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).
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.
The Use Large Icons option toggles the size of the icons, from standard to large and back. Show All Text Labels means that text appears on all the command buttons in the toolbars (some also have graphical icons); Show Selective Text means you'll see icons without text for the more obvious commands, such as Home; and Show Only Icons removes the text labels altogether.
You can also shift the Stop and Refresh buttons to the left of the Address Bar, where they're likely to feel a bit more at home. Select Add or Remove Commands, and you can add or remove functions from the Command Bar (the run of icons that appears to the right of the tabs).
IE8 has been out only a few months, but as the default browser in the forthcoming Windows 7 and a recommended update in other versions of Windows, you can expect to start seeing it more and more. Master the eight features described above, and you'll find yourself ahead of the pack in this new browsing world.