Internet Explorer 8, the latest update to Microsoft's venerable Web browser, introduces several features intended to provide greater security and ease of use. New security settings in IE8 allow for more privacy, new add-ons allow quick access to Web-based information and services, and a new browsing mode changes the way you interact with your browser.
Some old features return in new form, too, such as toolbar customization, the ability to view pages the way earlier versions of Internet Explorer saw them, and a set of mysterious boxes that have colonized the bottom of the browser window.
These tips will help you take advantage of the new and enhanced features. And if you're among those who still haven't upgraded from IE6 or 7, take a peek to see what you're missing.
1. Use Accelerators to speed up your work
Accelerators are add-ons for IE8 that let you quickly do a variety of tasks based on text you select on a Web page: get a stock quote, look up the definition of a word or phrase, map a location, convert currencies, share selected text on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, create a shortened URL, search for a product at an online shopping site and much more.
Select any piece of text on a Web page, and the Accelerator button, shown at right, will pop up; click that button to see the Accelerator menu. (You can also access Accelerators on the right-click contextual menu.)
Some Accelerators show their results in a pop-up window, as shown in the image below, while others appear in a new tab.
IE8 comes with several built-in Accelerators, but third-party developers are already starting to produce a wide range of new ones that you can install yourself. Go to Microsoft's Accelerator Gallery to see the available options.
2. Bookmark only the info you need with Web Slices
Another add-on that's new in IE8 is the Web Slice. Web Slices allow you to subscribe to a frequently updated part of a Web page, such as sports scores, headlines or current weather -- if the site's developers have designated that part of the page as a Web Slice. (Most Web sites are not Web Slice-enabled at this time.)
When a page you're viewing contains a Web Slice, a green icon appears on the toolbar next to the Home icon, as shown to the right. The same icon appears next to the Slice-ready content on a Web page when you mouse over it. Click the icon in either location to see a dialog box asking if you want to add the content to your Favorites bar.
Adding a Web Slice places a button on your Favorites bar that opens a small drop-down box with the updated information from the original page, so you can check the weather, traffic or anything else without interfering with whatever else you're doing in your browser.
A selection of Web Slices can be found in Microsoft's Add-On Gallery, but Web Slices are easy to create -- watch for the green Web Slice icon to start popping up all over the Web.
3. Cover your tracks with InPrivate Browsing
In addition to the usual cookies and Web history, IE8 saves form data and passwords, search terms in the search box, and URLs in the address bar -- all in the name of making things easier for you. But easier for you means easier for everyone else, too -- a nosy boss, a prying parent or spouse, or anyone else you might not want to see what you do on the Web.
With InPrivate Browsing, you can browse without leaving a trace. Activate it by selecting InPrivate Browsing from the Safety menu. A new IE8 window will open with a blue InPrivate indicator to the left of the address bar. Nothing you view in that window will be accessible after you close it: no Web history, no saved cookies, no cached Internet files, no saved searches or URLs, no saved form data or passwords -- nothing.