You already know that Firefox is a superior web browser, but you still have to use Internet Explorer on a daily basis. Whether a stubborn IE-only web site or full-on IT lockdown keeps you from using Firefox, things aren't as bleak as they seem: You can cram many of Firefox's best features into the proprietary beast that is Internet Explorer. After the jump, find out how to add bookmark syncing, integrated spell-checking, session management, keyword bookmarks, ad blocking, inline search, undo-closed-tab functionality, and oh-so-much more to IE.
There are several IE add-ons available, but probably none more popular than IE7Pro (original post), a freeware IE7 add-on that opens the doors for tonnes of improved features and Firefox-like user-submitted extensions and scripts. I'll highlight IE7Pro features below, but I'll also include several add-ons that do their own thing separate from IE7Pro (and work for versions of Internet Explorer below 7).
First, out of curiosity:
Add Inline Spell-Checking
Whether you're composing an email or commenting on your favourite blog, nothing's more annoying than letting an obvious typo distract from your point. Firefox has supported inline spell-checking since Firefox 2; to get the same functionality in IE, try ieSpell (original post) or IE7Pro. ieSpell supports IE5 and up, Windows 9x and up.
Add Inline, Find-As-You-Type Search
Firefox's as-you-type, inline search makes the old days of searching a document seem like a pain, but that didn't stop IE from sticking with the same antiquated tools for the job. IE7Pro adds inline, as-you-type search, as do a couple of other add-ons. The first is called Find As You Type (original post), and it works with IE6-7, XP through Vista. The other add-on is called InlineSearch (original post), which supports IE 5.5 and above.
Undo Closed Tabs
Tabbed browsing was a long-time coming to IE, but it finally found its place in IE7. Unfortunately Microsoft didn't build in a simple way to undo a closed tab if you want it back, a feature built into Firefox 2 as a simple keyboard shortcut. If you miss that functionality while you're living the IE life, the IE7 Open Last Closed Tab add-on (original post) does that and a little more.
Sync Your Bookmarks
No matter what browser you're using, if you use more than one computer, you want to keep your browser bookmarks in sync. Firefox users have Foxmarks, which is not available for IE—but a few other tools can handle this task for you in IE. The first and most obvious choice is the Google Toolbar; but if you're anti-toolbar, check out Zinkmo (original post), another bookmark syncing tool. The best part: both of these add-ons have Firefox versions, which means that you can sync your bookmarks with Firefox for those times you don't have to use IE. If you're an IE-only sort, you may also want to try out IE7Pro's bookmark syncing tools.
Add Keyword Bookmarks
Keyword bookmarking is one of the best features of Firefox, which can significantly speed up the process of hitting up your frequent web haunts. Internet Explorer does not support keyword bookmarks, but IE Alias (original post) and IE7Pro do. IE Alias works with IE6 and 7, requires the free .NET runtime. IE7Pro even makes keyword bookmark searches possible. Alternately, you can get a similar functionality without any add-ons with a registry hack.
Block Ads and Flash
If you want to run Flash ads or videos and a case-by-case basis à la the Flashblock Firefox extension, you can avoid flashing ads and autoplaying video in IE with the Toggle Flash (original post) add-on. If you also turn on ad-blocking tools in your browser (though surely not while you're visiting Lifehacker), IE7Pro does ad blocking as well as Flash blocking.
Add Session Saving and Other Tab Management Features
By Firefox 2, most of us took session management for granted, browsing easy knowing that if Firefox crashed or we needed to restart our computer, our last set of open tabs would re-open the next time we launched Firefox. If you're looking for the same goods for IE, look no further than the all-encompassing IE7Pro.
Drop a Couple IE7 Annoyances
While we're making IE a better browser, there are a few minor but irksome IE7 annoyances you may want to address, too:
- Fix IE7's download limit: IE7 limits you to two simultaneous downloads. This registry tweak will knock out that download limit.
- Put IE7's file menu back in its place: In its Vista-era programs, Microsoft has decided to hide all of your file menus by default. This tweak brings it back full-time.
IE7Pro Does It All?
While IE7Pro can handle most of the features discussed above, the alternative solutions let you add new features piecemeal instead of taking on IE7Pro's entire feature set. For those who do want IE7Pro, it offers tonnes of functionality beyond the default features through user-submitted plug-ins (similar to extensions) and user scripts (similar to Greasemonkey scripts—though I've heard mixed results).
After all this tweaking, Internet Explorer still doesn't live up to the one-and-only Firefox, but it does come worlds closer to a browser that doesn't feel limiting at every turn.
If you live the IE life, let's hear your reasons and how you make IE sing in the comments.
Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker who's thrilled that IE doesn't have to be that bad. His special feature Hack Attack appears every Wednesday on Lifehacker AU.