Eight quick tips for getting the most from IE8

Master the most useful new features in Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8

7. Decode the Status Bar

The Status Bar -- the strip at the very bottom of your browser window -- contains a wealth of information that is not labeled in any way. There are six tiny blank boxes in the middle-right portion of the Status Bar (just to the left of the larger box with the Internet icon).

Five of these, it turns out, have functions that are accessed sometimes by clicking, sometimes by double-clicking. Here's what each does:

  • Box 1: Nothing.

  • Box 2: Single-click to turn the Pop-up Blocker on and off, or to modify the Pop-up Blocker's settings.

  • Box 3: Double-click to open the Manage Add-ons screen.

  • Box 4: This one might have an icon in it. If it does, double-click it to see a Privacy Report that will list cookies that have been blocked. If it's blank, double-clicking does nothing useful.

  • Box 5: If you don't have the Privacy Report icon in Box 4, you might have it here. For some users, double-clicking the blank box makes IE look for a security certificate.

  • Box 6: Single-click to see a menu, where you can run a safety check on the site you're visiting via Microsoft's SmartScreen Filter service, turn the SmartScreen Filter on or off, or report a site as malicious.

8. Customize the interface

In IE6 and earlier versions of the browser, you could easily tweak the toolbars at the top of the browser window, adding and removing toolbar buttons, increasing/decreasing text size, moving whole toolbars around and so on. Much to the annoyance of power users, most of that customizability was removed in IE7 -- a few small tweaks aside, you were stuck with the default appearance. Happily, Microsoft saw the error of its ways, and in IE8 the toolbars are once again highly customizable.

Right-click any toolbar and in the context menu that pops up, uncheck "Lock the Toolbars" to unlock them, which enables the full customization options. You can make more room for Web content by hiding some of the toolbars -- in the same right-click context menu, uncheck whichever toolbars you want to. Another option is to rearrange the toolbars -- just grab the vertical line to the left of a toolbar, then drag and drop the toolbar wherever you like.

If you select Customize from the right-click menu, a new menu will pop up with options for the way command buttons appear in the toolbars.

The Use Large Icons option toggles the size of the icons, from standard to large and back. Show All Text Labels means that text appears on all the command buttons in the toolbars (some also have graphical icons); Show Selective Text means you'll see icons without text for the more obvious commands, such as Home; and Show Only Icons removes the text labels altogether.

You can also shift the Stop and Refresh buttons to the left of the Address Bar, where they're likely to feel a bit more at home. Select Add or Remove Commands, and you can add or remove functions from the Command Bar (the run of icons that appears to the right of the tabs).

IE8 has been out only a few months, but as the default browser in the forthcoming Windows 7 and a recommended update in other versions of Windows, you can expect to start seeing it more and more. Master the eight features described above, and you'll find yourself ahead of the pack in this new browsing world.

Don't forget these keyboard shortcuts

Getting tired of moving your hands from the keyboard to the mouse and back again for every little task? Learn these keyboard shortcuts to transform your browsing into an exercise in ninja-like efficiency.

Keyboard shortcuts for IE8

Key combination Action

Ctrl+f Open the "Find in page" dialog

Ctrl++ (plus sign) Zoom in

Ctrl+- (minus sign) Zoom out

Ctrl+0 (zero) Return view to 100%

Ctrl+p Print page (check "Selection" to print only selected text)

Alt+Home Go to the home page

Alt+left arrow Back

Alt+right arrow Forward

Alt+d Select the Address Bar

Ctrl+e Select the Search Box

Alt+Enter Open Search Box results in new tab

Ctrl+click Open link in new background tab

Ctrl+Shift+click Open link in new foreground tab

Ctrl+w Close current tab

Ctrl+t Open new tab

Ctrl+n Open current tab in new window

Ctrl+Tab Switch to next tab

Ctrl+Shift+Tab Switch to previous tab

F4 Open list of previously typed URLs in Address Bar

F5 Refresh current tab

F7 Enable/disable Caret Browsing (toggle)

F11 Turn full-screen mode on and off (no toolbars)

Logan Kugler is a frequent Computerworld contributor. His most recent article was 6 timesaving tips for Word 2007.

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Logan Kugler

Computerworld (US)
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