Internet Explorer Basics


Before We Get Started:
I know that most people are greatly interested in the internet (and they should be) but if you are truly new to computers and have skipped over all of the previous information just to read this page, please go back and read the other material. Some of the information here will not make sense if you don't understand what we've covered earlier.

The Internet:
Although you don't really need to know this to venture out onto the internet, I thought I'd include it for those with inquiring minds. The internet is a system of computers, servers and routers that are interconnected by telephone lines, fiber-optic lines, satellite and microwave relay systems. It has been around much longer than it's been popular. Scientists and the military were the initial users but it's popularity has greatly increased with the advent of affordable personal computers. Now, virtually anyone can gain access to the internet. Even if you don't own a computer, there are lots of places like coffee houses and libraries where you can get online.

Before we go any further, I want you to notice a few things. At the top right of this window (and most other windows), you will see 3 little boxes. One has a dash in it, the middle one has either a single box or 2 cascaded boxes. The third box has an X. When clicked, the dash minimizes the IE window to the taskbar. To restore IE to it's former glory, click the IE button on the taskbar (the IE button will have a blue 'e' on a white sheet of paper). Right now, you should have only one IE button on the taskbar. The X button at the top of the window closes the window (you would do this only when you've finished with whatever page you're viewing). The middle button can do a couple of things depending on the current status of the window. If there are two cascaded boxes on the middle button, clicking the middle button will change the window from fully maximized to an intermediate size. If there is only one box on the middle button, clicking the middle button will maximize the window.

In the previous paragraph, 'intermediate' sized windows were mentioned. These windows can be resized and relocated. To resize a window, move the cursor (the arrow that moves with your mouse) over any edge (or corner) of the window. When the cursor changes from an arrow to a double-ended arrow, click and drag the window until it's the desired size. To move the window, click on the title bar (the colored area at the top of the window) and drag it to the desired location.

Internet Explorer Basics
As you know, the Windows 'Internet Explorer' is an internet 'browser'. A 'browser' is simply a piece of software that lets you explore the internet. In Windows XP, there are several ways to open IE (Internet Explorer). The easiest is to use the IE icon (the blue lower case letter 'e') in the QL (Quick Launch) toolbar. If you have not activated the QL toolbar, you can launch IE from the start menu: START >> INTERNET EXPLORER. If there is an IE icon on the desktop, you can use either the 'show desktop' icon in the QL toolbar or you can right-click on a clear area of the taskbar and select 'show the desktop' to allow access to the desktop. If you don't have an IE icon on the desktop and you want one there. Go to START >> ALL PROGRAMS >> locate Internet Explorer in the program list >> RIGHT-click on INTERNET EXPLORER and select SEND TO >> DESKTOP (whew!).

NOTE: When you open a new IE window, it will open on top of this window. To get back to this page, you can click the minimize button on the new page. If the new window isn't maximized and you can see part of THIS window peeking out from behind the top window (you'll know it by the color of the background), clicking on the part of this page that you can see will bring it back to the top.

After you've opened a new page in IE, you will have something like the image below. If the browser has gone to a web site (instead of a blank page), temporarily set the home page for the browser to 'blank'. The home page is the page that's automatically loaded when you open IE. To change the home page, click 'tools' at the top of the page. Select INTERNET OPTIONS >> USE BLANK (in the home page section) and click OK to exit the dialog box. Now, click the 'home page' icon (the little house at the top of the page). It should bring up a blank page. If it doesn't, you may have a virus or spyware on your computer (malicious software often hijacks the IE home page). If you don't have the 'favorites' window down the left side of the IE window, click on the star on the toolbar near the top of the page. If there is no star (older versions use a folder, I think), position the cursor over the various icons. When you stop over an icon, the 'balloon help' should tell what the icon represents. If you can not find the favorites icon, you can get to them by clicking the favorites on the main toolbar at the top of the page. Your list of favorites will be different than the one shown.


  • You can have virtually any number of IE windows open. If you're on a web page and you are not yet finished with it but you need information from another page, you can open a new page by simply clicking on the IE icon in the QL area.
  • Most all of the features dealing with manipulating files or windows in Internet Explorer work with other programs.
  • There is an option to group similar taskbar buttons (right-click START >> select PROPERTIES >> select the TASKBAR TAB >> select or deselect GROUP SIMILAR TASKBAR BUTTONS). When this option is selected and the taskbar gets too full, the buttons for a particular program (IE for example) will be under one button. When you select a button, a flyout menu will display all of the individual windows. You would select the one you want. It will look similar to the following image. You can see that the button indicates that there are 2 IE windows and immediately above the depressed button are the two open windows.

