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How to Navigate Metro Internet Explorer from Windows 8.1

When you click the Internet Explorer tile on the Windows 8.1 Start screen, Metro Internet Explorer usually appears without any navigational aids. But a swipe from the top or bottom, or a right-click just about anywhere, brings up navigational aids in panes at the top and bottom.

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Surfing with the IE address bar and navigation buttons

At the bottom of the navigation pane, you see:

  • Backward and (waaaay over on the right) Forward buttons, which work much like the analogous buttons in IE on the desktop side of the fence.

  • The address bar, which serves multiple purposes. You can type an address here, and IE travels to the indicated location. You can use the common shortcuts (for example, type dummies, press Ctrl+Enter, and IE goes to the Dummies website) to reduce the amount of typing. The address bar in tiled Metro IE is also your ticket to the following:

    • Searching your browsing history and favorites: When you type any word(s) into the address bar, Metro IE searches for it in your browsing history and in your IE favorites.

    • Searching the web: If you type a word(s) in the address bar and press Enter, Metro IE uses the default search engine to look up what you’ve typed.

  • The circular-arrow Refresh button, which you tap or click to have IE reload the screen.

    There's no way to force a cache reset in tiled Metro IE — no equivalent to the Ctrl+F5 in the other version of IE.

  • The Favorites button, which you tap or click and IE shows you a rolling list of your Favorites.

  • A very stunted Page Tools icon, with only three entries:

    • The Get App for This Site option doesn’t seem to work.

    • Find on Page is the only way to perform a search on the contents of the current page.

    • *View on the Desktop is a very helpful shortcut that takes the current web page and displays it inside the desktop IE version. If you can’t get a page to display properly, try choosing this entry to see whether the big IE can handle it correctly.

Worth repeating: Bringing up the Search charm and searching “Everywhere” does not search the contents of the current page. It performs a search on your machine for files and settings. (Searching through the Search charm will also go out to the web and perform a search.)

If you want to look for text on the current page, you can use Ctrl+F. Or you can swipe to bring up the navigation pane and on the lower pane, tap or click the wrench icon; then choose Find on Page.

Tapping Metro IE’s recently visited sites

When you swipe from the top or bottom or right-click the tiled Metro IE interface, at the bottom, you see thumbnails of the pages you most recently visited: They’re roughly analogous to tabs in other browsers. Tap or click a thumbnail, and Metro IE dutifully flips over to the tapped page.

If you manually shut down IE (drag from the top, and all the way down), the memory of those thumbnails/tabs disappears. When you start again, you’ll just have the home page(s) and no other thumbnails.

If you want to switch to a different recently visited site, you have to drag from the top or bottom of the tiled Metro IE screen to bring up the thumbnail list again.

The app switcher, which slides out from the left side of the screen, doesn’t enable you to switch among the website thumbnails. When you drag from the left side of the screen to access the switcher, Windows treats IE as one, single app and has only one entry in the app switcher (on the left side of the screen) for IE.

Here are a few more tricks to navigating around using the thumbnails:

  • Delete a thumbnail: If you tap or click a thumbnail’s X, the thumbnail goes away — basically analogous to removing the tab. Close all the thumbnails, and you end up with a solitary blank page.

  • Open a new window: If you tap or click the + sign on the lower pane in the upper-right corner, Metro IE opens a new tab (er, window) and brings up a pane on the bottom that invites you to choose one of the currently open tabs.

    If you then tap or click inside the address bar, Metro IE brings up tiles for sites that you visit frequently. And if you tap or click the star, you get a list of your Favorites.

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  • Browse in InPrivate mode: InPrivate mode lets you surf to websites without leaving any telltale traces on your PC — no cookies, no history, and no temporary files. To move in to InPrivate mode, tap or click the Tab Tools button — the one with the three dots — to start a new InPrivate browsing session. The Tab Tools button also enables you to get rid of all the tabs except the current one.

    InPrivate in Metro IE works just like InPrivate in the desktop version of IE. You can tell that you’re in an InPrivate tab because InPrivate appears against a blue background both in the tab list at the top and to the left of the address in the navigation pane at the bottom.

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