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The Start Screen’s Internet Explorer App on Your Surface

Your Windows Surface tablet includes two web browsers. The Start screen’s nimble browser works easily with your fingers. The old-school browser on the Desktop app provides extra power, by contrast, but works best with a keyboard and trackpad or mouse.

To open the Start screen’s browser, tap its icon on the Start screen. The browser opens, filling the screen, and displaying one of these three things:

  • Your home page: When opened for the first time, the Start screen’s browser displays your home page: a favorite site you’ve chosen to display whenever you open Internet Explorer. If you haven’t chosen a home page, Microsoft fills the screen with one of its own websites.

  • Your last-visited site. Unless you specifically closed the browser after your last visit, the browser displays the same site you last visited.

  • You’re not connected. When the browser displays this alarming message, it means your Surface isn’t receiving an Internet connection.

But no matter which page your browser displays upon opening, notice how the page completely fills the screen. That makes the page easier to read, but it also highlights the Internet Explorer app’s greatest weakness: The browser hides all of its menus. That lets you concentrate on the picture rather than the frame.

When you need the menus, you can reveal them using the same trick that summons the menus from any Start screen app:

Slide your finger inward from the screen’s top or bottom edges.

As you slide your finger, it drags the menu into view, snapping it along the screen’s top or bottom edges.


Each icon on the App bar performs a different task with a tap of your finger:

  • Back arrow: Tap this to revisit your previously viewed web page.

  • Address bar: To type in a new web address, tap inside the address bar. If no keyboard is attached, the touch keyboard appears. (As you type, the area above the address bar lists matching names of previously visited sites. Spot the name of the site you want to visit? Tap its name to load it.)

  • Cancel/Refresh: As you view a site, this becomes a Refresh button; tap it to reload the page, retrieving the latest content. This becomes a Cancel button while a web page loads; if the site takes too long to load, tap it to stop trying to load the sluggish site.

  • Pin to Start: Tap this to pin the site’s name and icon to your Start screen. This not only makes for easier launching from the Start screen, but makes it easier to launch from within the browser itself.

  • Page tools: When a page doesn’t load properly, tap this little wrench icon. When the pop-up menu appears, choose View on the Desktop. That opens the site in the desktop version of Internet Explorer. (If the wrench icon sprouts a plus sign, that means that site offers an app for easier access.)

  • Forward arrow: After clicking the Back arrow to revisit a site, click the Forward arrow to return to the site you just left.

  • Tabbed sites: Along the top edge, the browser lists thumbnail pictures of other sites currently open in your browser. To revisit one, tap it. To remove one from the list, tap the X in its upper-right corner.

  • Open new tab: A tap of the plus sign icon in the top right lets you open a blank new tab. That lets you open a new web page, handy when you want to compare two websites. (You can jump between the sites by tapping their thumbnails on the top menu.)

  • Tab menu: Dedicated to the tabbed sites shown on the top row, this icon brings a pop-up menu with two options: Close tabs, which closes all the open tabs, and New InPrivate tab, which opens a new tab for browsing in private.

The Start screen browser on your Surface may look lightweight, but it’s actually fairly full-featured, providing everything you need for casual browsing. As shown in the figure, the browser lets you open several sites simultaneously, each in their own tabs.

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