's one exception: you might want to check the box next to "Empty Temporary Internet files when browser is closed." When you do that, all your temporary files are deleted whenever you close Internet Explorer. It may slightly slow down initial browsing to web sites you've already visited, but it also will make for extra security. The Security section also includes turning the phishing filter on and off. For details, see the earlier discussion pertaining to the phishing filter. Finally, note that you can find the settings that control Java and JavaScript in Security Custom Level.

Notes

  • The settings in the Connections tab affect only your dial-up Internet connection (if you have one), which affects all of your Internet applications. All the other tabs affect only the Internet Explorer application. You can find settings that control the security and privacy features of other browsers, such as Firefox and Opera, in those applications' options windows.

See also

"Control Panel," in Chapter 3, "Search," in Chapter 4, and "Content Tab and Content Advisor,""Internet Explorer," and "Tab Options," in this chapter


Page Menu

Performs a variety of functions on the current web page, including sending the page via email, changing the text size on the page, and copying text from the page.

To open

Internet Explorer Page

Description

The Page menu, shown in Figure 5-11, is a catchall for letting you perform a wide variety of functions on the web page you're currently visiting. The topmost choices are self-explanatory and follow basic Vista conventions for copying, cutting, and pasting text, as well as opening a new window. (Note that when you open a new window, you're opening an entire new instance of Internet Explorer, not just a new tab. The new instance will be opened to the current web page.)

Figure 5-11. The Page menu, which lets you perform a variety of tasks on the current web page


Here are the other options on the menu:


Save As

Saves the current web page to your hard disk so that you can view it or edit it locally. You have several choices for saving. If you're not planning to edit the HTML of the file, your best bet is to save it as a "Web Archive, single file (.mht)." That way, you won't clutter up your hard disk with extra folders and files stored in different locations; everything is saved to a single file. Saving it as a "Web Page, complete" stores the HTML file, as well as associated graphics, in a folder structure. Saving it as a "Web Page, HTML" will save just the HTML file itself, with no associated graphics and no folder structure. You can also save it as a text file, but if you do, expect to spend time cleaning it up because it saves all the text on the page, often in an unstructured way. To read the page after you've saved it to your disk, press Ctrl-O, browse to the directory where you've saved the page, and open it.


Send Page by E-mail

This opens a wizard that takes you through a step-by-step process to send the page via email.


Send Link by E-mail

This opens a wizard that takes you through a step-by-step process to send the link via email.


Edit

This opens the HTML file of the web page in Notepad (or another program listed here), which you can then use to edit the file. You'll have to save the new HTML file locally. Note that if you use an HTML editor and you've associated that editor with HTML files, the page will open in that editor rather than in Notepad.


Zoom

This lets you set the zoom level to a maximum of 1,000 percent.


Text Size

This lets you change the text size. There are five sizes from which you can choose.


Encoding

This selects the type of text encoding to use; use it when you need to display text in another language.


View Source

This opens the web page in Notepad so that you can view it.


Security Report

If you are on a web site that uses encryption, choosing this option will open a page telling you whether the connection you have to the site really is encrypted, and giving you the name of the site. Click View Certificates, and you'll come to a dialog box that provides details about the security certificate used to encrypt the connection and the certifying authority that issued the certificate. There is also more detailed information, including descriptions and technical information about the encryption keys.


Web Page Privacy Policy

This lets you see the privacy policy of the current web page. But that requires that the current web page posts its privacy policy in a way that hooks into Internet Explorer. Many of the most popular sites on the Web don't do this. For example, Google and Amazon don't, so you can't view their privacy policies. Microsoft and Yahoo! do, so you can view theirs. This option will also tell you whether Internet Explorer has blocked any cookies from the site, based on your privacy settings.

Notes

  • You can also change the Zoom level by using the Change Zoom Level icon in the lower-righthand portion of the page. And you can zoom in and out in increments of 10 percent by pressing Ctrl- + (plus) to zoom in, and Ctrl- - (minus) to zoom out.

  • If you want to open a web page for editing and the page was created with frames, you have to right-click on each frame and choose View Source. If you want to see the source for the overall frame that contains the individual windows, press Alt-V to display the View menu, and then click Source.

