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Article ID: 842414 - Last Review: 26 September 2004 - Revision: 3.3

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We all tend to take things for granted, especially when they’re right in front of us. Internet Explorer 6 is built into Windows XP - you probably use it every day, even if you’re not looking at web pages, because Windows XP uses it for tools like the Help and Support Center, Windows Update and the Active Desktop. Some applications like Microsoft Money use it to display information. But do you really know how powerful Internet Explorer is and how to get the most out of it? We’ll show you how your browser can help you find what you’re looking for, how to get back to pages once you’ve found them and how to print them out the way you want.

Searching not surfing

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It seems the only thing we do more often than checking our email is searching. Instead of visiting sites they already know, people use the web as a source of information.

Internet Explorer 6 makes it very easy to search just by typing two or more words into the Address bar - if you only type a single word, Internet Explorer tries to AutoComplete it as a web address instead.

This gets you a list of results from the MSN search engine in your browser window, which is helpful if you see the page you want straight away.

When you want to check several of the results without having to use the Back button all the time, or without ending up with umpteen windows because you’re opening them all in new windows, you can set Internet Explorer to open the Search bar with your results on the left of the browser and load the ‘most likely’ page in the main window. Choose Tools > Internet > Advanced and scroll down until you see ‘Search from the Address bar’, pick ‘Display results and go to the most likely site’. If you prefer, you can choose to go directly to the best match instead.

Search Companion

Click the Search button in the Internet Explorer toolbar, then choose Customize. To use the standard Internet Explorer Search Assistant, pick Use Search Assistant from the list. This lets you search for a web page or a map (from www.expedia.co.uk), and you can see a list of your last ten searches as well, but you can only search with MSN.

Pick the new Windows XP Search Companion instead, and you can either choose ‘Classic Internet search’, and pick the search engine you want from the list, or use the step by step interface: this provides tool tips that help you improve your search, a spelling checker and suggestions for specific web pages to visit that might cover what you want - and you can still pick the search engine you want from the list. You can highlight words on the web pages you find - including words that weren’t in your original search - and send your search on to other search engines if you haven’t found what you’re looking for at the first attempt.

History lesson

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There are two ways to keep track of the sites you visit. When you know you’re going visit a web page again, you can add it to your Favorites list. When you neglect to do this, then discover later that you want to go there again, look in the History pane; it’s also handy for stepping back several pages at once.

The quickest way to jump back a page or two is to pick the site from the list you get when you click the arrow next to the Back button: if the page you want isn’t on the list any more, follow the link at the bottom to open the History window. You won’t see the link if you’ve already opened the History pane from the toolbar or by choosing View > Explorer Bar > History.

The History pane gives you a list of web pages you’ve visited, organised into categories such as Today, Last Week, Two Weeks Ago and so on, for the number of days you’ve set Internet Explorer to keep the History list for. Use the View dropdown menu to sort the list by date, site, most visited and order visited today, or search through addresses and page titles from the Search button. This is so convenient that you may want to keep your history list for longer than the default 20 days; choose Tools > Internet Options > General > ‘Days to keep pages in history’ and, if you’ve got the disk space, set it to 90 days.

As you’re browsing through the History pane, you can see a list of the individual pages you’ve visited on each site. Set Internet Explorer to either close each list as you move on to the next site or leave them open so you can compare between sites: Choose Tools > Internet Options > Advanced > Browsing and select "Close unused folders in History & Favourites" to tidy up as you go along, or clear it to see pages from multiple sites.

The list of pages in History is a comprehensive record of where you’ve been. When you click the down arrow on the Address bar in Internet Explorer, you’ll see an odd collection of sites that isn’t the same as those in the History pane or the AutoComplete suggestions you’ll see as you type a web address. These are addresses you’ve typed in by hand, or search results from the Address bar rather than the sites you’ve reached by following links - but they’ll disappear with the rest of your history when you clear the History folder (Tools > Internet Options > General > Clear History). Internet Explorer only keeps the 20 most recent sites, and you can get rid of individual addresses from the list by deleting them in the registry from the HKEY_ CURRENT_USER\Software\ Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ TypedURLs\ key.

Favorites

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As you find web pages you like and bookmark them (Favorites > Add to Favorites), you’ll want to start organising the links. Go to Favorites > Organize Favorites to rename, move and delete links or create new folders. You can drag links to move them or Control-drag to copy them: if you want more than one folder open at once while you’re doing that, change the ‘Close Unused Folders’ setting in Tools > Internet Options > Advanced.

For moving or removing a single link, it’s quicker to drag Favorites around in the menu, or to right-click and choose Delete. But to move or delete a lot of links, it’s much easier to work in the Favorites Explorer bar or even Explorer with the corresponding folders and shortcuts; hold down the Shift key while you choose Favorites > Organise to open the right folder.

Offline archives

As well as saving links to web pages, you can save the contents. To make a local copy so you don’t have to go online, right-click on a Favorite and choose ‘Make Available Offline’. Decide how many levels of links to follow: do you want only one page or all the main pages it links to? Unless it’s a page that brings together stories from other sites, don’t choose to follow links that go offsite: you’ll avoid getting a huge download.

You can make offline copies with Tools > Synchronise, or you can set up a regular schedule to have Internet Explorer update the page for you. It checks the temporary file cache to see if the page is on your system already, otherwise it asks you to visit the page while you’re online. Alternatively, put the whole page on your PC with File > Save As. You can save just the text from the page, stripping out the web elements, or you can save just the HTML; but if you want to look at the whole page, save all the images you’ll need into a folder, or compress everything into one archive file. As with all the features in Internet Explorer there are plenty of options, as we’ll see when we continue our tour next month.

Printing out the web pages your want

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The default settings for printing from Internet Explorer are fine but if you want something different, you can have it

Choose File > Print Preview to see how the page will print; use the Zoom dropdown to see the whole page on screen at once. Click the Page Setup button to change the paper size, orientation and margins, or pick what you want on the header and footer.

On a site that"s divided up into frames, you can print just the frame with the information and ignore the navigation frames. Select some text in the frame you want, go to File > Print > Options and pick "Only the selected frame".

To print a page exactly as it looks on screen, you’ll want the background colours and images that IE6 usually suppresses to make the page easier to read on paper: pick Tools > Internet Options > Advanced > Printing > Print background colours & images.

Scrolling and Zooming

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You can scroll and zoom with or without a scroll wheel

The scroll wheel on your mouse doesn’t just move you up and down the page. Hold down the Control key as you scroll, and you can shrink and enlarge the size of text on the page. Some websites can also use your scroll wheel for tasks like zooming in on a picture or playing games.

You can still change text size without a scroll wheel - use View > Text Size. And you can still navigate around web pages quickly too. Right-click on the scrollbar at the side of the page and use the popup menu for navigating the page. Top, Bottom, Page Up and Page Down are fairly self-explanatory, and Scroll Up and Scroll Down move you the standard three lines that a single click with a scroll wheel would. Scroll Here jumps to the point in the document represented by the section of the scrollbar that you clicked on.

This material is the copyright material of or licensed to Future Publishing Limited (http://www.futurenet.co.uk/) , a Future Network plc group company, UK 2004. All rights reserved.

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
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