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Navigating in Windows 8.1 Desktop Internet Explorer

One great thing about the Windows 8.1 desktop version of Internet Explorer is that you can be an absolute no-clue beginner and, with just a few hints about tools and so on, you can find your way around the web like a pro. Windows 8.1’s Metro IE is a little trickier, because you have to “discover” the navigation methods.

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Internet Explorer shortcuts you should know

A handful of Internet Explorer tricks can make all the difference in your productivity and sanity. Every IE user should know these shortcuts:

  • You rarely need to type www in the address bar at the beginning of an address and you never need to type http://.

  • IE automatically sticks http://www. on the front of an address you type and .com on the end if you press Ctrl+Enter.

  • With a few exceptions, address capitalization doesn’t matter.

Moving around the main IE desktop window

As you can see, IE packs lots of possibilities into that small space. The items you use most often are described here:

  • Backward and forward arrows: Go to the previously displayed page; hold down to see a list of all previous pages.

  • Address bar: Enables you to type the web address of a page that you want to move to directly. You can also type search terms here; click the spyglass or press Enter, and IE will look them up using your default search engine.

  • Refresh: If you think the page has changed, tap or click this icon to have IE retrieve it for you again.

  • Tab: You can have many pages open at a time, one on each tab. To create a new tab, click the first blank tab on the right.

  • Home page: Replaces the current tab with the tab(s) on your Home page.

  • Favorites icon: Lets you set, go to, and organize favorite websites, as well as look at your browsing history.

  • Settings: Takes you under the covers to change the way IE behaves. Or misbehaves.

If you want to see the old-fashioned toolbar menus (File, Edit, View, and all the others) in Internet Explorer, press Alt. Yep, that’s how you get to IE’s inner workings.

Tinkering with IE tabs

Tabs offer you a chance to bring up multiple web pages without opening multiple copies of IE. They’re a major navigational aid because it’s easy to switch among tabs. After you get the hang of it, tabs can help you organize pages and jump to the one you want.

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You can add a new tab to IE in any of these four ways:

  • Click the blank box to the right of the right-most tab. That starts a blank new tab, and away you go.

  • Ctrl+click a link to open the linked page in a new tab.

  • Press Ctrl+T to start a new tab. When the tab is open, you get to navigate manually, just as you would in any other browser window.

  • Right-click a link and choose Open in New Tab.

In addition, the web page you’re looking at may specify that any links on the page are to open in a new tab, instead of overwriting the current one.

You can reorganize the order of tabs by simply clicking a tab and dragging it to a different location.

Using the Internet Explorer address bar

No doubt you’re familiar with basic browser functions, or you can guess when you know what the controls mean. But you may not know about some of these finer points:

  • When you type on the address bar, IE looks at what you’re typing and tries to match it with the list of sites it has in your history list and in your favorites. Sometimes, you can get the right address (URL) by typing something related to the site. Watch as you type and see what IE comes up with.

    If you turn on Bing Suggestions (sometimes called Suggested Sites), IE sends all your keystrokes to Mother Microsoft and has Bing try to guess what you’re looking for. Depending on how you feel about privacy, that may or may not be a good idea.

  • Click a link, and the web page decides whether you move to the new page in the current browser tab or a new tab appears with the clicked page loaded. Many people don’t realize that the web page makes the decision about following the link in the same tab or creating a new one. You can override the web page’s setting.

    • Shift+click, and a new browser window always opens with the clicked page loaded.

    • Ctrl+click, and the clicked page appears on a new tab in the current browser window. Similarly, if you type in the Search bar and press Ctrl+Enter, the results appear in a new tab.

  • Even if the web page “hijacks” your backward and forward arrows, you can always move backward (or forward) by clicking and holding the directional arrow, and then choosing the page you want.

You can bring up a history of all the pages you visited in the past few weeks by pressing Ctrl+H. To search for a particular word or phrase on a page, press Ctrl+F. Force your browser to refresh a web page (retrieve the latest version, even if a version is stored locally) by pressing F5. If you need to make sure that you have the latest version, even if the timestamps may be screwed up, press Ctrl+F5.

Saving space, losing time in Internet Explorer

Increasing or decreasing the number of days of browsing history that IE stores doesn’t have much effect on the amount of data stored on the hard drive: Even a hyperactive surfer will have a hard time cranking up a History folder that’s much larger than 1MB. By contrast, temporary Internet files on your computer can take up 10, 50, or even 100 times that much space.

Those temporary Internet files exist only to speed your Internet access: When IE hits a web page that it has seen before, if a copy of the page’s contents appears in the Temporary Internet Files folder, IE grabs the stuff on the hard drive rather than wait for a download.

That can make a huge difference in IE’s responsiveness, particularly if you have a slow Internet connection, but the speed comes at a price: 250MB, if you haven’t changed it.

To clear out the IE temporary Internet files, follow these simple steps:

  1. Start the desktop version of Internet Explorer.

    The tiled style IE doesn’t have access to these settings.

  2. Click the Tools icon, the one shaped like a gear in the upper right, and choose Internet Options.

    The Internet Options dialog box appears.

  3. On the General tab, under Browsing History, click the Delete button.

    You see the Delete Browsing History dialog box.

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  4. Choose the kinds of data you wish to delete, and click Delete, and then click OK to close the Internet Options dialog box.

    You won’t hurt anything, but revisited web pages take longer to appear.

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