5. Protect your Privacy and Even Block Ads with InPrivate Filtering
As you surf the Web, you encounter a fair amount of third-party content (primarily advertising) that doesn't originate from the sites you're visiting -- and often that content is served up by the same sources over and over. As you encounter such content on site after site, a fairly thorough profile of your browsing habits, interests and even purchases can be assembled by advertisers using cookies to track your behavior.
Ad services such as DoubleClick put a cookie on your PC every time they serve an ad, and each subsequent ad (on the same site or on a new one) checks for that cookie. So if you visit 10 sites that all have ads from a single source, the ad service can tell that you visited those 10 sites, how long you stayed there, which ads you ignored, which ones you clicked and so on.
InPrivate Filtering is a new IE8 feature that selectively blocks content such as ads, statistics apps like Google Analytics, and other (mostly ad-related) content that does not originate from the site you're visiting. It doesn't block all such content. Instead, it tracks the sources of third-party content and blocks a source when it crosses a certain threshold (10 viewings by default). The idea is not to block ads, but to block the ability to track individuals across multiple Web sites.
To turn it on, select InPrivate Filtering under the Safety menu. Selecting InPrivate Filtering Settings under the Safety menu shows you how many sites you've visited that show content from a particular ad server. Here, you can set the filter's threshold to anywhere from three to 30 sites, or exclude certain sources (or particular content from a source) from filtering.
Bonus tip: InPrivate Filtering can be hacked to block most ads, not just ones you've seen a certain number of times. As described on Neowin.net, you can download an XML file that lists the Web advertisers blocked by the Adblock Plus add-on for Firefox, then feed that file to InPrivate Filtering to block all those advertisers from IE8.
Once you have the XML file, open the InPrivate Filtering settings and click the "Advanced settings" link at the bottom. In the Manage Add-ons dialog box that pops up, click the Import button, browse to select your new XML file, and click OK. From now on, InPrivate Filtering will block any content from advertisers on the list.
6. View Incompatible Pages with the Compatibility Viewer
Although Microsoft touts IE8 as its most standards-compliant browser ever, the Web is littered with millions of sites that were written with IE's earlier, sloppier handling of Web standards in mind. If you come across a page that seems a little wonky, try the Compatibility Viewer, Microsoft's concession to its own less-than-wholesome past.
Just click the button to the right of the Address Bar that looks like a torn sheet of paper (shown at right), and your broken page should put itself back together.
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).
These unlabeled boxes in the Status Bar have some useful tricks up their sleeves.
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.