Out with the Old

This intro is aimed at people who can use the Internet, and are comfortable using the last version of Microsoft’s Internet browser: Internet Explorer 6 (also known as IE6).

You may know, a browser is any program that allows you to view - or browse - web pages. Because Internet Explorer is the most widely used browser, some of you probably know it only as “the Internet”. It looks like this:

Internet Explorer 6screenshot

and you usually start it with this icon:

Internet Explorer 6icon

In with IE7

Recently, Microsoft released an updated version of their Internet Explorer browser called Internet Explorer 7 (or IE7). It fixed a lot of problems that IE6 had, and looks a lot prettier. More than the superficial changes though, it adopted a lot of excellent little features that make Internet surfing safer and easier. It’s these changes that I’m going to explore in this article, so you can learn what makes IE7 different and get used to using it in your school or at home.

What’s different?

The first thing you notice when you start it up is that the tool bar with all the menu options is gone

Internet Explorer 7screenshot

(actually you may notice the spiffy new icon first).

Internet Explorer 7icon

All the same commands are still here, just hidden. To access most of the old menu items, you now click ‘Tools’ on the second bar.

IE7toolbar

Most of the common functions you may have used in IE6 are placed in this spot. For instance, you can go quickly to your homepage IE7 Homepagebutton, access your saved RSS feeds (more on this in another article), or use the one-click-print option IE7 Printbutton. However, if you miss the menu bar you can bring it back by clicking ‘Tools’ then ‘Menu Bar’ (or simply pressing the ‘Alt’ key on your keyboard brings it back temporarily).

How to turn on the menubar

Some schools may have the tool bar turned off completely (disabling tool menus can stop tampering with settings), so check with your school’s computer technician if you don’t have this option.

Simplified

IE7 AddressBar

IE7 has a simplified set of icons for doing the most common tasks. The buttons are the same as those in IE6, but they have been made smaller and prettier, and in some cases moved. The forward and back buttons still take you forward and back, but now the common drop-down button next to them gives you a list of your most recently visited pages, and highlights your current position amongst them.

Next to this is the Address bar, that works in exactly the same way as it did previously - you type in a website address, you go to that website. The “Go” button from IE6 has become the “Refresh/Go” button. Now if you are at a page that is already open in the browser, the button will display as “Refresh” IE7 Refreshbutton allowing you to re-load the page. If however you have just typed in a new page, the button changes to a ‘Go’ arrow IE7 Gobutton, and if you click on it, it will take you to the page you just entered.

Finally, we have the ‘Stop’ button , which has changed from the stop sign button that used to be on the left-hand side of the address bar to a red ‘x’ on the right.

Next to the address bar is the ‘Search bar’.

IE7 searchbar

You can type a search term into the bar, and whatever search-engine is listed will perform your search for you. In this picture I have made Google my default search-engine, but it might be Microsoft’s ‘Live’ search for you or Yahoo. You can change the search engine by clicking the drop-down button beside the magnifying glass and clicking the search-engine you wish to use.

How to choose a different searchengine

If you don’t have many options here you can choose ‘Find more providers’ from this menu and it will take you to a web page where you can set up more search providers.

The search bar is a very handy shortcut if you find yourself regularly searching Google or any other site. See your school’s technician if you want your favourite search engine listed here.

Faster Favorites

On the next line we have two buttons that handle your ‘Favorites’ (sorry about the American spelling).

IE7 favoritesbar

Favorites (or bookmarks as they’re more commonly known) are links that you want to remember, so you can visit them in future without remembering the address. The first button opens your favorites in a little pop-out window and selecting a link from here closes the pop-out and takes you to the site. This is ideal if you want a quick way to access sites you visit regularly. If you need to browse your favorites more thoroughly though, you can click the ‘Pin’ button IE7 Pinbutton and the favorites pop-out will become a bar that stays at the side of your browser window.

If you’ve used them in IE6, adding and managing favourites is exactly the same in IE7 with one major difference - adding a favourite is as easy as clicking the second button (a star with a plus sign) and choosing ‘Add to Favorites’. You can also access the history of sites you’ve visited from the Favorites panel, and your saved RSS feeds (more on that in another article).

All new Tab Bar!

