Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 in March, about two and a half years after the release of the previous version. Whether you were an earlier adopter or you still need to upgrade, this tutorial will help you discover the changes and new features in IE 8.
Although at first glance it doesn't seem there have been very many changes, there have been some: especially in the security, user-friendliness, and compatibility areas. There have also been a few changes in the browser's appearance:
Overall, if you're used to browsing with IE 7, you shouldn't have any problems with the upgrade. There won't be as many physical changes to get used to as when you made the transition from version 6 to 7, with the new tabs and command bar.
Accelerators Offer Enhanced Shortcuts
One new feature in IE 8 is the support of what Microsoft calls "Accelerators." An Accelerator is a simple shortcut utility that helps you do something with a particular word, phrase, or object you highlight in the browser. This text, link, or image, for example, could be run through a search engine, inserted into a new blog entry, run through an online map site, inserted into an e-mail message, run through a online dictionary, and more.
For example, if you want to double-check the definition of a word, you'd highlight it, click the Accelerator icon that appears, and click the "Define with Google option." If you don't have this Accelerator, you can download it here.
InPrivate Browsing Temporarily Stops Storing All History Data
Another feature debuting in IE 8 is InPrivate Browsing. When this is active, IE does not store any history or data on your browsing secession. This includes cookies, temporary Internet files, history, and other data. Toolbars and extensions are even disabled.
This feature comes in handy when you want to "cover your tracks." Maybe you're searching for a new job while at work, trying to plan a surprise party for a loved one from the home PC, or browsing the online stores for a gift.
Whatever your need, you can bring up a protected IE window by clicking the Safety menu and selecting InPrivate Browsing. Once InPrivate Browsing is active, you'll see the InPrivate logo in the upper left hand corner of the window.
SmartScreen Filter Is the Improved Phishing Filter
The SmartScreen Filter is actually just an improved version of the Phishing Filter introduced in IE 7. It still works to detect and block pages and sites that are phishing (fishing) for your personal information. Microsoft has improvements to the user interface, performance, heuristics, anti-malware support, and Group Policy support.
The settings for the SmartScreen Filter is off of the Safety menu.
Web Slices to Get Updates From Sites
This is a new type of favorites feature. Instead of just saving the address of a Web page to a static shortcut, Web Slices let you save a piece of the page. Once you've added a Web Slice to your list in IE, you can view it from the Favorites tool bar (see Figure 3 for an example). Web Slices support automatic updates, so they're best for keeping track of changing items, such as the price or status of an auction, sport scores, your email or news items.
You'll see the Web Slice button next to supported content on sites that are configured with this new technology. As Figure 4 shows, the content is also highlighted by a thin green line. You'd click this button to add the Web Slice to IE. You can also browse the gallery to find supported sites or content.
This provides you with more control over which online marketing companies and content providers can collect information about sites you visit. Your browsing history, browser preferences and settings, search history, and other details can help sites, for example, display targeted advertisements in pages you view. However, your privacy is compromised and the security of your Web history is unknown. The InPrivate Filter can automatically block any provider it detects or allow only those you indicate.
To toggle the InPrivate Filter on and off, click the Safety menu. You can also access a shortcut to bring up the settings.
You Can Reopen Closed Tabs
No more searching through the history or retyping addresses when you accidentally close a tab or window. IE 8 sports a new feature that can re-open closed tabs or windows—it's like an undo button for Web browsers. When you want to restore the previously closed tab(s), click the Tools menu and select Reopen Last Browsing Session.
Getting Even More Features
We've discussed most of the new and changed features in Internet Explorer 8. You should understand how Microsoft is helping you have a better surfing experience. If you want even more features, check out the Add-Ons Gallery. You can browse through and install Accelerators, Web Slices, and Search Providers.
Eric Geier is the author of many networking and computing books, including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and 100 Things You Need to Know about Microsoft® Windows Vista (Que 2007).
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