See also

"Parental Controls," in Chapter 8


Print Preview

Preview your page before it prints and customize the printing.

To open

Internet Explorer Print Menu Print Preview

Description

For the most part, you print in Internet Explorer in the same way you print anywhere else in Vistaby pressing Ctrl-P or clicking the Print icon. But that is somewhat misleading, because Internet Explorer 7 solves web page printing woes and offers quite advanced printing features.

As anyone who has ever printed out a web page knows, you'll often encounter serious problems when you need to print. Web pages were designed for viewing on the Web, not for printing. So frequently, text will be cut off on the right side of the page. The Vista version of Internet Explorer automatically fixes these problems by shrinking web pages so that they are not cut off on the right margin.

If you want, though, you can control printing well beyond that, and do things such as turning headers and footers on and off. To do that, use Internet Explorer's Print Preview feature, shown in Figure 5-12.

Figure 5-12. Internet Explorer's new Print Preview feature, which lets you control many aspects of printing web pages


To use the feature, click the down arrow next to the Print icon and choose Print Preview. Icons at the top of the page let you customize how you print and how you preview your pages. The icons are a bit confusing, because some control your preview of the page and others control how the page will actually print. For example, the Show Multiple Pages drop-down box lets you preview one, two, three, six, or twelve pages at a time, but it won't affect how the pages actually print, only how you look at them on your screen. The Shrink to Fit drop-down box, on the other hand, controls how the pages will actually be printed.

Following is a description of each icon, from left to right, along with its shortcut keys for each. Note that the shortcut keys work only when you are in Print Previewthey won't work outside this window.


Print Document (Alt-P)

This prints your page. Click this button after you've customized your page, and it will print it according to your choices.


Portrait (Alt-O)

This prints the page in portrait mode (vertically oriented).


Landscape (Alt-L)

This prints the page in landscape mode (horizontally oriented).


Page Setup (Alt-U)

This brings you to the familiar Print Page Setup page, the same one you see throughout Vista when you print.


Turn headers and footers on or off (Alt-E)

This will toggle the page headers and footers on or off. The header includes the name of the web site from which you're printing, the page number, and the total number of pages. The footer includes the exact URL of the page you're printing and the date. This toggle works not just for display; the option you choose here will actually be printed.


View Full Width (Alt-W)

This allows the width of the web page to cover the entire width of your screen, so you will not be able to see the bottom of the page unless you scroll. This affects only the display of the page, not the way it prints.


View Full Page (Alt-1)

This displays the entire page so that you can see it on one screen, without scrolling. This affects only the display of the page, not the way it prints.


Show Multiple Pages (Alt-N)

This lets you preview one, two, three, six, or twelve pages at a time. This affects only the display of the page, not the way it prints.


Change Print Size (Alt-S)

This lets you change the print size on a page. The default is Shrink to Fit, which will shrink the print size to ensure that it prints on a single page. You can change the print size to any preset level in the drop-down list, which ranges in increments between 30 and 200 percent. To print at other levels, select Custom and enter any number between 1 and 999 percent.

Notes

  • Many web sites include a Print this Page feature that automatically reformats the page for optimal printing. If you come across a web page with this feature, it's a good idea to use it, even though Internet Explorer includes a feature that shrinks text to fit on the page. The Print this Page feature usually eliminates ads and prints text from multiple pages if an article goes across multiple pages, so it is quite useful.

See also

"Printers," in Chapter 9


RSS Feeds

Receive live feeds of web content, news, and weblogs (blogs).

To open

Internet Explorer Tools Internet Options Content Feeds (to configure feeds)

Click the Feeds button in the Internet Explorer toolbar (to subscribe to feeds).

Click the Favorites Center in Internet Explorer, and choose the Feeds tab (to read feeds).

Description

RSS refers to a family of formats for web feeds that deliver information straight to your PC over the Internet. Many blogs use RSS feeds, but so do news sites. In fact, any web site that so desires can easily add an RSS feed to its offerings.

When you receive an RSS feed, you either get a preview of the content available on the blog or web site, or receive the full content, depending on how the site set up its feed. If you get a preview and want to read the full post or news item, click on the feed and you are sent to the site or blog.

