While it's easy for a Mozilla Firefox diehard like me to turn my nose up at Internet Explorer, the fact is that Microsoft's browser has made a lot of progress. You've no doubt heard about newfangled features like Accelerators and Web Slices (see Preston Gralla's IE 8 review for details), but IE 8 also has plenty of small but worthwhile usability improvements. This week let's see how you can get the most from Microsoft's new browser.
Search Within Web Pages Faster
Internet Explorer 8's new dynamic inline search has nothing to do with search engines; rather, it's about searching for text within the page you're currently viewing. Previous versions of IE relied on a pop-up search box, into which you'd enter the text you wanted to find--then click Find. Bleh.
In IE 8, as in the last several versions of Firefox, searching within a page (aka inline) is dynamic: Hit Ctrl-F to bring up the search field (it appears just below the tabs), then start typing. The browser will highlight the closest match with each character you enter.
In the accompanying screenshot, you can see that I've typed out netbook, but IE started highlighting the word by the time I'd entered net. What's more, if a search term appears in both a headline and body text, the browser highlights both--and in different colors! Even Firefox doesn't do that.
If you haven't tried IE 8 yet, I really recommend taking a look. It's way better than previous versions. And, let's face it, once in a while you come across a site that doesn't play nice in Firefox, so sometimes IE is a necessity. You might as well get the latest and greatest.
One last bit of incentive: For every download of IE 8 from Microsoft's Browser for the Better site, the company will donate the financial equivalent of eight meals to Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that supplies local food banks. The campaign, which helps feed kids who normally get free or subsidized meals at school (but not during the summer), runs through August 8.
Access Multiple Webmail Accounts
Here's a little-known advantage to using Internet Explorer 8: It lets you access multiple Gmail accounts simultaneously and independently.
This is accomplished via the New Session option, which makes it possible to log onto Web sites that track your identity across different tabs--like Gmail.
In Firefox, for instance, you can't have multiple Gmail accounts open in multiple tabs or windows. If you sign into a second one, you'll get signed out of the first one when you try to do anything.
Here's how to take advantage of this IE 8 perk:
- Run Internet Explorer 8 and open Gmail. Make sure the Remember Me option is unchecked when you sign in.
- Press Alt-F, I, and then hit Enter. This opens a new Internet Explorer session (which for all intents and purposes is the same as a new IE window).
- Open Gmail and sign into your second account, again making sure to uncheck Remember Me.
That's all there is to it! This should work with other Webmail accounts and services that don't like multiple sessions running simultaneously.
Keep IE Bookmarks in Sync With Xmarks
Good news, Internet Explorer users! Now you can keep your bookmarks in sync across multiple PCs, just like Firefox users. Xmarks is the tool that makes it possible.
Previously a Firefox-only add-on, Xmarks (formerly known as Foxmarks) is now available for Internet Explorer and Safari.
Say, for example, you use Firefox at home, but at work you're stuck with Internet Explorer (not that there's anything wrong with that). Foxmarks will keep your bookmarks in sync between the two PCs and the two different browsers. It also makes your bookmarks available online from any PC, smartphone, and so on.
Just be sure to check the settings before you perform the initial synchronization, as Foxmarks gives you the option of merging or overwriting bookmarks in one direction or the other. You'll want to give some thought as to how the first sync should go.
Unfortunately, the IE and Safari versions of Foxmarks lack one key feature: password synchronization. For now that remains exclusive to the Firefox version. Even so, this is a must-have tool for anyone who runs multiple PCs (and/or Macs) and wants to keep a consistent, automatically updated set of bookmarks on all of them.