I've never been much of a fan of Internet Explorer, but sadly I can't seem to get away from it. Whether it be for my monthly check in with Windows Update or to access an online shopping site that just won't work with other browsers, no matter how much I try to eradicate IE from my life, it always crawls back in. What is it about Internet Explorer that bugs people?
Don't get me wrong; I don't think any browser is perfect. However, trying out another browser, if you can bear a bit of a learning curve, can open up features and functionality that many people never get to see.
Following the trend on a popular download hub, I installed Opera, a browser developed by two engineers while working for a Norwegian telecommunications company. The software base has grown into what some call a cult following and opened my eyes to tabbed browsing, a multi-document interface which is essential if you like to have more than one site open at a time. Opera also has a built-in RSS reader, which aggregates chosen newsfeeds saving me time otherwise spent scouring the Web. Most importantly though, Opera introduced mouse gestures to Web browsing.
Mouse gestures in particular have revolutionised Internet browsing -- well, for me at least. No longer am I a slave to the back button; I've broken free of the shackles of the close icon. Yes, with mouse gestures you can open new windows quicker than you can say Ctrl+N.
If you're not up to speed with the wonderful world of mouse gestures -- and if you haven't guessed, I love them -- here's a brief overview. They emulate browser functions such as back, forward, new window, close window, refresh, etc. So, for example, to go back a page: right-click and flick the cursor to the left a couple of millimetres at the same time. Similarly, to go forward: right-click and flick cursor right. However, if you're a notebook user I imagine it would be a bit trickier co-ordinating this on a trackball or touchpad.
Opera is available for free but contains embedded banner ads, which buying a license will remove. Now, before I am subjected to the wrath of open source advocates, I've also been dabbling in Mozilla Firefox, a hobby which was fuelled last week with the announcement of the Mozilla Security Bug Bounty Program, which offers a US$500 reward for every serious bug found in the software. Firefox is freely distributed and also features tabbed browsing and customisable add-ons (such as mouse gestures, ad blockers and download tools).
Perhaps there is secret functionality to IE that has managed to stay hidden from me for all these years. I thought I'd do some research and see if I was just missing the point. Eureka! Tip of the day in the Help menu states, "Did you know... To scroll toward the end of a document, press the down arrow." Not quite the revelation I was after.
Are you a fan or foe of IE? What browsing function do you find indispensable? Talk back to me below and explore other browsers, plug-ins and companions here.