7.5 Customizing Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer is by far the most popular browser on the planet. But just because a lot of people use it, that doesn't mean everyone knows how to get the most out of it. This section gives you tips on making your browser work the way you want.
7.5.1 Browser Windows the Size You Want
Internet Explorer has the unfortunate habit of opening at odd sizes ‚ sometimes short and squat, sometimes long and narrow, sometimes too big, and sometimes too small. The same thing may happen when you open a link in a new window ‚ the size may not be exactly what you want, so you have to waste time resizing the window yourself. Before you do that dance again, read on: You can force Internet Explorer to open whatever size window you prefer.
First, close all Internet Explorer windows you have open on your desktop, and then re-launch your browser. Right-click any link and choose "Open in New Window." Make the new window your ideal size by dragging its sides (mouse over the window edge until you see the double-headed arrow, then drag). When you have the window just right, hold down the Shift key and click the X icon in the top-right corner to close it. Resize and close the original Internet Explorer window that remains.
The next time you open your browser, you won't have to tug and pull corners: Explorer should open at exactly the size you want.
Note: You may need to remind Explorer of your preference from time to time by going through this process again.
7.5.2 Rolling Your Own Toolbar
If you're not happy with Internet Explorer's toolbar buttons , changing them is a snap. In fact, you can add and delete features or rearrange the toolbar any way you want.
Simply right-click the toolbar and choose Customize; the Customize Toolbar dialog box, shown in Figure 7-12, appears. You can customize Internet Explorer's toolbar in three ways:
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Figure 7-12. Using this screen, you can customize your toolbar by choosing which icons to display, the size of the icons, their placement, and whether to include text labels. If you want to revert to the toolbar's original layout, click the Reset button.
Change the icon size . Choose whether to display small or large buttons using the "Icon options" menu.
Change how icon text is displayed . You can display descriptive text underneath the icons on the toolbar, hide the text, or just display it to the right of selected icons. Choose which option you want from the "Text options" menu. If you don't use text labels, you can fit more buttons on the toolbar, but you may not remember what each one does. A good compromise is to display text labels for some buttons.
Choose which icons to display on the toolbar . The current toolbar buttons are displayed on the right side of the dialog box. To delete a button, highlight it and choose Remove. To move an icon to the left or right on the toolbar, highlight it and choose Move Up or Move Down. (Move Up moves the icon to the left; Move Down moves it to the right.) To add a button to the toolbar, highlight it in the "Available toolbar buttons" section and select Add.
When you're finished reorganizing, click Close. The changes take effect immediately.
7.5.3 Changing the Toolbar Background
If you're a stickler for design details, you may be tired of looking at the same dull gray toolbar across the top of Internet Explorer. Then again, you may never have even noticed that Explorer's toolbar has a background color . Either way, here's a news flash: You can use any image you want for the toolbar's background.
Note: When you change the background image on Internet Explorer's toolbar, that same image appears on the Windows Explorer toolbar as well.
First, find an image you want to use in lieu of the gray stripe. Make sure it's small, and don't worry if it's very small ‚ Internet Explorer will "tile" the image by displaying it as a repeating pattern if it's smaller than the toolbar. The image has to be in bitmap format, so save it with a .bmp extension.
Tip: If there's an image you want to use for your Internet Explorer toolbar but it's not in .bmp format, don't fret ‚ you can easily convert any graphic to.bmp format using the free IrfanView program from http://www. irfanview .com.
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Figure 7-13. When you're placing an image on Internet Explorer's toolbar, make sure it's small ‚ and choose a design that doesn't obscure the toolbar's icons and menus like this one does.
Save the image on your hard disk ‚ and note where you save it ‚ then close Internet Explorer. Run the Registry Editor (see Section 15.1.2) and go to My Computer HKEY_CURRENT_USER Software Microsoft Internet Explorer Toolbar. Create a new string value called BackBitmap. For its value, enter the name and location of the image you just saved (for example, C:\Backgrounds\ leaves .bmp ). Exit the Registry Editor and open Internet Explorer.
Your toolbar now has a new look. But be careful what image you put on the toolbar, because a busy design can obscure the toolbar's icons and menus (see Figure 7-13). A good source of images to experiment with is http://images.google.com.
7.5.4 Changing Internet Explorer's Title Bar
Look at the title bar in Windows Explorer ‚ the bar at the very top of the screen. What does it say? The name of the site you're currently visiting, followed by "Microsoft Internet Explorer." Accurate, but dull.
You can change "Microsoft Internet Explorer" to say anything you want ‚ My World Wide Web , for example, or Browse at Your Own Risk , or Eat Here, Get Gas .
