Home Office: What's Better Than IE?

You can browse the Web a lot better if you ignore Internet Explorer.

Last week I talked about what I need in a browser. And in my recent PC World magazine column, I wrote about what I think is the best free browser shell in town: MyIE2, from the MYIE2 Team.

This week I'm giving you the details about MyIE2, and I hope that'll convince you to try it.

What Exactly Is MyIE2?

First, a clarification. In the magazine column I just mentioned, I referred to MyIE2 as a browser, a program, and an Internet Explorer replacement. But it really isn't any of these things. (I love it when you look confused and furrow your brow.)

I was quickly taken to task by a handful of readers. (Let me paraphrase: "Bass, you're a numskull ... really ignorant ... you're a journalist?") So for the record: MyIE2 doesn't replace IE. It sits atop IE's engine as a skin or shell. And it's important to realize that shells such as MyIE2 and Avant Browser have all of IE's inherent security risks.

Stand-alone programs such as Opera, Mozilla, and Netscape don't rely on IE; I'll talk more about them in next week's newsletter.

The point is, if you choose to use MyIE2, Internet Explorer must remain on your PC. Like it or not, you're really still using Internet Explorer in the background. Me? I'm so enthralled with MyIE2's many enhancements and time-saving features, I'm willing to turn a blind eye to the fact that it's using Microsoft's engine.

Dig This: I know you like these artsy-fartsy sites, the ones with interactive images. I found a stunner called Celluloid Skyline that'll easily give you a half hour to avoid a deadline. Start by clicking the "Visions of the Dream City" link to understand the interactive feature. Then click one of the locations towards the top of the page, say, "Waterfront Setting ... " Choose a photo from the menu on the left and slide your mouse across the photo on the right.

MyIE2 Lite vs. Full

You might want to put your trust in me and try MyIE2 right away. It's free; just go to PC World's Downloads site to download the current version.

But I have one word of advice before you start downloading: Start with the Lite version. You could be overwhelmed by MyIE2's Toolbar. MyIE2 Lite is a tad less complicated than the Full version because it doesn't have as many third-party plug-ins. Once you're comfortable with the Lite version (it took me a week), graduate to MyIE2 Full.

A few readers were concerned that one of MyIE2's plug-ins--a navigational tool called UCMore--might be spyware. After a thorough investigation, I'm confident that UCMore version 4.0 isn't a problem. Earlier versions, however, were considered spyware. Go to PestPatrol's site for details.

I wasn't particularly interested in UCMore (thanks, I've seen enough) so I didn't download it. You can remove the spot on the MyIE2 Toolbar that's reserved for UCMore, reclaiming the real estate. Here's how: Go to Options, MyIE2 Options, Advanced, MyIE2 Plugin and uncheck the UCMore plug-in.

Dig This: The Subservient Chicken deserves a spot in the Timewasters Hall of Fame. Just tell the chicken what you want it to do--sit down, lay an egg, flap its wings, and yes, flip you the bird. [Actual Editor's Note: What the heck?! It's unreal. Is this guy actually looking at a PC monitor in real time that shows the commands I typed in?]

Quick MyIE2 Tip: One thing I didn't like--and quickly modified--was the Favorites Bar. MyIE2 showed all my Favorites, and I wanted it to show only Links. It's an easy fix: select Options, MyIE2 Options, Favorites, then click Browse (at the bottom of the screen) and change the location in the Favorite Bar Root Folder field to point to Links. [Note to MyIE2 Developers: How about letting me change the order of these buttons?]

Browsing With MyIE2

Once you have the shell installed, try some of the cool features I regularly use.

Tabbed Window Navigation: When I'm using the keyboard, I use the Ctrl key and the right and left arrows to switch to another window. (Ctrl-Tab works just like Windows' Alt-Tab, letting you move among open tabbed windows in MyIE2.)

Mouse Gestures: If my hand is on the mouse, I use mouse gestures--navigating by holding down the right mouse button and gesturing in one of ten ways. For instance, up and to the right goes to the next tab, down and to the left closes all windows. Go to Options, then select General to turn Gestures on. Choose Mouse to configure Gestures. The MyIE2 Guide has a brief tutorial.

Drag-and-Drop Extraordinaire: Find an interesting word or phrase on a Web site and drag it to a blank spot on the current page. MyIE2 automatically pops open a new tabbed window and does a search.

Address Field Autocomplete: Most of you know that using Ctrl-Enter adds http:// and .com to the start and end of any URL. In MyIE2, Shift-Enter adds http:// and .net. You can create other shortcuts as well, by going to Options, MyIE2 Options, Others. For example, I've configured Shift-Ctrl to add http:// and .org to a URL.

Clear 'Em Out: I like the fact that I can set MyIE2 to clear the Internet cache, cookies, history, and search bar history when I close it.

Auto-Hide Favorites: Move your cursor to the left side of the screen and a sidebar with Favorites appears; move away and it vanishes. Individual favorite files and folders can be designated as "most favorites," making them a breeze to access. There are other features available on the sidebar, including history, searching, and weather. Turn the feature on by clicking Favorites from the MyIE2 Toolbar, then click the small triangle in the right corner of the Favorites panel. There's a whole site dedicated to messing with this sweetie of a feature.

Want to learn more about the menus? Go to MyIE2 Online Help. And you can learn even more about MyIE2 from the tutorial at that site. Once you've played with MyIE2, you can rely on the forums for help.

Quick MyIE2 Tip: At first you may find the way MyIE2 opens new tabbed windows a little confusing. For instance, you might find that sometimes a new tab opens, sometimes not. The beauty of MyIE2 is its flexibility; you can make it do whatever you want. Go to Options, MyIE2 Options and choose New (it's just under Windows). You'll see eight actions that force MyIE2 to open a new tabbed window. For instance, you can have a new tabbed window open when you click, say, a link on a Web page or a Favorites link. Conversely, unchecking a box in Options forces MyIE2 to use the same tabbed window when you click on a link. Review the actions listed here, and remove the check from the actions that you don't want to trigger a new window.

Life Isn't Perfect

The truth is that MyIE2 isn't perfect. It occasionally chokes on pages with complicated Java scripting. If one tabbed window loads slowly, MyIE2 sometimes appears to freeze (it doesn't--just click another tab). But get this: If MyIE2 does crash, when you reopen it, you're offered the option of reloading all the previously open tabbed windows.

Dig This: You've heard how some folks use Adobe Photoshop to modify photographs, right? Take a gander at these gems. (Dig those pandas!)

Next week? More on browsing: Other ways to cover the sins of Internet Explorer, my take on Opera and Mozilla, and a free way to speed up your Internet access.

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