BOOT CAMP 331 (22/06/04)




Like it or loath it Microsoft Internet Explorer is the de-facto standard when it comes to Internet browsers and for all of its faults – and it has a few – it is difficult to ignore the fact that it is free, easy to use and usually quite reliable. It can be made even better, though, and my number one Top Tip for improving Internet Explorer is not to use it!


Well, that’s not strictly true, there is a way of keeping all the best elements of IE – near universal compatibility with the web, effortless integration with Windows, ease of use etc.  – and avoiding the bad bits, which include tiresome multi-window browsing, poor Favorites management, weak advertisement filtering and so on. The answer is Avant Browser, which is a free add-on for IE. In other words it retains the IE ‘engine’ but replaces the user interface -- the bit you see and use -- with a fresh and intuitive desktop. That brings with it the increased functionality of ‘tabbed’ browser windows, a built-in pop-up stopper, built in Google (or the search engine of your choice) search box, vastly improved Favorites handling, simple mouse controls, customisable ‘skins’, and so on...


Avant doesn’t interfere with IE so if you don’t like it you can instantly switch back or even use both browsers at the same time if you are so inclined. It’s also free, though the publishers are not averse to a small donation, which is only polite if you like what you see. Give it a try at:


Because IE and Avant are so closely linked most of the following tips work with both browsers, so we’ll begin with a little used facility called full screen mode.  This comes in handy when, for example an image or something on a web page is too large to fit onto the screen. You may even have stumbled upon it by accident when all of the toolbars and Start button and Taskbar suddenly disappear. There are actually two full screen modes, pressing F11 toggles between complete full screen normal view and F12 gives full screen mode but with the Start button and Taskbar still showing. In both case a scrollbar remains on the screen, and you can access normal browser functions by right clicking into an empty part of the screen.  


If you have a ‘wheel’ mouse there’s another hidden feature worth remembering. Hold down the Crtl key and rotate the mouse wheel you can vary the size of the text displayed on web pages. This can be very useful when a web designer has used a small typeface or been a little too creative with fancy background or coloured text.


AutoComplete is one of those features that are supposed to make life easier but it drives a lot of users crazy. It is enabled by default and when you type in a web address AutoComplete tries to guess what you want by matching your entry with addresses of previously visited pages. The thing to do is ignore it and keep on typing but it can be very distracting and more often that not it takes twice as long to enter the page address, so why not just switch it off and be done with it? To do that go to View > Internet Options and select the Advanced tab and uncheck AutoComplete. In Avant Browser go to Tools > Avant Browser Options, select AutoComplete on the categories list and uncheck the option.


We get a fair number of letters and emails from readers with IE printing problems, usually along the lines that bits of the images that appears on the screen are chopped off when printed out. The reason is fairly obvious; web pages are designed in Landscape format to be viewed on PC monitors whilst printers are set by default to print in portrait mode so although PCs and printers do their best to resize and reformat web pages, sometimes it just doesn’t work. The solution is to check what your web page will look like, before you print it out by clicking Print Preview on the File menu. If it looks okay go ahead, otherwise change the page orientation or try using your printer’s ‘fit to page’ facilities, to resize the image. Both options can normally be accessed from the Print Preview page by clicking the Print button; this should take you to the Print dialogue box then click the Preferences button.


No doubt you have discovered how to change your browser’s home page from the Microsoft default (Tools > Internet Options and the General tab) but did you know you could also have a completely blank page? It’s easy; instead of typing an address in the home page box enter ‘about:blank’ (without the quotes). It also means IE will open a few milliseconds fasters because it’s not trying to download web pages.


Next week – Top Tips 3, Word





A major irritant where advertisements sudden appear on your screen whilst browsing web pages



Feature that allows a number of web pages to appear in a single browser window at the same time



Mouse with small wheel built into the top of the case that allows rapid scrolling of pages and menus




Regular readers will know that Windows secretly logs the address of every web site you have ever visited from the day you first switched on your PC in hidden and protected files called index.dat. You may also know that over the years we have been a big fan of a freeware index.dat cleaner utility called Spider but unfortunately it doesn’t work on Windows XP. Now the long search for an effective freeware cleaner for XP is over, and it’s called (excuse the language…) Crap Cleaner or ‘CC’ as we’ll refer to it from now on. It does a bang-up job of removing all traces of your web browsing, as well as clearing out all of the other little tell tales that Windows stores and it also includes a registry cleaner utility. For more information about CC and links to the download go to: It is freeware, there are no adware or spyware components and it is polite to make a small donation to the author if you find it useful and continue to use it.

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