My favourite (I spell it right when I can!) part of the new Internet Explorer is the new ‘Tab Bar’

IE7’s new tabbar

Next to the ‘Favorite’ buttons is a long shiny lozenge that can change the way you use the Internet . Similar to the task bar at the bottom of your screen, the tab bar opens up a new tab for each website you visit. However, instead of opening up multiple windows that you have to keep track of, every site you visit can be stored in a tab along this bar. It might sound like the ‘tabs’ have simply moved from below the window to above it, but trust me on this - having tabs in your browser is very useful.

You can click the ‘New Tab’ button IE7 New Tabbutton and not surprisingly a new tab will open - type in a new address and viola, two websites for the price of one. You might open your email (or EdPortal) in one tab, and Google in another so you can keep checking for messages every half hour without having to keep a window open cluttering up your task bar. You can open up lots of tabs along the tab bar, and as you go they’ll start to shrink in size to fit more on.

Tabs shrink to fit as you openthem

When there are too many to fit, IE7 will give you a little button at the sides that you can scroll to show more tabs IE7 Tab Bar Scrollbutton.

One thing that I’ve been asked numerous times since installing IE7 at my school is how to close one website without closing all the tabs. In IE6, clicking the ‘x’ in the top right of the window would close the current site only, but now with tabs open the ‘x’ closes everything! To close only the site you want, you need to click the ‘x’ on the individual tab.

Quick Tabs

The simplest way to find a tab that you’ve opened is to use the ‘Quick Tabs’ feature. If you click the ‘Quick Tabs’ button IE7 Quick Tab Viewbutton (or press Ctrl and Q), IE7 opens up all your tabs at once as little pictures so you can see the sites you have open at a glance.

IE7’s new Quick Tabview

You can click on a picture and the site will open for you, or even click the ‘x’ button in the top right of the picture to close that site. Doesn’t that make it easier to find and manage the sites you’ve opened?

Advanced Tab Use

I find the best use for tabs is when doing searches or research. Let’s say I search Google for ‘Dogs’ and it brings up a page full of results that all look interesting. In IE6 I used to click a result and the page would load, and if I wanted to look at another result I’d have to click the ‘Back’ button to return to Google. In IE7, I can right-click the page I’m interested in and select ‘Open in New Tab’,

How to open a result in a newtab

leaving my original Google search open to return to later. It’s also possible to set up IE7 so that when you open a result in a tab, it doesn’t immediately focus on the new tab but stays on the page you were on. If you do this, you can open up multiple pages to load in the background while you continue to look at the page you were on.

Opened pages are loaded in thebackground

You’re not limited to searches either. You can open links from any page into new tabs and keep reading. Imagine reading a Wikipedia article and opening everything you’re interested in in another tab - you might actually finish reading the original article!

Tabs can be so useful that I would suggest taking a little time to get used to them. The best trick I know? If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can click the scroll wheel (middle-click) on a link to automatically open it in a new tab.

How to ‘middle-click’ with yourmouse

You can quickly close tabs too, by middle-clicking them regardless of whether they have a visible ‘x’ on them.

So much more…

There are a lot more things you can do with Internet Explorer 7. Some other new features include an anti-phishing tool to help protect against identity theft, a pop-up blocker to counteract annoying ads, and privacy tools to delete your Internet history and private data quickly. If you want to know more about these features you can visit Microsoft’s IE7 page for more information, or ask your school’s computer technician. There are also other browsers you can use like Firefox and Opera, that have even more useful features. I do find that most teachers and students are familiar with IE6, so the improvements made in IE7 make it a lot more functional without being too big a change.

Why is this important?

Things change. Technology changes fast. You might be comfortable with the same old software you’ve been using, but believe it or not it’s actually holding back the development of a faster and more accessible Internet. Not only that, but Microsoft tend to force these changes, and if your school or home computer hasn’t already upgraded, chances are they will soon whether you like it or not.

If you begin to use a tiny portion of the capabilities of a modern browser such as Internet Explorer 7, I guarantee it will make your time on the Internet more productive and more enjoyable. If you have any questions at all about this topic - please leave a comment, write me an email or contact me through my contact form. I’m sure your own school’s computer technician would also be very willing to chat about anything I’ve written.

Got any other tips you’d like to share? Want to clarify something I’ve written? Please leave a comment.