Internet Explorer has a huge list of customization features found in the Advanced tab of the Internet Options dialog box (see Figure 1).
Many of these settings are obscure, but many others are extremely
useful for surfers of all stripes. This section runs through all of
Figure 1. In the Internet Options dialog box, the Advanced tab contains a
long list of Internet Explorer customization settings.
advanced options can be set for users via the Group Policy Editor. Run
the program and open the User Configuration, Windows Settings, Internet
Explorer Maintenance branch. Right-click Internet Explorer Maintenance
and then click Preference Mode; click the Advanced branch that is added
to the Internet Explorer Maintenance section. Double-click the Internet
Settings item to work with the advanced options.
The Accessibility group has six options:
Always Expand Alt Text for Images—
Most webmasters define a text description for each image they include
on a page. If you tell Internet Explorer not to show images (see the
later discussion of the Show Pictures check box), all you see are boxes
where the images should be, and each box contains the text description
(known as alt text, where alt is short for alternate).
Activating this check box tells Internet Explorer to expand the image
box horizontally so that the alt text appears on a single line.
Enable Caret Browsing for New Windows and Tabs—
Activate this check box to switch Internet Explorer 8 into caret
browsing mode. You normally navigate a web page using the mouse to
click links and scroll the screen. The keyboard comes into play
occasionally for scrolling (with Page Down and Page Up keys) and rarely
for selecting links (with the Tab key). However, many people find the
mouse difficult to use and would prefer to navigate a web page the same
way they navigate a word processing document: using the left- and
right-arrow keys to navigate characters, the up and down arrow keys to
navigate lines, and Ctrl+arrow key to navigate words (with the left and
right keys) or paragraphs (with the up and down keys), and so on. This
is called caret browsing (where caret is a fancy term for a vertical cursor), and it’s a new feature in Internet Explorer 8.
activate a link when caret browsing, navigate the cursor inside the
link text (Internet Explorer 8 adds a box around the link text), and
then press Enter.
Move System Caret with Focus/Selection Changes— Activating this check box tells Internet Explorer to move the system caret whenever you change the focus. (The system caret
is a visual indication of what part of the screen currently has the
focus. If a text box has the focus, the system caret is a blinking,
vertical bar; if a check box or option button has the focus, the system
caret is a dotted outline of the control name.) This is useful if you
have a screen reader or screen magnifier that uses the position of the
system caret to determine what part of the screen to read or magnify.
Reset Text Size to Medium for New Windows and Tabs—
Activating this check box tells Internet Explorer to return the Text
Size value to Medium when you open a new window or tab. This is useful
if you find that you only have to enlarge the text size for a few sites.
Reset Text Size to Medium While Zooming—
Activating this check box tells Internet Explorer to return the Text
Size value to Medium when you use the Zoom feature (select Page, Zoom).
This is helpful because it gives you a more consistent zooming
experience—you’re always starting the zoom from the same text size.
Reset Zoom Level for New Windows and Tabs—
Activating this check box tells Internet Explorer to return the Zoom
value to 100% when you open a new window or tab. This is useful if you
find that you have to zoom in on only a few sites.
Here are the options in the Browsing group:
Automatically Recover from Page Layout Errors with Compatibility View—
If you leave this check box activated, Internet Explorer automatically
fixes any page layout problems that occur by switching to Compatibility
Close Unused Folders in History and Favorites—
When you activate this check box, Internet Explorer keeps unused
folders closed when you display the History list and the Favorites
list. That is, if you open a folder and then open a second folder,
Internet Explorer automatically closes the first folder. This makes the
History and Favorites lists easier to navigate, so it’s usually best to
leave this option activated. You need to restart Internet Explorer if
you change this setting.
Disable Script Debugging (Internet Explorer)—
This check box toggles the script debugger (if one is installed) on and
off within Internet Explorer only. You should have to activate this
option only if you’re a page designer and you have scripts in your
pages that you need to debug before uploading them to the Web.
Disable Script Debugging (Other)—
This is similar to the Disable Script Debugging (Internet Explorer)
option, except that it toggles the script debugger (again, if one is
installed) on and off within any application other than Internet
Explorer that can display web content (such as Windows Mail).
Display a Notification About Every Script Error—
If you activate this check box, Internet Explorer displays a dialog box
this option deactivated, Internet Explorer displays an error message in
the status bar. To see the full error message, double-click the status
bar message. Only script programmers will need to enable this option
and, even then, only when they’re debugging scripts. Many websites are
poorly programmed and contain script errors. Therefore, enabling this
option means that you’ll have to deal with lots of annoying dialog
boxes as you surf.