Surfing the Internet
In this section, you'll need an internet connection. There are several different ways to get to a web site. If you know precisely where you want to go, you can enter the URL (Universal Resource Locator) address in the address field. For example, to go to one of my sites, you could type but thats a lot of typing. Another way to go to the same address (if there is no link) is to simply type bcae1 in the address field, press and hold the control button (CTRL) and press enter (then release both buttons). IE will fill in the rest of the address (this only works for addresses that start with 'www' and end with 'com'). If you see an address you want to visit but it's simply text and therefore not 'clickable', you can copy and paste it into the address bar instead of having to type it. Of course, most of the time addresses are clickable and you'll simply click on the link to go to a web site.

In the previous paragraph, you were introduced to a keyboard shortcut using the CTRL key. There are many shortcuts and they vary somewhat from one program to another. If you click on any of the links at the top of the page (File, Edit, View...), you will see several options. To perform any of those functions (as an example, you can select 'copy' and 'paste' under EDIT), you can click on it. If you look directly to the right of the options, you will often see a keyboard shortcut. For example, to save a file, ctrl-s is often used. Let's assume that you want to copy a section of text. Before the text can be copied, it must be highlighted. To highlight the text, click and drag the mouse over it until the desired text is highlighted. To copy the text to the 'clipboard', use ctrl-c. After the text is copied, you can use ctrl-v to paste it. Generally, you can paste text just about anywhere that you can type. This can be in the address bar (if you want to copy and paste a link to a web site) or you may need to paste the text into a some application (like Microsoft Word or the Windows notepad). The 'copy' function works with images also but not all applications will accept the image file when you try to paste it. Microsoft Word and Windows WordPad would accept it but Windows Notepad would not. Why don't you try it. You can copy a small section of text from this page. Then go to START >> ACCESSORIES >> NOTEPAD to open Notepad.

There is at least one other way that you can access the copy/paste functions. It's with the right-click. If you highlight the desired text then right-click on the highlighted text, you can select copy. To paste into another document, you simply right-click again and select 'paste' from the dialog box. OK, that's enough of that for now. Be observant when using various programs and you will see all of the different shortcuts.

Finding The Information You Need
For most people, 'search engines' are the best way to find what they want. There are several good search engines but the best (in my opinion) is Google. To find what you want, you go to the Google site and type in whatever you are looking for. Before you search for anything on the Google site, add the Google site to your 'favorites' folder. There several ways to do this (have you noticed that there are several ways to do many of the tasks on your computer?). The easiest is to click and drag the icon in the address bar into the favorites window (this assumes that the favorites window is open). You can also right-click on the google page (on a clear area of the page) and select 'add to favorites'. When you add it to the favorites in this way, you will see a pop-up window (below) that will ask you if the information is as you want it. Typically, it's fine and you click OK. Just about the only time you'd need to change something is if the name is the same as another stored favorite. If the names are the same and you choose to save it anyway, you'll overwrite the earlier saved favorite with the same name.

Note: Above we mentioned dragging the icon from the address bar to the favorites folder to save that page as a favorites site. Below, you can see the icon that you need to drag (it's the one with the hand cursor over it). You can also drag the icon from the address bar to the favorites button on the toolbar. This will also work if you want the change your home page (drag it to the home page button). You can even drag it onto the desktop if you'd like. When moved to the desktop in this manner, it allows you to effectively have the google set as your home page but only when you open IE by using THAT icon. Your actual home page will remain the same when you open IE from the start menu or from the quick launch bar.

If you try to drag a link to you favorites and there is another link there with the same name, you will see the following dialog box. This sometimes happens when you are saving multiple pages from the same site. If you choose to replace the old link, choose OK. When you choose OK, there will be 2 entries in the favorites. To remove the old entry, click the 'refresh' button on the toolbar.