Internet Explorer 7, built into Vista, includes an RSS reader for subscribing to and reading RSS feeds. When you're on a page that has an RSS feed, the RSS icon on the Internet Explorer toolbar turns orange. Click the icon to read the feed using Internet Explorer's built-in RSS reader, as shown in Figure 5-13. In some cases, a web site has more than one feed on it. Click the inverted triangle next to the RSS icon and you'll see a list of all feeds on the site. Click the one you want to read.

Figure 5-13. Reading a feed using the RSS reader


The reader lets you sort items by date, title, and author. A search box lets you search through all the feeds.

To subscribe to a feed, click the + button (the same button you use to add a favorite) at the top of the toolbar, or click the Subscribe to this Feed link in the feed itself. When you subscribe to a feed, it is automatically downloaded to your PC, without your intervention. To view all the feeds to which you've subscribed, click the Favorites Center icon on the Internet Explorer toolbar (it's a star) and click the Feeds tab, and you'll come to a list of your feeds. Click on one to read it.

Internet Explorer's RSS reader also gives you basic control over how you want it to work. To configure it, choose Tools Internet Options Content, and in the Feeds section, click Settings. Check the box next to "Automatically check feeds for updates" if you want Internet Explorer to check your feeds without your intervention, and then select the frequency at which you want the feeds checked (choices range from once every 15 minutes to once a week). You can also specify whether Internet Explorer plays a sound when a new feed is found, and whether you want to turn off the feed reading view. If you turn it off, feeds will appear as plain web pages without controls for sorting and filtering the feeds.

Notes

  • An excellent way to see when there is new information in an RSS feed is to use the Feed Watcher or Feed Viewer Gadget in the Vista Sidebar. The Gadgets let you preview feeds, but in slightly different ways. The Feed Watcher lists each individual feed and shows you how many new items each feed has. Click a feed and you're sent to Internet Explorer's RSS reader. The Feed Viewer instead displays each individual new post for all of your feeds, one at a time, including a synopsis. Click any post to read it.

See also

"Internet Options," earlier in this chapter, and "Windows Sidebar and Gadgets," in Chapter 3


Search Bar

Searches the Internet using a variety of search providers.

To open

Enter a search term in the Search Bar in the upper-righthand corner of Internet Explorer and press Enter, or click the magnifying glass icon.

Description

When you want to search the Internet, you don't have to visit a search site such as Googleinstead, enter your search term into the Search Bar. The default search site is MSN, but you can easily use a different one. And you can choose from multiple providers as well:

  • To add a new provider, click the inverted triangle at the far right of the Search Bar and select Find More Providers. From the page that appears, click a provider link. A dialog box appears. Click Add Provider, and the provider will be put on a list at the top of the menu that appeared when you clicked the inverted triangle (Figure 5-14). To search using the provider, type in the term, select the provider, and press Enter.

    Figure 5-14. Configuring your search providers

  • To change your default provider, click the inverted triangle at the far right of the Search Bar and select Change Search Defaults. Select the provider you want to be the default, click Set Default, and then click OK. To remove a provider, highlight it, click Remove, and then click OK.

Notes

See also

"Search," in Chapter 4


Tab Options

Control how Internet Explorer uses tabs.

To open

Internet Explorer Tools Internet Options General, then click Settings in the Tabs section

Description

Probably the biggest visible change in the Vista version of Internet Explorer (and Internet Explorer 7 in XP) is the addition of tabs that allow you to browse multiple web sites simultaneously, each in its own tab. The Tab Options dialog box, shown in Figure 5-15, lets you control how Internet Explorer handles tabbed browsing.

Figure 5-15. The Tab Options dialog box, which controls how Internet Explorer handles tabs


The dialog box has these options:


Enable Tabbed Browsing

This is the default. If it is unchecked, you won't be able to use tabs. When you uncheck it (or check it after it has been unchecked), you'll have to restart Internet Explorer for the new setting to take effect. The settings are as follows:


Warn me when closing multiple tabs

Normally, if you have multiple tabs open and you close Internet Explorer, you first get a warning, alerting you to the number of tabs you have open and asking whether you want to close them all down and exit. Check this box if you want that warning to appear. Keep in mind that although the warning may be annoying at times, it's useful because sometimes you might mean to close only a single tab, not all of them, and if you don't check this box, you'll mistakenly close Internet Explorer rather than an individual tab.


