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

A web browser used to view web content.

To Open

Start Programs Internet Explorer

Use the Internet Explorer icon on the Desktop or on the QuickLaunch Toolbar

Command Prompt iexplore

Usage

iexplore [-nohome] [url]

Description

Internet Explorer (IE) is a full-featured web browser that can be used 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 can also be images (.gif and .jpg), FTP sites, or even streaming video or audio (via the Windows Media Player) (see Figure 4-45).

Figure 4-45. Internet Explorer 6.0 is the default web browser in Windows XP


Navigation in IE is accomplished by clicking hyperlinks in web pages or by typing addresses in IE’s Address Bar. Frequently visited sites can be “bookmarked” 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 (Alt-left arrow and Alt-right arrow, respectively) to navigate through the history, which is empty in each new IE window that is opened. Use the Stop button (or press ESC) 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 into the browser window. The home page is merely a shortcut to a single web site and can be changed by going to Tools Internet Options. Finally, the Media button opens the Media Explorer bar, a pane on the left side of the window that displays advertising and entertainment from Microsoft’s http://WindowsMedia.com site.

If you start IE from the command line, you can use either of the following options:


-nohome

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


url

The Uniform Resource Locator—the address of a page to load. If you omit url, IE 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. The initial release of Windows XP comes with Internet Explorer 6, but subsequent versions will add support for new standards, new features, bug fixes, and probably a few new bugs. If upgrading to a new version, 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

IE has an autocompletion feature, which encompasses several features to help reduce typing. While you’re typing web addresses, IE 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 the site 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\Internet Explorer\Main\UrlTemplate (see Chapter 7).

AutoComplete goes further to remember usernames, passwords, and even some form data. Be careful when having IE “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. The AutoComplete options can be configured by going to Tools Internet Options Content AutoComplete.

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), and when Search for “bozo” appears in the AutoComplete box, click it. To configure or disable AutoSearch, go to Tools Internet Options Advanced and choose Desired Option from the Search From the Address Bar section. You may wish to experiment with these settings until you find one you can live with. Unlike Netscape 6 or Mozilla, IE doesn’t allow you to choose the search engine used to perform these searches; IE can only use MSN search (http://search.msn.com).


Offline Files

You can make any entry in your Favorites menu available offline (when you’re not connected to the Internet) by right-clicking it and selecting the “Make available offline” option. This launches a wizard that walks you through the following options:

  1. Make other linked pages available offline. If yes, choose between 1 and 3 links deep, but be careful because this can take up a lot of disk space.

  2. Select synchronization options. The default option allows synchronization only when chosen from the Tools menu. You can create your own schedule, which will take you to a dialog where you can set the synchronization between 1 and 99 days, set the time, and be given the option to automatically connect if you aren’t connected to the Internet.

  3. Set a password for synchronization. You can require a password to be given before the site can be viewed offline by entering a username and password.

When you’re ready to work offline (a formal step that must be taken regardless of the status of your Internet connection), select File Work Offline. You can then view any of your offline pages from the Favorites folder (they have the red dot on the corner of the icon). To work online again, just select File Work Offline again. See “Synchronization Manager”, later in this chapter, for more information.


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 a separate and distinct shopping cart for each user. Cookies are often the target of privacy advocates, since it’s possible for web site administrators to use cookies to track which pages certain visitors view at their site. However, cookies are only available 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.

Notes

  • If IE is the default browser, you can also go to Start Run and type any web address to open the page at that address. However, any browser can be set as the default. Typically, during installation of another browser, such as Netscape (http://www.netscape.com/), Mozilla (http://www.mozilla.org/), or Opera (http://www.opera.com/), there will be an option to make that browser the default. Once one of these other browsers is installed, the procedure to make them the default varies. In Internet Explorer, go to Tools Internet Options Programs tab, and turn on the “Internet Explorer should check to see whether it is the default browser” option. Then, after closing all open Internet Explorer Windows, open a new Internet Explorer window; when prompted, verify that you try to make Internet Explorer the default.

  • 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. All settings are fully documented in Chapter 5.

  • The Forward and Back buttons have a drop-down list feature (see Figure 4-46) that lets you quickly jump several sites forward or backward, skipping over sites you don’t want to load.

