IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

Summary: Pinned shortcuts are the killer feature of Internet Explorer 9. How do they work, and how can you customize them to make yourself more productive? I've got the details and some cool power tips to share.

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Pinned shortcuts are the killer feature of Internet Explorer 9, as I noted in my review of the IE9 beta yesterday. (For a quick refresher on how pinned sites work and why they're so useful, see "Treating websites as apps.")

The most common scenario for using pinned apps is to put them on the Taskbar, as I illustrated in my report (and as Microsoft has showed off in their demos). Indeed, that is the right choice for your absolute favorite sites, the ones you use all the time, like a web-based mail client or your Facebook or Twitter page. That lets you treat the site as if it were an app. And as I pointed out earlier, you can also open additional tabs alongside your pinned site to keep groups of related tabs in the same window, identified on the taskbar by the icon of the pinned site.

A closer look at the Internet Explorer 9 beta (screenshots)

But if you just look at the official demos, you might not be aware of a few cool tricks you can try with pinned shortcuts.

(A note right up front: IE9 doesn't run on Windows XP, so everything in this post is intended for users of Windows 7 or Windows Vista with SP2.)

To master pinned site shortcuts, you first have to understand what they are.

Under the covers, IE9 saves pinned shortcuts using a new registered file type for Windows, officially known as a Pinned Site Shortcut. It is almost exactly like a regular Internet Shortcut except that it has a .website file-name extension instead of a .url extension. In fact, you can turn a regular web shortcut into a pinned site shortcut, or vice versa, by changing the extension.

Although Microsoft's demos make a big deal out of the Windows 7 Taskbar, you can actually create pinned shortcuts anywhere in the file system. So, you can drag the icon from the address bar onto the Start menu to pin a shortcut for the current page to the top of the Start menu. If you want a pinned site shortcut on the All Programs menu and not at the top of the Start menu, tap the Alt key to make the classic menus visible, then click Tools, Add Site To Start Menu. (The keyboard shortcut is Alt, T, M.) You can also drag that icon onto the desktop, or into any Windows Explorer folder to create a perfectly good pinned site shortcut there.

And although you can't pin a shortcut to the Taskbar in Windows Vista (that feature is new in Windows 7) you can create and use pinned sites on the Start menu and the desktop.

There is nothing magical about a pinned site shortcut. The .website extension tells Windows to call Internet Explorer with a set of special startup switches:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -w "%l" %*

The –w switch is what causes Internet Explorer 9 to treat this process as a pinned website rather than a standard web page. The remaining parameters tell IE9 to use the saved location and any other switches from the saved shortcut.

For your most favorite favorites, the websites you visit every day and leave open all day, it makes sense to pin them to the Taskbar in Windows 7. But for other sites, you might want to preserve this option without cluttering up your Taskbar. For those sites, use the option to save them to the Start menu. The advantage is that Windows categorizes pinned site shortcuts (the ones with the .website extension) as programs for search purposes, and it returns results from the Start menu instantly, before it even begins to search the rest of the index. Thus, when you start typing a search term, you see a listing at the top of the Start menu that includes both installed programs and websites you've saved as pinned shortcuts. When I type the letter Z in the Start menu search box, here's what I see:

To  take maximum advantage of this feature, use the Alt, T, M shortcut and then edit the properties of the saved shortcut so that it has the name you want, not the one the site designer assigned. Click Start, click All Programs, and then right-click the shortcut and click Properties. That opens the Properties dialog for your saved website shortcut. In the box at the top of the General tab, give it the name you want to see (and search for) in the Start menu. On the Website tab, you can edit the Start URL if it includes details you don't need, and you can also customize the Tooltip Name so that it accurately describes the site itself.

If you want to customize pinned shortcuts on the Taskbar, you'll find them all in this folder:

C:\Users\<Username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar

Pinned shortcuts on the All Programs menu are here:

C:\Users\<Username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

I've found a few more neat tricks that IE9 is capable of, and I'll share them in a follow-up post.

Update: In the Talkback section, Speednet provides a nifty list of some of the other advantages of pinned shortcuts:

The big features (only available for Windows 7 users) is the ability for Web sites to directly interact with the pinned shortcut. Those interactions are directly controlled through META tags and JavaScript.

If you're a web developer or even remotely interested in the topic, the full comment is well worth reading.

Topics: Software Development, Browser, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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Talkback

98 comments
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  • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

    I still haven't quite seen the advantage of pinned sites over a jump list or using favorites from the browser. Maybe it's just me.

    I have also not been able to get ie9 to "forget" my user name for websites I have logged in at. I have deleted and unchecked everything I can think of, but when I visit these sites the user name is still auto populated.