If the links ARE different and you want to save both, you need to select cancel in the dialog box above. Then right-click on the corresponding link in your favorites and choose PROPERTIES. On the GENERAL tab, change the name. All you need to do is add, remove or change one letter or number and it will be different than the new link. Below, I removed the exclamation point from Yahoo! to make it different. If you want to rename it completely, that would be OK also. Do not change the address on the 'web document' tab.

OK, now that you have the best search engine saved to your favorites, you simply have to click on it the next time you want to do a search. When you search, you need to be specific but not too specific. The way you do this is to use multiple keywords in the search. If you only use one keyword (dog for example), you would not likely get any useful information (unless you'd just arrived here from another planet). The search engine will provide better results if you provide more specific key words. For example, if you want information on a Beagle, you would use the two words 'Beagle' and 'dog'. Searching for Beagle alone will get you results about the European spacecraft, the dog and the virus (all named Beagle). If you need specific information on certain traits and such, you could include that also. You have to be careful not to use too many keywords. Doing so could cause you to miss some good sites with valuable information. I'd suggest starting with 2-3 keywords.

Don't forget about the 'right-click' option in IE (or any other program). If you right-click on an image, you will be given several choices. The choices will be different if you right-click on an image, a flash applet or the background image. Try using the right-click in any of the programs you use. Try it on links, images and even clear areas of the program window. You will see all sorts of options. Many options are virtually always available. Some are context sensitive and their availability will depend on the program or the item on which you right-clicked.

Unintentionally Changing a Menu Selection:
Throughout the internet, you will see drop-down menus like the one at the right. In IE, if you make a selection, the selection is highlighted. While it is highlighted, the scroll wheel in your mouse will change the selection. If you can't figure out why your selection is different than what you intended, it's likely because you tried to scroll down the page while the menu was still active. To get out of the menu and allow the scroll wheel to scroll the page, click in a clear area of the page. The highlight will go away and you will be able to scroll normally. This may seem insignificant but if you're entering critical information for a purchase and you accidentally change the selected item or the date for your credit card entry, it could cause problems.

On this page we used Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the sample browser. There are many other really good browsers. Most people will never see them because they are satisfied with IE but the other browsers offer different/better features and you should try some of them. Here's a list of a few:

  • Mozilla: This is what Netscape's browser is based upon and Gecko platform
  • Firefox: This is a browser based on the browser component of the Mozilla internet suite.
  • Opera: This is a FULL featured browser that has many more features than any other browser that I've ever used. There is a version that has small banner ads and a version you pay for. The banner version is not crippled in any way so you can fully see what it has to offer. Later in this tutorial, I will take you through a complete installation of Opera.
  • Google Chrome: This is a browser based on the WebKit platform
  • Safari: This is another browser based on the WebKit platform. It was originally produced for the Mac OS but is now available for computers running either a Mac operating system or Windows.

Safe Surfing:
If you don't read any more of this tutorial, PLEASE read the section on virus and spyware protection. It will help keep your computer working properly and will help prevent the propagation of harmful computer bugs.

Reducing the IE Cache Size:

By default, IE will cache a large number of files to your hard drive. These files can speed page loading for pages you visit often but for those on broadband, there will be little noticeable difference if the page loads fresh every time. The problem with these files is that (by default) IE stores too many of them. If you have a large hard drive, the cached files are not going to present a problem with taking up too much drive space but they will slow disc scanning when using anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. They will also increase the time it takes to defrag the hard drive. To reduce the number of cached files (by reducing the disc space allocated to them), in IE you go to TOOLS >> INTERNET OPTIONS >> select the GENERAL tab and click the button labeled SETTINGS in the 'temporary internet files' section of the dialog box.

Here, you will move the slider as far to the left as possible. If you are using web based mail, you need to click the radio button that tells IE to check for new versions of the stored pages EVERY VISIT TO THE PAGE. This will make sure that you are not looking at cached versions of the mail page. Click OK to close the dialog box. When you get back to the previous dialog box, click the DELETE FILES button. When the dialog box pops up, check the 'delete all offline content' and click OK. This will delete the files you have cached now. Click OK to exit the remaining dialog boxes.

If you'd like, you can set IE to delete all cached files when you exit the program (I wouldn't recommend this for those on a dial-up internet connection). To set this option, go to TOOLS >> INTERNET OPTIONS >> select the ADVANCED tab and scroll down to the SECURITY section. Check the box next to 'Empty the Temporary Internet Files folder when the browser is closed'.



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