Internet Explorer 9: Tips & Tricks

There's no doubt that IE9 is fast, modern internet browser and a major advance over previous versions. However, if you're used to an older browser it's stripped down look and wealth of new features can be a shock to the system. Here we give you some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your upgraded browser experience.

After you've installed IE9, on first run it will ask you if you want to optimise the speed of your browser by disabling add-ons. You probably want to get going and look at the web page but it's worth checking those add-ons, if only to stop the browser bugging you every time you start it up!

In the Choose Add-ons box that comes up it lists each add-on and tells you how long it takes to load - the ones that take the longest are marked in red. The times are likely to be fractions of a second, but it all add-ups so if there's something non essential, such as the Adobe PDF linker, then feel free to disable it. You can always go back and re-enable it later.

Once you've got past that, you might raise an eyebrow, or even run around screaming, depending on your temperament, when you notice that your favourite Favorites bar is missing. It's not though, it has just been tidied, and is now located at the top right of the browser from the star icon. (Don't you hate it when people move your things without telling you?) The reason behind this is that Microsoft has streamlined the look of the browser to remove toolbars that aren't necessary in order to give you more space for what's important, namely the web page you're browsing.

Want your favourites back though? Not a problem. Right click anywhere on the border of IE9 at the top, outside of the address bar and you'll see options for the Menu, Favorites, Command and Status bars. Select each one to reinstate them to your screen. If you do bring back the Favorites bar, you get a space to pin favourite sites along the screen which you may prefer. If you want to temporarily bring back the Menu bar, press 'Alt' from anywhere in the browser.

Right click here to bring up a menu giving you access to your old style toolbars.

However, if you want to create even more space then hit F11 to go to Full Screen mode. This removes the search box and tool bars from the top of the screen so your whole display is filled with the web page. You don't have to hit F11 again to search though. Just move the mouse to the top of the screen and the search box and tabs will appear.

If you're a die-hard IE6 user, you might not be familiar with tabs. These enable you to have multiple pages loaded at the same time and are a core feature of all modern browsers. Create a new one by clicking on the square that appears to sit behind the tab displaying the title of the page you're on. You don't have to click that box though - double click anywhere along the top and you'll open a new tab. From here you're presented with an array of previous web sites that you've visited so you can reopen them quickly. You can also reopen a tab you've just closed, or reopen all the tabs you had open in your last browsing session.

Tear-off your tabs

One thing you might not be aware of is that you can move the order of the tabs around. This can be very useful if you need to switch between two tabs frequently - it makes it easier to have them next to each other. Simply click and hold down the left mouse button and the page will 'tear-off'. You can either move the tab to another position, or by moving it elsewhere on your desktop it will become a separate browser window. If you want to reverse the process just re-grab the tab and place it next the desired tabs in any browser window.

Just left click and hold on a tab to tear it off and move it where you want it.

Separate your One Box and tabs

One of our favourite tricks in IE9 is the ability to have the combined search and address bar, known as the 'One Box', on a separate row. This means that you can see longer URLs in one glance, and you get a whole row for your tabs, which is great if you have many open at the same time. To do this just right click anywhere at the top and select 'Show tabs on a separate row'.

The great thing about the One Box is that it can auto complete your searches, suggesting destinations based on your previous search history or the search engine of your choice. To make sure this is enabled go to Manage Add-ons from the tools option at the top right. Click on Search Providers and then make sure that 'Search in the Address Bar' is ticked. By default IE9 will use Microsoft's Bing search engine and it works really well.

Go to the manage add-ons box to choose your search provider.

If you prefer an alternative though, it's not a problem. Click on 'Find more search providers...' at the bottom of the Manage Add-ons box and you'll be taken to a web page where you can take your pick from Google, or Ask Jeeves, or even plug-ins that will search specific sites, such as Autotrader, Play.com and Tesco among others. Once installed, type in your search and then click the magnifying glass icon in the address bar, pick the relevant search icon button that appears at the bottom of the search box, and then click it to search.

IE9 will let you search a website direct from the One Box, without having to go there first.

Know your icons

It's also handy to know what the four icons in the One Box to the right of the magnifying glass icon are. Moving from the outside in, on the far right is an X- click here to stop a page loading, and click the curved arrow next to it to reload a page. Next to this is a broken page icon to enable Compatibility Mode; click this if you arrive on a older web page that just looks wrong with out of page text or graphics; it might be designed with outdated browsers such as IE6 in mind. Finally the stop icon indicates that IE9's safety tools such as Active X filtering or SmartScreen filtering are enabled - click here to disable them if you need them for a page to work properly.

Accelerator

A great IE9 feature, first introduced with IE8, is Accelerators. These are built-in programmes that can quickly be accessed just by highlighting a word on a page. Do this and the Accelerator icon, a blue arrow, will appear at the top left of the word highlighted. Click this and all your installed accelerators will appear. These will enable you to do things such as search for a location using Bing or search for the term in your default search engine. You can add more Accelerators giving you access to powerful tools at your fingertips, such as being able to highlight a term in one language and have Bing automatically translate it for you.

Accelerators are powerful add-ons built into IE9. This one lets you highlight a French sentence and have Bing translate it for you.

Power Users

If for any reason things go really wrong with your Internet Explorer 9 installation then there is a way to get things back to normal. A utility called the SF IE Restorator will reset your installation to its default and enable you and start afresh. For the more technically inclined, you'll want to know that it will flush the DNS settings, re-register dlls in the Registry, reset Window's Winsock settings and put all the browser settings to default.

As any real power user will tell you, experts don't use the mouse and menus - they use keyboard shortcuts. These are great at speeding things up as you get used to using IE9, and once you're familiar with them you'll wonder how you lived without them.

Here's a simple list of our favourites:

Alt: Show the menu bar

Alt+C: Show the favorites bar, feeds and browsing history

Ctrl+J: Open the Download Manager

Ctrl+L: Highlight the text in the Address bar

Ctrl+D: Add a webpage to your favorites

Get to grips with all these tips and you'll find that your browsing will become, faster, more fluid and even more fun thanks to IE9.