    One last beef. How is the "Most popular sites" determined? (The page we see when we open a new tab?). Every page I visit shows up on there, it's more like a history page than popular sites. Does this change over time with browsing history?

    Overall the look and feel of ie9 to me is MS best so far. They finally decided that it's all about the web and not the browser. By default there is no clutter and for me, that's a huge deal. It still won't be enough to tear me away from FF though.
    mike2k
    • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

      @mike2k <br>You need to delete the autocomplete option in Internet explorer to delete all your saved inputs. You can use autility like Ccleaner and select the appropriate option in it.
      idiot101
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @rohitgovindraj

        I have done this and triple checked it
        mike2k
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

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    • The advantage....

      @mike2k

      The advantage is that you can find (or open) a website by using its icon on the Taskbar. If I have five tabs open in my browser, how do I get to Facebook? First I have to look through all those open tabs to see if it's open. If it's not, I have to click a shortcut or favorite or type in the address bar. If it is open, I can click it to go there, but it took me some time to find it.

      By contrast, when I pin Facebook to the taskbar, I see its icon, and I can click it. If the page is already open, I go there immediately. If it's not, it opens for me immediately.

      Make more sense now?
      Ed Bott
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @Ed Bott I Guess i dont have the problem with FF as it shows the website icons with the Tab, so all i have to do is clic on the ZD Icon.
        filizaragoza@...
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @mike2k

        The icon on the taskbar is the Firefox icon. You have to actually look at the tab to see the site. And if it's not running you have to click a bookmark or type the address. I have FF4 open right now and I have no way of knowing what tabs are open without either opening it or using Taskbar thumbnail preview.
        Ed Bott
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @Ed Bott
        Doesn't seem very useful compared to Jump lists, icon surfing, and tab grouping on FF4 beta
        Drakaran
      • Hardly worth the title "killer"

        unless that term has been watered down to the point where anything mildly useful is now worthy if being deemed killer. If memory serves, in your article yesterday you took pains to tell everyone that add-ins don't work at all for pinned sites. In this glowing article of this new "killer feature", that point went unmentioned.
        jasonp@...
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @Ed Bott

        Hi, Ed.

        The reason I don't find this all that useful (unless I'm missing something, of course) is that if I have a bunch of sites that I visit every day, they're [i]already[/i] opened by default. In Firefox or Chrome, I just set them up as my home tabs, and boom, they're open every time I open the browser.

        Chrome does something similar to what IE9 is doing now, and it was a novelty for a while, but it quickly wore off.
        bhartman36
      • You keep doing it your way, Ed...

        ...and that taskbar will get filled up pretty fast. There's only so much room and now you want to crowd the apps that are already down there out by adding a bunch of favorite tabs. What a mess.
        LTV10
    • Removing saved data

      @mike2k

      Press Ctrl+Shift+Delete (or click Settings, Safety, Delete Browsing History. Clear Forms data AND Passwords.

      For an individual entry, click in the box, press down arrow, then press Delete.
      Ed Bott
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @Ed Bott

        I know how to do it, but it's just not working. One of those frustrating things that I just may lose sleep over.

        And I suppose I can see the advantage of pinning sites to the taskbar, but I guess it just doesn't benefit me, at least right now.

        I think your last reply about Firefox should have been for filizaragoza@... and not me :)
        mike2k
    • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

      @mike2k

      Hey, I agree with hat you're saying. I think it's a matter of what works for us. Seems that IE9 is given us the opportunity of well, several different ways to achieve the same sort of thing. Whatever works for you and I is fine as well as with the others.
      The Douginator
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @The Douginator

        Agreed, at least MS has given users options. Some will benefit, some may not. If AdBlock Plus and a greasemonkey like add-in worked with IE, I'd prolly switch in a heartbeat.
        mike2k
    • It's not in internet explorer

      @mike2k

      I'm assuming you're using Windows 7. Go to start and type "Credential" and you should be able to access the credential vault. That's where you can delete any password you've ever saved for any Windows program. You can also back it up if you ever want to transfer those to a new computer.
      LiquidLearner
      • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

        @LiquidLearner

        Yeah, that didn't do it either, though I was hopeful, because my email was stored.
        mike2k
      • Thank You!!!

        @LiquidLearner
        Thanks for the user tip fir Win7. I was NOT aware of that feature. That's why I still process through all this fan-boy drivel on this site! I do occasionally find some great and useful advice! THANK YOU again!
        ncironman
    • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

      @mike2k
      Did you clear your flash cookies too?
      krkosska
    • RE: IE9 power tips: the secrets of pinned site shortcuts

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