Though Firefox and Chrome have chipped away at its market dominance, Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still one of the most used browsers in the world, and the latest iteration, IE 10, is set to be released along with Windows 8. Today we'll look at a few basic tips and tweaks for optimizing Internet Explorer and maintaining your online privacy, as well as a few popular add-ons for IE.
Any seasoned surfer will know to clear their browser's temporary internet files and cache periodically. The browser's cache can help speed up the loading times of your frequently visited websites, but once it starts to fill up, it can (paradoxically) slow your browser down. To clear your cache and other temporary data in Internet Explorer, click on Tools (gear icon) -> Internet Options. In the General tab, look for Browsing History and click on the Delete button, which will then bring up a menu allowing you to select what temporary data you want to delete. Tick off the relevant materials, delete, and presto! A cleared browser cache.
You can fine tune how strict or lenient you are with this, as removing items like Cookies and saved Passwords may require you to log in again when you visit certain web sites and social media services.
If you want to be more paranoid about both your security settings and cleaning up your cache, you can set Internet Explorer to automatically delete your browsing history and the browser cache every time you exit the browser. From within the Internet Options->General tab, click on the "Delete browsing history on exit" checkbox to turn this option on. It'll free you from the hassle of having to manually dump your browser cache regularly, but it will, in all likelihood, add some hassle by requiring you to log in to your web pages and social media services every time you reopen the browser (the cookies that will have saved your login details will have been deleted). This is recommended practice if you share a computer with other users and don't want them to have access to your account logins when they use your browser.
Another feature that can be both a blessing and a curse is IE's add-on support. Add-ons can add extra utility and features to a browser, but having too many add-ons or badly written plug-ins can actually slow down your web experience. Is IE loading slowly? It might be a problem with your add-ons. You can try loading IE without add-ons to check out whether this is the case. Go to Start Menu -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Internet Explorer (no add-ons). Give it a go, and if there is a massive speed improvement, consider turning off some of your add-ons (we'll show you how next page).
Managing add-ons is a breeze in IE. Go to Tools (gear icon) -> Internet Options -> Programs and look for the "Manage add-ons" button, which will take you to a window displaying a list of all installed and active add-ons, as well as their publishers, load times, and more. From here, you can enable or disable various add-ons that you've installed, as well as look for more toolbars and extensions via the "Find more toolbars and extensions" link. As a general rule, we suggest loading as few add-ons as possible to keep your browser moving at a respectable pace. Even toolbars or accelerators that add only 0.1 seconds to your load time can add up. When you have dozens loaded, you end up with a really bloated browser. Consider the functionality an add-on offers, and if you feel it's really worth it, load it up and see how it runs.
Internet Explorer automatically displays previews of loaded tabs when you mouse over it in the taskbar, a feature that some find useful and some find annoying. To enable or disable Tab Previews, go to Tools -> Internet Options -> General and go to the "Settings" button in Tabs. From there, uncheck "Show previews for individual tabs in the toolbar," and your problem is solved. Or, if you find that you miss it, you can re-enable from here as well.
Keyboard shortcuts can be a real time saver and can separate the efficient power user from the key-pecking amateur. IE is armed with a plethora of useful shortcuts. Check out some of our favorites below:
Ctrl + D = Bookmark a page
Ctrl + T/N = Open a new tab or window respectively
Ctrl + +/- = Zoom in or out of a web page.
Ctrl + Shift + T = Open last closed tab (great for use after inadvertently closing stuff)
Ctrl + Shift + P = Open an InPrivate Browsing window (more on this later!)
Alt + M = Return to Home page
Internet Explorer's InPrivate Browsing mode allows users to browse online without the fear that their browser is recording their every move and storing cookies over time. InPrivate mode, much like Chrome's Incognito browsing, keeps the browser from recording potentially sensitiveinformation like browsing history, login details, and more. It's great for times when you have to share a computer with others. Even if you don't like keeping secrets from family or significant others, it might still come in handy if you're ordering a surprise present online and don't want the transaction record or search details to show in your browsing history.