BOOT CAMP 220 (09/04/02)




Microsoft Internet Explorer is the world’s most popular ‘browser’ program, not because it’s bundled free with Windows, or it’s part of Bill Gate’s plan for world domination, but because it does the job, and does it well. There are plenty of alternatives, some them also free and a couple of them have superior features to IE, but for sheer ease of use and, more importantly, effortless compatibility with the multitude of standards and protocols flying around the internet, IE is hard to beat.


Just about anyone can learn to use IE and start surfing the web in about five minutes flat but there’s a lot of hidden features that many users never find out about and that’s the subject of this week’s Boot Camp.


Internet Explorer has recently gone through a major revision with the launch of version 6 and this available from Microsoft ( and on many PC magazine cover mount discs) and included with Windows XP, however IE version 5x remains very popular and most of the following tweaks work on both versions.


We’ll kick off with a simple but effective tip to reduce the amount of time it takes to get IE up and running and ready for use and that’s to change the ‘Home Page’ to one with fewer graphics and images, or none at all. My own personal favourite is the Google search engine (, which is normally my first port of call in any event. There are two ways to do it, the easiest is to type in the address of the site then go to Internet Options on the Tools menu, select the General tab and in the Home Page section at the top click the ‘Use Current’ button. You can also type in the address in this box and hit the return key (don’t click Use Current or Use Default as this will almost certainly change the site address to something else). To make IE to open even faster click the ‘Use Blank’ button.


Internet Explorer has a wealth of keyboard short cuts that simplify and speed up repetitive actions. Here are a few worth remembering. It’s often useful to open a new browser window when clicking on a link (it saves reloading the page if you want to go back to the previous page) just hold down the shift key before you click. You can also open a new browser window at any time using Ctrl + N. When reading through a long multi-part/page document, rather than clicking on the Next button use Alt + right arrow (Alt + left arrow to step back). F5 refreshes the current web page and to save time when entering web addresses just type the main word or title in the Address window and press Ctrl + Enter and IE automatically adds ‘www.’ at the front and the ‘.com’ extension.


You can easily change Internet Explorer to your way of working. Right click into an empty area of the Toolbar and select Customise. From here you can add and remove Toolbar icons and change the order in which they appear. If you copy and paste a lot of material from web pages it’s worth adding a Copy button, and you can probably get rid of two or three rarely used buttons. Don’t worry, you won’t be loosing anything, every Toolbar function is represented on the drop-down menus.  


If Internet Explorer starts playing up it’s worth trying the built-in repair function. Go to Control Panel (Start > Settings) and select Add/Remove Programs. Locate Microsoft Internet Explorer on the Install/Uninstall list, click the Add/Remove button and select Repair. Another trick to get IE back into line, especially if you’ve made a lot of changes, is to reset it to its default condition. Go to Internet Options on the Tools menu, select the Programs and click the Reset Web Settings button.


Internet Explorer has lots of security features built in but they are often set at a perilously low level. Make sure that no Active X controls can be loaded onto your PC without you knowing about it, these can contain potentially harmful viruses or ‘spyware’ components that can compromise privacy and make use of your Internet connection. Go to Internet Options on the Tools menu, select the Security tab and click the Custom Level button. Make sure that ‘Prompt’ and ‘Disable’ are selected under ActiveX Controls and Download Unsigned ActiveX respectively. In IE 6 there’s a useful extra option on the Privacy tab; click the Advanced button and ‘Block’ third-party cookies, which are often used by adware and spyware programs. 


As you probably know Internet Explorer keeps a detailed log of the web sites you’ve visited and anyone with access to your PC can see what you’ve been up to by clicking on the ‘History’ icon.  It can be useful however and rather than  clearing it completely (Tools > Internet Options > General tab), you can delete single entries by right clicking on them in the History list.


Finally, if several people use your PC you should be aware that IE’s AutoComplete feature can store details of words you’ve entered into a web site’s ‘search’ field and it stores passwords used to access sites. To switch it off and clear AutoComplete entries go to Internet Options and select the Content tab, click the AutoComplete button and enable or disable as many features as you deem appropriate.







Powerful programming tools used to add multimedia components and features to Internet web pages



Small test file, stored on your PC by web sites you’ve visited, that can contain a wide range of data including personal details and preferences and information about web sites you have visited



The Internet page or web site that your browser goes to automatically as soon as you go on line



If you are using an older version of Internet Explorer and you are happy with it just make sure you are fully up to date with all of the latest security patches and updates at


Since version 5 has been around for a while there are lots of extras and add-ons, which can be used to improve its functionality and appearance. A good place to start is the Microsoft web site, which has a useful selection of free to download accessories at the following locations:

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