Display Accelerator Button on Selection—
With this check box is activated, when you select text in a web page,
Internet Explorer 8 displays an Accelerator button above the selected
text. Click that button to see the installed accelerators (such as Blog
with Windows Live and Define with Encarta).
Enable Automatic Crash Recovery—
When this check box is activated, Internet Explorer 8 attempts to
reopen the current tab set if the program crashes. This is welcome
behavior, particularly if you regularly have a large bunch of tabs on
Enable FTP Folder View (Outside of Internet Explorer)—
When you activate this option and you access an FTP (File Transfer
Protocol) site, Internet Explorer displays the contents of the site
using the familiar Windows folder view. This makes it easy to drag and
drop files from the FTP site to your hard disk, and possibly to perform
other file maintenance chores, depending on what permissions you have
at the site.
Enable Page Transitions—
This check box toggles Internet Explorer’s support for page transitions
on and off—websites that use a server that supports FrontPage
extensions can define various page transitions (such as wipes and
fades). However, these transitions often slow down your browsing, so I
recommend turning them off.
Enable Suggested Sites—
When you enable this check box, you can click Internet Explorer 8’s
Suggested Sites button to see a list of what Internet Explorer 8 thinks
are sites that are similar to the current site (and so might interest
Enable Third-Party Browser Extensions—
With this check box activated, Internet Explorer supports third-party
extensions to its interface. For example, the Google toolbar is a
third-party extension that integrates the Google search engine into
Internet Explorer as a toolbar. If you deactivate this check box,
third-party extensions don’t appear and can’t display. Deactivating
this check box is a good way to turn off some (but, unfortunately, not
all) of those annoying third-party toolbars that install themselves
without permission. You need to restart Internet Explorer if you change
Enable Visual Styles on Buttons and Controls in Webpages—
With this check box activated, Internet Explorer applies the current
Windows Vista visual style to all web pages for objects such as form
buttons. If you deactivate this check box, Internet Explorer applies
its default visual style to all page elements.
Enable Websites to Use the Search Pane—
When you enable this check box, you allow websites to display content
using the old Search pane, which has been disabled since Internet
Explorer 7. I have no idea why anyone would want to do this.
Force Offscreen Compositing Even Under Terminal Server— If you activate this check box, Internet Explorer performs all compositing—the
combining of two or more images—in memory before displaying the result
onscreen. This avoids the image flashing that can occur when running
Internet Explorer under Terminal Services, but it can reduce
performance significantly. I recommend leaving this option unchecked.
You have to restart Internet Explorer if you change this setting.
Notify When Downloads Complete—
If you leave this check box activated, Internet Explorer leaves its
download progress dialog box onscreen after the download finishes (see Figure 2).
This enables you to click either Open to launch the downloaded file or
Open Folder to display the file’s destination folder. If you deactivate
this check box, Internet Explorer closes this dialog box as soon as the
download is complete.
Figure 2. When Internet Explorer completes a file download, it leaves this dialog box onscreen to help you deal with the file.
can also force Internet Explorer to close the Download Complete dialog
box automatically by activating the Close This Dialog Box When Download
Completes check box.
Reuse Windows for Launching Shortcuts—
With this check box enabled and tabbed browsing turned off, Windows
looks for an already-open Internet Explorer window when you click a web
page shortcut (such as a web address in a Windows Mail email message).
If a window is open, the web page loads there. This is a good idea
because it prevents Internet Explorer windows from multiplying
unnecessarily. If you deactivate this option, Windows always loads the
page into a new Internet Explorer window.
Show Friendly HTTP Error Messages— With
this check box enabled, Internet Explorer intercepts the error messages
(for, say, pages not found) generated by web servers and replaces them
with its own messages that offer more information as well as possible
solutions to the problem. If you deactivate this option, Internet
Explorer displays the error message generated by the web server.
However, I recommend deactivating this option because webmasters often
customize the web server error messages to be more helpful than the
generic messages reported by Internet Explorer.
