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Investigating Internet Explorer 6.0

Learn how to get the most out of Internet Explorer 6's new features with this how-to guide.

You've probably heard a lot of hoopla about Windows XP. Amid the din over the successor to the Windows Millennium and Windows 2000 Professional operating systems, Microsoft slipped Internet Explorer 6 out the door. Well, sort of.

Microsoft released the beta of Internet Explorer 6 (otherwise known as Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview) to the public in late March. Even though the Public Preview is a pretty stable beta, keep in mind that this version isn't quite ready for prime time.

In this article, I'll discuss some safe beta testing techniques that you can use to investigate the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview. Then, I'll introduce you to some of the browser's new and exciting features. As I do, I'll describe each one in detail so even if you decide not to install this beta version, you'll have a good idea of what's coming down the road. Microsoft plans to launch the final version of Internet Explorer 6 later this year.

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Wizard Tip: Internet Explorer 6 is basically a core set of technologies based on the new Windows XP operating system. The stand-alone version of the new browser will work in Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT, and Windows 2000, but not in Windows 95.


Greg Shultz is a freelance writer specializing in the Windows operating system. Greg can be reached at The_Windows_Wizard@hotmail.com.

Since the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview is still in beta, you really shouldn't install it on the computer that you use for your regular activities. Plus, installing the Preview will overwrite existing versions of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. While you can remove Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview using the Add/Remove Programs tool, there are no guarantees that your system will be the same. You might even have to rebuild your system from scratch. Ideally, you should install the Public Preview on a second machine that you can use exclusively for testing purposes.

If, however, you only have one computer, you can still safely test the beta. Create a second bootable partition with a utility such as PartitionMagic, install your operating system on that partition, and then add the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview to the new partition. (For help installing and using Partition Magic, check out this story.) That way, you can experiment with the beta software and still have access to your regular operating system when you need to go back to work.

Another option is to perform a full back up of your hard disk before you install Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview. Then, when you're done experimenting with the beta software, you can just reformat your hard disk and restore from the backup.

Wizard Tip: As you're experimenting with the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview and do encounter problems, you should visit the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview Bug Reporting Web site and file a bug report. If you decide that you want to experiment with the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview, your computer must meet certain system requirements. Your computer must be at least a 66MHz 486. Pentium processors are recommended. The amount of required RAM will depend on the operating system you're computer is running. The amount of available hard disk space required will depend on which installation package you choose. Tables A and B list these requirements in detail.

Table A

Operating SystemRAM
Windows 9816MB
Windows Me32MB
Windows NT32MB
(Must have Service Pack 3 or higher)
Windows 2000 64MB

Table B

Installation PackageHard Disk Space
Minimal45MB for install
27MB after restart
Typical70MB for install
55MB after restart
Full 111MB for install
80MB after restart

The Minimal installation only includes the browser. The Typical installation includes the browser, Outlook Express, and Windows Media Player. The Full installation includes everything from the Typical, plus a host of other features too numerous to mention. Download the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview here.

Once you initiate the download, be sure to select the Run this program from its current location option. When you do, you'll run a small program that will kick off the wizard, which will then walk you through the installation process.

Wizard Tip: Since the Internet Explorer 6 Public Preview is still in beta testing, Microsoft doesn't provide any technical support. However, you can visit one of the following newsgroups for assistance from other beta testers.

microsoft.public.windows.inetexplorer.ie6beta.setup
microsoft.public.windows.inetexplorer.ie6beta.browser
microsoft.public.windows.inetexplorer.ie6beta.outlookexpress
Privacy is one of the hottest debates surrounding the Internet. Certain Web sites routinely collect information about consumers for use in targeted marketing. Some sites even sell that information to other sources.

To protect your privacy, Internet Explorer 6 supports the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P), a standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). P3P provides a set of features so that you can control the information gathered about you when you visit or shop certain Web sites. From the Internet Options dialog box, click the Privacy tab. There, you set the level of information disclosure that you're comfortable with as shown in Figure A.

Figure A: Internet Explorer 6 provides you with the ability to control your privacy on the Internet.

Internet Explorer 6 also makes it very easy for you to remove cookies. In the Temporary Internet Files panel on the General tab, get rid of cookies by clicking the Delete Cookies button, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B: Get rid of cookies with the click of a button.

Digital images are everywhere you go on the Internet these days and Internet Explorer 6 comes with a set of features designed to make viewing and manipulating them a lot easier.

If you like to save, e-mail, and print pictures that you encounter on the Web, you're going to love the new Image Toolbar. Whenever you encounter a digital image online, just hover your mouse pointer over the image. The Image Toolbar will appear over top of the image with a set of buttons that allow you to perform several different actions, as shown in Figure C. The Image Toolbar also gives you quick access to the My Pictures folder on your hard disk.

Figure C: With the Image Toolbar, you can easily save, e-mail, and print pictures you find on the Web.

If you've ever encountered images that were too large to display in your browser window, then you know the frustration of having to scroll to see an entire image. The Auto Image Resize feature automatically resizes large images to fit in a browser window. The Auto Image Resize feature displays a button near the bottom of the picture like the one shown in Figure C. If you click this button, the image will expand to its original size.

If you regularly visit the MSN site, you probably have it configured so that you can quickly access local weather, your stock tickers, or even the type of news that you're interested in. Well, Internet Explorer brings that type of personalization to the browser. Internet Explorer contains a new Explorer bar called the Personal Bar, shown in Figure D. The Personal Bar contains a more compact version of the current Search bar, as well as the Media Bar, which provides a combination of features from Windows Media Player and the now extinct Radio Toolbar. You can even view streaming video in the Media Bar rather than launch Windows Media Player.

Figure D: The Personal Bar allows you customize content as well as standard features, such as viewing media and searching the Web, directly in the browser window.

In addition to the Personal Bar, you can add additional Explorer Bars from Microsoft or third parties. For example, you can add Explorer Bars from Expedia Travel, or iHarvest, a Web site clipping and filing service. Internet Explorer 6 also debuts the Contacts Bar. This toolbar combines the features of the MSN Messenger service and Outlook Express. So, if you use either of these tools to stay in contact with family and friends, you'll find the Contacts Bar, shown in Figure E, to be a very convenient feature. Note that the Mail icon (located on the toolbar) and the Messenger icon (found in the system tray) still work in Internet Explorer 6.

Figure E: The Contacts Bar brings MSN Messenger and Outlook Express to the browser in a new way.

The Contacts Bar also provides several ways to display your contacts list. You can sort by name or show only online contacts. You can also configure your MSN Messenger options and even access your Address Book from the same place. Unfortunately, all software has little bugs in it. To help Microsoft and you fix unexpected problems, Internet Explorer 6 comes with an innovative fault collection tool.

If you should ever encounter a problem, instead of some cryptic error message dialog box, Internet Explorer 6 will display an Internet Explorer Error Reporting dialog box, like the one shown in Figure F. Along with the error message the box gives you the option of sending a bug report to Microsoft. If the problem you encounter has already been solved, you'll get a link to the fix.

Figure F: Internet Explorer 6 will allow you to send information about problems and receive solutions on the fly with its built in troubleshooting tool.