To give the title bar your own twist, first close Internet Explorer, and then run the Registry Editor (see Section 15.1.2). Go to My Computer HKEY CURRENT USER Software Microsoft Internet Explorer Main. Create a new String Value called Window Title, and for its value, type the name you want to appear in the title bar. (If the Window Title value is already in your Registry, you only need to edit it by typing a new name for the title bar.) When you start Internet Explorer, your handiwork debuts on the title bar, as you can see in Figure 7-14.
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Figure 7-14. Customize your browser by changing Internet Explorer's title bar. Go crazy ‚ you can name it anything you like.
If you change your mind later, you can edit your title using the same registry trick, or revert to the title "Microsoft Internet Explorer," by deleting the Window Title value you created.
7.5.5 Changing Internet Explorer's Logo
If you're tired of staring at Microsoft's dull animated logo in the upper-right corner of Internet Explorer, you can change that graphic to anything you want ‚ your company logo, a tiny photo of your kids , a pic of your friendly neighborhood postal carrier. The sky's the limit.
Note: When you change the logo in Internet Explorer, you automatically change the logo in Outlook Express, too.
Before you can make the change, however, you need to know a bit about browser logos. Internet Explorer has both a static logo and an animated logo: the static logo is what you see when the browser is inactive, while the animated logo appears when your browser is doing something ‚ for example, downloading a Web page. Both logos come in two sizes: small and large. (You can specify which size Internet Explorer displays by choosing View Toolbars Customize; in the Customize Toolbar dialog box that appears, head to the Icon Options menu and select either Large icons or Small icons.)
When you create your own logo for Internet Explorer, you have to make two sets of two icons: small and large versions of the animated and static logos. The static logos should be 22 x 22 pixels for the smaller size and 38 x 38 pixels for the larger size. The animated logos have to be animated bitmaps (.bmp format), and each should have a total of ten frames. (An animated bitmap is a graphic that displays an animated series of frames.) Internet Explorer cycles through those ten frames , which is how it creates an animated effect. The smaller animated bitmap should be 22 pixels wide and 220 pixels high. The larger animated bitmap should be 380 pixels wide and 38 pixels high. (Because each bitmap is animated, and you're making ten of them, the width will be ten times the height of the finished animated bitmaps.)
You can create the static bitmaps with any graphics program, including the version of Paint that comes with Windows XP. (To run it, choose Start All Programs Accessories Paint.) Although Paint lets you create bitmaps, it's really not the best tool for the task. So unless you're a pro at doing this kind of thing, use an icon creation program to create your icons hassle-free. An excellent choice is Microangelo, available from Microangelo at http://www.microangelo.us. It's free to download and try out, but if you keep using it, you're expected to pay $54.95.
To create the animated bitmaps, you need special tools. Again, Microangelo is your best bet. If you prefer, though, you can create the ten separate frames for the animated bitmaps using a graphics program like Paint, and then stitch the frames together using the free command-line program Animated Bitmap Creator, available from http://accesscodes.hypermart.net/download.html.
Now that you've created new icons, you're ready to use them in Internet Explorer. If you have Windows XP Professional, you can change the logos using the all-purpose Group Policy Editor, a tool that lets you make many kinds of changes to XP without mucking around in the Registry.
Run the Group Policy Editor by typing gpedit.msc at a command line or the Run box and pressing Enter. When it opens, go to User Configuration Windows Settings Internet Explorer Maintenance Browser Interface. Double-click "Custom Logo" and in the dialog box that appears fill in the locations of the four new logos you created (the large and small sizes for the static and animated images).
If you have Windows XP Home, here's how to make the switch:
Run the Registry Editor (see Section 15.1.2) and then go to My Computer HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE SOFTWARE Microsoft Internet Explorer\Main .
This key contains many important Internet Explorer settings. You have to create new settings to tell Internet Explorer to display the new static logos.
Create two string values named SmallBitmap and BigBitmap .
These values tell Internet Explorer to display the static logos that you've created. For the SmallBitmap's value data, give it the file name and full location of the small bitmap you created, for example, C:\Windows\IEsmalllogo.bmp. For the BigBitmap's value data, give it the file name and full location of the big bitmap you created, for example, C:\Windows\IEbiglogo.bmp.
Now it's time to tell Internet Explorer to use your animated logos. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Toolbar. Create two string values named SmBrandBitmap and BrandBitmap .
These values tell Internet Explorer to display the animated logos. For the SmBrandBitmap's value data, give it the file name and full location of the small animated bitmap you created, for example, C:\Windows\IEsmallanimatedlogo.bmp. For the BrandBitmap's value data, give it the file name and full location of the big animated bitmap you created, for example, C:\Windows\IEbiganimatedlogo.bmp.
Exit the Registry .
You have to restart Internet Explorer for the changes to take effect. To go back to the Internet Explorer's original logos, simply delete the Registry values you created.