Internet Explorer on the Windows 8.1 Desktop - dummies

Internet Explorer on the Windows 8.1 Desktop

By Woody Leonhard

Internet Explorer on the desktop is very, very different from the Windows 8.1, tiled Metro-style version of IE. Use them for a few minutes and you’ll see:

  • Tiled Metro IE devotes more of the screen to the website. You can bring back the navigation pieces with a swipe — if you can remember how and where.

    Metro IE handles sites with Flash unevenly — if you venture to a site on the “black list,” Metro IE doesn’t warn you at all. Metro IE also doesn’t support ActiveX or Silverlight, two non-standard technologies developed and heavily marketed by Microsoft. Ah, the irony.

  • The desktop version of IE has the old, familiar interface. It runs all the add-ins you’ve come to know and love and distrust. With dozens of new features, many of which are actually useful, Internet Explorer 11 on the desktop gives you just about everything a modern browser can give you — except an extensive library of customized add-ons.

Microsoft would have you believe that the tiled Metro and old-fashioned desktop IE are the same browser, with a few minor differences. At some point it turns into an argument over definitions, but Metro and “legacy” IE are two entirely different programs that share one key component — the rendering engine, which draws pictures on the monitor.

If you think of Metro IE and desktop IE as two completely different programs, with some components and terminology in common, you’ll probably clear up half the questions that arise at the outset.

Does the tiled Metro version of IE appear, over on the full-screen Metro side of Windows 8.1? Or does the desktop come into view with the venerable version of IE showing the page? Answer: Unless you change something, Internet Explorer guesses which version you want to see.

If you want to change things so the desktop version of Internet Explorer runs as the default, you don’t go into the Control Panel. The method for changing default programs in general doesn’t work. Instead, you go into IE. Here’s how:

  1. Start IE on the desktop by touching or clicking the IE icon on the taskbar.

  2. Touch or click the Settings icon (the one shaped like a gear at the top right of the IE window). Choose Internet Options.

    The Internet Options dialog box appears.

  3. Click the Programs tab.

    You see the Opening Internet Explorer options shown.


  4. In the Choose How You Open Links box, choose Always in Internet Explorer on the Desktop.

  5. Click OK.

    You’ve settled the question of which IE is on first.