NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, September 2003
Browser Fun and Games
by Steve Bass, Pasadena IBM Users Group
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Tweak Internet Explorer for Fun and Productivity

My wife says I get cranky easily. She says it's a gene, or maybe a strand of my DNA, but I'm definitely crabby, and it happens whenever the computer starts acting up.

See, the last time I re-installed Microsoft's Internet Explorer, my Standard Button Bar, Address Bar, and Links were in different spots. To make me feel even crabbier, when I upgraded to a new version of Microsoft's Media Player, Radio Bar appeared in the same spot my Links Bar should have been.

Going Back
The first thing I had to do was get my Bars back in order. In IE, just right mouse click on any blank area on the upper portion of the toolbar and click the check mark for each item you want to see or hide.

Toolbar Customizing
The neat thing about IE's bars is you can drag them onto other toolbars-- up, down, left, or right-move them to the very top menu bar, and easily resize them.

I have the Pull down menus at the very top with an add-on Browser Recorder to the right. Below that is IE's Button bar, one I customized to add buttons I use often and remove rarely touched buttons. (Do it by clicking a blank portion of the toolbar area and selecting Customize. Be IT**very**IT careful you don't inadvertently hit the poorly placed Reset button in the dialog box.)

Next down is the Link bar with buttons linked to the spots I go to daily, followed below by IE's standard Address bar and Google's add-on browser towards the right.

If you start fiddling and foul up the size or placement of the bars, try this: From IE's Tools menu, click Internet Options, choose Programs, and click the Reset Web Settings.

The Magic of the Links Bar
One incredibly powerful-and underutilized--feature in IE is the Links bar. Mine has a button for each of the three search engines I use regularly. Other single-use buttons include PC World, Yahoogroups, PIBMUG, eBay, TVGrid, and a Web-based e-mail program.

Three more buttons are multi-function. When I click on any of them, a list of other links drops down. I use one for sites I visit almost every day, another for weekly visited sites, and the third for pages I've visited that I might want to go to again.

Link Bar Fix-Me-Ups
Microsoft has official advice for adding items to your Links Bar. They say to drag the icon for the page from your Address bar to your Links bar or just drag a link from a Web page. That works fine for a new link. But when you're ready to modify a link, you're stuck with using a click on the right mouse. You can do it but there's a slicker way.

Open PowerDesk or Windows Explorer and go to your \Windows\Favorites directory (now called Folders). With PowerDesk, open another window pane (use Control-F3) or in Explorer, open another Explorer.

You're going to do a few things, and you needn't do it in this order.

    Rename the filename: Make it shorter but remember that each file should end in "URL.." Use F2 or the right mouse button. Doing this will give you room for more items on the Links bar. For instance, Google is just "gog," PIBMUG is "PIB," TVGRID is "TV." You get the idea.

    Change the Icon: Right mouse click on the file and select Properties. Click Change Icon and Browse. You'll see many files, and some will contain icons. You can go up one level to the \Windows folder for other icons. Just click on any file that has an icon (you'll see them) and click it. That icon then represents the URL.

    Add or Remove: You may have a URL you often use in your favorites. Treat it as you would any other file-drag and drop it onto the Links folder. Want a Folder on your Links Bar? Nothing to it: In Explorer, it's File * New * Folder and then just add items (filenames ending with URL) to the folder. In PowerDesk, just click F7.

By the way, the changes are dynamic-you can see them immediately in Internet Explorer.

Favorites? While We're Here...
You might as well examine all the other items in your Favorites folder. They're all part of Internet Explorer's Favorites-you know, the stuff you see when you click the Favorites button. Many of these are poorly named, outdated, or useless. And I'll bet the majority of them could be better organized. Instead of using IE's Organize Favorites, use the method above. It's faster and substantially easier.

Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and runs the Pasadena IBM Users Group. He's also a founding member of APCUG. Write to him at steve_bass@pcworld.com. Check PCW's current edition at http://www.pcworld.com/resource/toc/index.asp and sign up for the Steve Bass online newsletter at http://www.pcworld.com/bass_letter.

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