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Browsing Made Beautiful: IE 5 Refines Tools

November 16, 2000|JIM HEID | jim@jimheid.com

If you aren't using Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 as your Web browser, you should be. Available free at http://www.microsoft.com/mac, IE 5 is as near-perfect a browser as you'll find on the Mac or Windows.

IE 5's beauty starts deep within, with a page-rendering engine that adheres closely to Web markup standards created by Web standards groups. This means sites viewed in IE 5 are more likely to look as their designers intended. Netscape's browsers and even Internet Explorer for Windows don't support these standards as thoroughly.

Surrounding IE 5's top-notch rendering engine is a refined set of browsing features. Here are a few of my favorite things.

Get there faster. When going to a "dot-com" site, you need type only the main portion of its name--for example, "latimes" instead of http://www.latimes.com. IE will supply everything else. IE also remembers the 300 most recent sites you visited, and it will display a menu of possible matches as you type a Web address.

Save a tree. With the Print Preview command (File menu), you can see how printed Web pages will look and control what prints. If the top of the Web page contains ads or other junk, click within the preview and drag upward until the effluvia disappears off the top of the page. To save ink, uncheck the preview window's Print Images box. To squeeze more copy into each printed page, click the Smaller button. Click the Larger button to create a large-type edition.

Better than bookmarking. It happens too often: A page you've bookmarked disappears when a site reorganizes. To save a page for good, use IE's scrapbook. Click the Scrapbook tab at the browser window's left edge, then click the Add button. IE saves the complete page on your hard drive. I often use the Scrapbook to stash newspaper articles and driving directions before hitting the road with my PowerBook. If you share my addiction to the Scrapbook, use the View menu's Customize Toolbars command to place the Add to Scrapbook icon on IE's toolbar.

Save your place. Viewing a search result or any page with lots of links to other pages? Click the Page Holder tab, and then click the Add button. This gives you a split-screen browser: The links page stays visible on the left, while new pages appear on the right.

Open some windows. Here's a variation: To follow a link without losing your place, press Command while clicking on the link. IE loads the link in a new window. To quickly cycle through each open window, press Command and the tilde key, which is below the Esc key on most keyboards.

Ditch the dashboard. To gain screen space for more Web content, hide IE's toolbar and address area by pressing Command and B. Hit those keys again to restore the dashboard.

Zoom in. Having trouble reading a site's tiny text? Press Command and the plus sign and IE enlarges the text on the page.

Stop the blinking. Distracted by blinking banners and other animations? Choose Preferences from the Edit menu, click the Content option and then uncheck the Animate GIFs button. Ahhh.

Control your cookies. Browser cookies are tidbits of information planted on your hard drive by sites you visit. Cookies bring us wonders such as shopping carts, customized site views, and one-click ordering. But Web marketers also use them to track browsing habits in ways that bother privacy-minded users.

You can control cookies with the Cookies option in IE's Preferences dialogue box. Choose the Ask for Each Site option to have IE query you when a site attempts to feed you a cookie. If you decline the cookie, IE will refuse subsequent cookies from that site. You can also view and delete existing cookies.

You must enable cookies for most Web shopping sites as well as customizable portals such as My Yahoo. But feel free to spurn cookies from ad-placement sites such as Doubleclick.com. If a site doesn't work properly after you just say no, you can always change your preferences to accept its cookies.

Privacy beyond IE. WebRoot's $29 MacWasher (http://www.webroot.com) can delete cookies, purge IE's list of recently visited sites and more. It's a powerful privacy tool.

Take time to master IE's subtleties. Short of a faster Internet connection, they're the best path to better browsing.

Jim Heid is a contributing editor of Macworld magazine.

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