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Internet Explorer 4's big advantages
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
Simple gray rule

Internet Explorer 4's big advantages

Bit Player for Sept. 13, 1998

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers

Microsoft must have thought the Internet was a ham sandwich when it introduced Windows 95. You had no way to connect to the Internet unless you bought an add-on suite called the Plus! pack, and every other aspect of using the Internet seemed like an afterthought in Windows 95.

How times have changed! Now, a few months after coming out with Windows 98, Microsoft is building Internet functions into just about every software program it sells or gives away. Windows 98 practically connects itself to the Internet when you set it up. (If you already have an Internet provider, you only need to type in the ISP's phone number and your name and password and Windows will do the rest.)

And in August of 1995, the month Windows 95 went on sale, a company named Netscape had the only decent Web browser for Windows. It had minor competition from Mosaic (the browser Netscape's Navigator more or less grew out of) and a few other browsers, and pitiful competition from a new browser Microsoft packaged in its extra-cost Plus! suite. That browser was Internet Explorer. It was ho-hum all the way.

That was then and this is now. Microsoft's current Web browser, Internet Explorer 4, is rapidly taking over from Netscape's browser as the most widely used Internet software program among Windows users—major sites are reporting more "hits" from Internet Explorer than from Netscape Navigator now—and everyone who buys a PC gets Internet Explorer 4. Microsoft would like us to think of the browser this way: You buy a car and you get an engine as part of the deal. You buy a PC and you get Windows and, of course, Internet Explorer.

Whether this is good marketing or bad ethics is not the point here. What matters is whether Internet Explorer is worth all its popularity. And the answer is clearly Yes. This week I'll give you four reasons I think IE 4 is better than Netscape Navigator, and next week I'll tell you my favorite tricks and tips for Internet Explorer 4.

  1. Internet Explorer 4 is built into Windows. This is true whether you add IE 4 to Windows 95 or just use IE 4 in Windows 98. (Much of the added attraction of Windows 98 is actually added by Internet Explorer 4, so upgrading to IE 4 under Windows 95 gives you a kinda-sorta Windows 97 1/2.)
  2. Because of this tight integration, every file-and-folder window becomes a browser window. You never need to run the Web browser separately. If you have a window open showing, say, the My Documents folder, you can change the view of your local documents to a view of a Web site just by typing a Web address in the address line at the top of the My Documents window.

    This makes sense to me. You can ignore this feature and run the browser the standard way, of course, but why would you want to? Your file-and-folder window is a browser window already.

  3. IE 4 uses all the regular Windows keyboard shortcuts. This can be very helpful if you do a lot of Web browsing, because you don't have to learn new ways of doing things with the keyboard. Hit the Backspace key and you back up to the previous folder in your hard drive or the previous page in IE 4, to give one example. Common keystrokes just plain make sense.
  4. Java applets (small programs) run much better through IE 4 than through Netscape's browser. IE 4 also does Java a lot faster.
  5. IE 4 uses real shortcut files for its Internet "bookmarks." You can edit them, copy them, put them on a floppy or send them by e-mail. They're files and not some sort of mystery meat the way Netscape's "bookmarks" are.

Next: Ways to speed up IE 4, and free IE booster from Microsoft no one ever told you about.


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