Figure 4-46. The last few pages viewed can be quickly accessed with the Back button’s drop-down list


  • 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 View Source, IE 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 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 IE’s Address Bar, the IE window will be replaced with a standard folder window and the contents of the folder will be displayed. 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 IE and the page will load.

  • From any web page, you can select the Tools Show Related Links option, which will open the Search pane and fill it with a list links compiled by a centralized database at http://www.alexa.com/.

  • If you find the text size on any page to be too small, go to View Text Size and enlarge (or shrink) the text size to your liking.

  • From time to time, and depending on the Internet Explorer features you use and the web sites you visit, you may be prompted to sign up for a Microsoft .NET Passport account. Unfortunately, this has caused some confusion among many users. A Passport account is absolutely not required for any feature of Windows, with the exception of the MSN Explorer and Windows Messenger components. Passport is an optional service (and Microsoft has been widely criticized for making it appear otherwise). Unless you wish to use MSN, Messenger, or the Hotmail service, you’ll most likely have no use for a Passport account.

See Also

“Internet Options”, “Network Connections”, “Windows Explorer”

What’s New in Service Pack 2

Internet Explorer was by far the biggest beneficiary of Service Pack 2, its outdated interface and security features more or less dragged into the twenty-first century. (See Appendix H for more information on service packs.) Thanks to IE’s dominance—and sieve-like design—it’s the most temping target for hackers, crackers, script kiddies, spammers, and marketers. Install SP2 and IE no longer trusts anyone trying to access your computer, making it harder for rogue programs to do any damage. IE is also blessed with new controls and early warning systems. But except for the firewall that came with earlier versions of XP, you don’t get any proactive, intelligent protection—no anti-virus program, no spyware killer. Still these new SP2 features do make it easier to browse the Web and harder to slip up when trouble appears.


The Information Bar

Almost all of IE’s new features center around this new toolbar. Whenever anything untoward happens—an ActiveX control tries to download, a web site tries get around IE’s security settings—the yellow Information Bar appears just below IE’s address bar with a Security Warning. Clicking the Information Bar provides more information and a context menu with possible actions, from giving your okay, to switching off any future alerts. This toolbar is usually hidden, only appearing when a security “event” occurs.


Pop-up blocker

Pop-up ads are among the Web’s most annoying annoyances. But Internet Explorer has long been the only mainstream browser incapable of blocking pop-ups automatically, forcing users to rely on third-party tools (including the Google toolbar) to do the job. SP2 finally adds this key function, instantly making web surfing much more enjoyable and clutter free (see Figure 4-47). You’ll find its full options in the Tools menu (Tools Pop-up Blocker), or by clicking the Information Bar when it blocks an offender.

Figure 4-47. Thanks to SP2, Internet Explorer now has a built-in pop-up blocker

The Pop-Up blocker is automatically activated when you install SP2, 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 log-on 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. If you want to view a pop-up that IE has smacked down, press the Ctrl key to override the blocker.


Download Blocker

In the pre-SP2 days, Internet Explorer totally ignored the content of downloads. But the new and improved IE by default stops all downloads. That may be overkill, but even careful users occasionally click the wrong box, or get tricked by a misleading message. In pre-SP2 days, it was also annoying to have to constantly swat down requests to install ActiveX components with names like “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.

Download Blocker stops any program that tries to install anything without your permission, and flashes a warning via the Information Bar (see Figure 4-48). 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’s trying to send you.

Figure 4-48. Stop downloads in their tracks. With IE’s Download Blocker, you can accept or block all downloads from a specific site, or have IE ask you every single time.

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" (IE 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 you can make the decision about any potential download on a case-by-case basis.

To access this control, select Tools Manage Add-ons. You’ll see a list of any add-on components you blocked via the Security Warning dialog during the current session, as well as a list of components you allowed onto your system (see Figure 4-49). If you change your mind about a site you blocked during the current session, select it from the Blocked list and click the Allow radio button, then OK, and the site is taken off your blacklist. 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. To update an ActiveX add-on, you can click the Update ActiveX button, but it’s better to go to the source site and let it download a fresh version of the add-on.

Figure 4-49. Your browser may be “improved” with add-ons without your knowledge. To stop these little helpers, open the Manage Add-ons window and disable them with a few clicks.

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 IE may be added by the web sites you visit—ActiveX 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.

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