I’ve been using Windows 7 Ultimate exclusively on my laptop for close to five months and now find it more and more difficult to go back to my Vista Ultimate desktop, where I do most of my work. My desktop is a very responsive system, and I’ve not had many problems with Vista. A glitch here and there, but no show stoppers. However, after using Windows 7, Windows Vista leaves a bit to be desired.

One thing I have really grown to love in Windows 7 is Internet Explorer 8 and the Accelerators feature. While Internet Explorer 8 has been available for some time now, I have resisted putting it on my Vista system for purist motives. The other day, I caved in and added Internet Explorer 8 to my main Vista system. Boy, am I ever glad that I did, because I never realized how handy the Accelerators feature was until I began using it more regularly.

In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, I’ll explore Internet Explorer 8’s Accelerators feature and show you how to get the most out of it.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

What are Accelerators?

Accelerators do just what their name implies — they accelerate your ability to gain access to the various types of Web-based searches you use every day. You just highlight the text you are interested in, click the Accelerators icon, and off you go.

For example, the default Accelerators will allow you to quickly send a term to a search engine or a translator site, send a paragraph to your blog or via e-mail, or send an address to a mapping engine.

While the preconfigured Accelerators are, of course, all Microsoft related, they are by no means all that’s out there. Hundreds of third-party Accelerators are available for you to choose from.

Let’s take a look at how you can take advantage of some of the preconfigured Accelerators. Then, we’ll look at adding and managing Accelerators.

Using the preconfigured Accelerators

The best way to explain how and what Accelerators are all about is to just jump in. So, let’s suppose that you are looking for a new job and you come across a great sounding position in a city you are not familiar with. To find out where it is, you first highlight the name of the city. You’ll then see the Accelerators icon. When you click it, the list of Accelerators will appear. Just point to the Map with Live Search Accelerator item and a small map will pop up, as shown in Figure A. If you want more detail, click the little map and a larger map will appear on a new tab.

Figure A

The Map with Live Search Accelerator will instantly show you a map, which is actually provided by Bing, of the selected city.

As another example, suppose that you are reading about the new Beatles Rock Band game and want to learn more about the Beatles. Just highlight The Beatles, click the Accelerators icon, and then click the Search with Live Search Accelerator item, as shown in Figure B. A new tab will appear and display the search results, provided by Bing.

Figure B

You can instantly search for any term you see using the Search with Live Search Accelerator.

As you can see, this Accelerator saves you multiple steps. No more copying the text, opening a new tab, accessing the search engine, pasting the text, and clicking the search button.

Adding Accelerators

As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of third-party Accelerators available for you to choose from, and you can replace the preconfigured Accelerators with those for your favorite sites. To access the list of Accelerators, open the All Accelerators submenu and select the Find More Accelerators command, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

You’ll find the Find More Accelerators command on the All Accelerators submenu.

Once you select the command, a new tab will open and the Internet Explorer 8 Add-ons Gallery: Accelerators page will appear, as shown in Figure D. You can then locate the Accelerators you want to use and install then simply by clicking the Add to Internet Explorer button.

Figure D

You can find hundreds of third-party Accelerators on the Internet Explorer 8 Add-ons Gallery: Accelerators page.

Configuring Accelerators

If you choose the Manage Accelerators command on the All Accelerators submenu, you’ll see the Manage Add-ons dialog box with the Accelerators Add-on Type selected, as shown in Figure E. Here, you can remove Accelerators, disable Accelerators, and set the default Accelerator for each category.

Figure E

From the Manage Add-ons dialog box, you can alter the selected Accelerators.

Document-only Accelerators

Although the majority of the Accelerators are designed to function with selected text, some are designed to function only with the entire page or document. So if you add an Accelerator to IE8 but don’t see it on the Accelerator list when you select some text, try right-clicking on the page itself. If the Accelerator is designed to function with the document, you’ll find the Accelerator item on that menu instead.

What’s your take?

Have you used the Accelerators feature? If so, which ones are your favorites? If you have any questions or comments concerning the Accelerators feature, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.