Always switch to new tabs when they are created

When Internet Explorer opens a new tab for some reasonfor example, when you've right-clicked a link and selected Open in New Tabthat tab normally opens in the background; that is, you stay in your original tab. Check this box if you instead want to be sent to each new tab as it opens. Note that when you create a new tab by clicking the New Tab tab or by pressing Ctrl-T, you will always be sent to your new tab, regardless of this setting.


Enable Quick Tabs

In the left portion of the Internet Explorer toolbar, you'll see an icon with four tabs on it: the Quick Tabs icon. Click the icon and you'll see thumbnail sketches of all your open tabs. Click any thumbnail to switch to it. If you don't want this Quick Tabs feature enabled, uncheck this box. When you uncheck it (or check it after it has been unchecked), you'll have to restart Internet Explorer for the new setting to take effect.


Open only the first home page when Internet Explorer starts

Internet Explorer lets you set multiple home pages. Check this box if you want only your primary one to load when Internet Explorer starts. If the box is unchecked (the default), each home page loads in its own tab every time you start Internet Explorer.


Open new tabs next to the current tab

When you open a new tab by right-clicking a link and selecting Open in New Tab, or by clicking a link that opens a new tab, it normally opens directly to the right of your live tab. If you uncheck this box, the new tab will open to the right of the rightmost tab, instead of to the right of the current live tab.


Open home page for new tabs instead of a blank page

When you click the New Tab tab, a blank page normally opens. If you instead want that tab to have your home page, check this box.


When a pop-up is encountered

This section controls how tabs handle legitimate pop upsthat is, pop ups that serve a purpose and that the Pop-Up Blocker doesn't block. You can choose to have pop ups always open in a new window or always open in a new tab, or let Internet Explorer decide whether they should be opened in a new window or tab. Be aware that the Pop-Up Blocker is not perfect, and sometimes undesirable pop ups will make it through.


Open links from other programs in

Many programs, such as Windows Mail and Office applications, can automatically open links in Internet Explorer. This section controls whether those links should open in a new window (in other words, a new instance of Internet Explorer), or instead in a new tab in the current window (that is, the current instance of Internet Explorer), or instead in the current tab or window.

Tab groups

What if there is a group of sites you often open in concert with one anotherfor example, a group of your favorite news sites, or your favorite blogs? You can create Tab Groups that will allow you to open all the sites into their own tabs with a single click.

To create a Tab Group, first open all the sites in their own tabs. Then click the Add/Subscribe button, and click Add Tab Group to Favorites. Give the group a folder name, and then click Add.

To open the Tab Group, click the Favorites Center button and then click the folder that you want to open. Next, click the arrow to the right of the folder name. The Tab Group will now open, with each site in its own separate tab.

Tab shortcuts

Internet Explorer has several shortcut keys for handling tabs, as shown in Table 5-2.

Table 5-2. Tab shortcut keys

Key combination

Action

Ctrl-T

Open a new tab in the foreground.

Ctrl-W

Close the current tab.

Ctrl-Tab; Ctrl-Shift-Tab

Switch between tabs.

Ctrl-Q

Open Quick Tabs.

Ctrl-Alt-F4

Close all tabs except for the current tab.

Alt-Enter in the Address Bar

Open a new tab in the foreground; open to the URL of the current tab.

Ctrl-N

Switch to the nth tab (n can be a number from 1 to 8; tab number 1 is the leftmost tab, tab 2 is directly to its right, and so on).

Ctrl-9

Switch to the last tabthe rightmost one.

Ctrl-click

Open a link into a new tab in the background.

Ctrl-Shift-click

Open a link into a new tab in the foreground.


Notes

  • To close the current tab, click on the X in the upper right of the tab. To close any other tab, right-click it and choose Close.

  • To see a list of all of your current tabs, click the down arrow to the left of your first tab. A list of all your tabs appears, with a checkbox next to the current one. To jump to any tab, select it from the list.

See also

"Pop-Up Blocker"



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