Internet Explorer 6 from the October 2001 Newsletter

by Jeremy Fairbrass

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released a new version of their Internet Explorer web browser program - version 6.0. The previous version was 5.5. I promptly downloaded and installed it on my computer, eager to see what, if anything, was different.

On the surface, nothing much has changed between 5.5 and 6.0. New icons are used for the Desktop shortcuts for Internet Explorer and Outlook Express (the icons are of the same style as those used for the soon-to-be-released Windows XP). There is also a new, integrated Media Pane - a vertical pane that you can enable or disable, which appears on the left-hand part of the Internet Explorer window and which allows you to listen to things such as music and radio.

Then there is the Image Toolbar. This is a nice little addition, and is enabled by default. If you go to a web page that has images on it, try holding your mouse over the image for a couple of seconds (if you have Internet Explorer 6.0 installed, of course). You should see a small "toolbar" pop up in the top corner of the image - the toolbar contains four buttons, which allow you to Save, Print or Email the graphic, or Open your "My Pictures" folder. The toolbar seems to only pop up in certain situations, however - possibly only if the image is over a certain size, or possibly only if the image is a JPG - I haven't figured out the conditions yet! But you can right-click on ANY image, regardless of whether the pop-up Image Toolbar appears, and select to Save, Email or Print the image from the context menu that appears.

IE 6.0 also has Automatic Image Resizing enabled by default, which means it will automatically enlarge or reduce an image to fit the window, if the image is the only thing displayed on the page. This feature can also be disabled if you want, by going into Internet Options (on the Tools menu) and unticking "Enable Automatic Image Resizing" on the Advanced tab.

But my favourite feature of IE 6.0 would have to be the addition of the Privacy tab in Internet Options! These new settings allow you, the user, to control which types of cookies IE is allowed to accept - thus giving you much more control over your browsing privacy. To access these new settings, click the Tools menu in IE 6.0, select Internet Options, and then select the Privacy tab. By default, it's set to "Medium" privacy which in my opinion is the best setting anyway, providing a nice balance between privacy and useability. The Medium privacy setting allows the following:

The Internet Explorer help file has a lot more information on what this means!

There is very little difference between Outlook Express 5.5 and 6.0. One small difference, which I quite like, is the addition of a couple of minor "virus protection" features in Outlook Express's Options. Click on the Tools menu in Outlook Express 6.0 and select Options, then select the Security tab. Here you'll see the ability to select the Security Zone that Outlook Express uses. This particular feature was already available in Outlook Express 5.x, and I highly recommend that everyone selects "Restricted Zone" in order to limit the ability for a malicious script to run from an e-mail. You will also see two new tick-boxes here - one is called "Warn me when other applications try to send mail as me", and is ticked by default. The other is labelled "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially contain a virus", and is not ticked by default. I recommend leaving these set as they are by default. The first option will prevent many viruses which e-mail out copies of themselves invisibly through Outlook Express. But the second option, if ticked, will restrict your ability to view or receive many legitimate attachment types (such as HTML files or ZIP files), and in my opinion takes too much control away from the user. Instead I would encourage people to use regular antivirus software as the best measure of defence against virus-infected email attachments, coupled with a good dose of common sense and informed caution!

So - is IE 6.0 worth the upgrade? Yes and no! I've yet to encounter any bugs or problems with it - it hasn't crashed or frozen on my computer at all, and seems to be quite solid and stable. If you're running an older version of IE, such as version 4.7 or earlier, then I would encourage you to upgrade to 6.0 as the differences between 4.7 and 6.0 are a lot more noticeable, and 6.0 has a great many security patches and fixes built into it. If you like to keep your computer up-to-date with the latest versions of everything possible, you'll surely want to upgrade to IE 6.0 too. If you're already using IE 5.01 or 5.5, you probably will have to decide for yourself - the new privacy features are quite nice and in my opinion are good enough to warrant the upgrade, but if you're not so fussed about things like cookies then sticking with IE 5.x won't be a problem. I would, however, encourage people who prefer to stay with IE 5.x to make sure they have the latest Service Pack installed for their version of 5.x - specifically, IE 5.5 Service Pack 2, or IE 5.01 Service Pack 2. These service packs include many of the latest security fixes and patches, and can be downloaded from the Windows Update website at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/.

(And if you're not sure what version of IE you are currently running, just click on the Help menu in Internet Explorer, and select About Internet Explorer).

To download Internet Explorer version 6.0, head over to Microsoft's website at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.asp and click the Download Now link.