Use these options to specify when Internet Explorer should format web
page links with an underline. The Hover option means that the underline
appears only when you position the mouse pointer over the link. Many
websites use colored text, so it’s often difficult to recognize a link
without the underlining. Therefore, I recommend that you activate the
Use Inline AutoComplete—
This check box toggles the address bar’s inline AutoComplete feature on
and off. When Inline AutoComplete is on, Internet Explorer monitors the
text that you type in the address bar. If your text matches a
previously typed URL, Internet Explorer automatically completes the
address by displaying the matching URL in the address bar. It also
displays a drop-down list of other matching URLs. When Inline
AutoComplete is off, Internet Explorer displays only the drop-down list
of matching URLs.
you want to prevent Internet Explorer from displaying the drop-down
list of matching URLs, display the Content tab and click the Settings
button in the AutoComplete group to display the AutoComplete Settings
dialog box. Deactivate the Web Addresses check box. Note that Internet
Explorer’s AutoComplete feature also applies to web forms. That is,
AutoComplete can remember data that you type into a form—including
usernames and passwords—and automatically enter that data when you use
the form again. You can control the web form portion of AutoComplete by
using the other check boxes in the Use AutoComplete For section of the
AutoComplete Settings dialog box.
Use Most Recent Order When Switching Tags with Ctrl+Tab— If
you activate this check box, press Ctrl+Tab (and Ctrl+Shift+Tab)
switches between tabs in the order you most recently viewed them.
Use Passive FTP (for Firewall and DSL Modem Compatibility)—
In a normal FTP session, Internet Explorer opens a connection to the
FTP server (for commands), and then the FTP server opens a second
connection back to the browser (for data). If you’re on a network with
a firewall, however, it will not allow incoming connections from a
server. With passive FTP, the browser establishes the second (data)
connection itself. Therefore, if you’re on a firewalled network or are
using a DSL modem and you can’t establish an FTP connection, activate
this check box.
Use Smooth Scrolling— This check box toggles a feature called smooth scrolling
on and off. When you activate this check box to enable smooth
scrolling, pressing the Page Down or Page Up key causes the page to
scroll down or up at a preset speed. If you deactivate this check box,
pressing the Page Down or Page Up key causes the page to jump instantly
down or up.
When reading a web page, you can scroll down one screen by pressing the spacebar. To scroll up one screen, press Shift+spacebar.
The check boxes in the HTTP 1.1 Settings branch determine whether Internet Explorer uses the HTTP 1.1 protocol:
Use HTTP 1.1—
This check box toggles Internet Explorer’s use of HTTP 1.1 to
communicate with web servers. (HTTP 1.1 is the standard protocol used
on the Web today.) You should deactivate this check box only if you’re
having trouble connecting to a website. This tells Internet Explorer to
use HTTP 1.0, which might solve the problem.
Use HTTP 1.1 Through Proxy Connections— This check box toggles on and off the use of HTTP 1.1 only when connecting through a proxy server.
The options in the International group relate to security.
The options in the Multimedia branch toggle various multimedia effects on and off:
Always Use ClearType for HTML—
When this check box is activated, Internet Explorer displays HTML text
using ClearType, which gives text a sharper look on LCD monitors. If
you don’t have an LCD monitor, you might not like how ClearType renders
text, so you should deactivate this check box. You need to restart
Internet Explorer if you change this setting.
Enable Automatic Image Resizing— If you activate this check box, Internet Explorer automatically shrinks large images so that they fit inside the browser window.
This is useful if you’re running Windows Vista with a small monitor or
at a relatively low resolution and you’re finding that many website
images don’t fit entirely into the browser window.
Play Animations in Webpages—
This check box toggles animated GIF images on and off. Most animated
GIFs are unwelcome annoyances, so you’ll probably greatly improve your
surfing experience by clearing this check box. If you turn this option
off and you want to view an animation, right-click the box and then
click Show Picture.
Play Sounds in Webpages—
This check box toggles web page sound effects on and off. Because the
vast majority of web page sounds are extremely bad MIDI renditions of
popular tunes, turning off sounds will save your ears.
Show Image Download Placeholders—
If you activate this check box, Internet Explorer displays a box that
is the same size and shape as the image it is downloading.
This check box toggles web page images on and off. If you’re using a
slow connection, turn off this option and Internet Explorer will show
only a box where the image would normally appear. (If the designer has
included alt text, that text will appear inside the box.) If you want
to view a picture when you’ve toggled images off, right-click the box
and select the Show Picture option.
Smart Image Dithering— This check box toggles image dithering on and off. Dithering is a technique that slightly alters an image to make jagged edges appear smooth.
the Printing group, the Print Background Colors and Images check box
determines whether Internet Explorer includes the page’s background
when you print the page. Many web pages use solid colors or fancy
images as backgrounds, so you’ll print these pages faster if you leave
this setting deactivated.
The options in the Search from the Address Bar group control Internet Explorer’s Address bar searching:
Do Not Submit Unknown Addresses to Your Auto-Search Provider— Activate this option to disable address bar searching for terms that are not known to Internet Explorer.
Just Display the Results in the Main Window— Activate this option to display, in the main browser window, a list of the sites that the search engine found.