Don’t forget to reserve Oct. 25, 2001, on your calendar. That’s the day when Windows XP will be officially released. What you may not be aware of is that Windows XP relies on Internet Explorer 6 to provide users with an entirely new set of features that will make Web browsing quite a bit different than we currently know it. In this Daily Feature, I will provide you with a sneak preview of Internet Explorer 6, showing you the new look and feel and some of the more technical improvements of this product.

The new look and feel of Internet Explorer 6
The first thing you will notice about Internet Explorer 6 is the visual change to the user interface, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
The stark, technical feel has been replaced by a much more inviting display, with a softer color scheme that is very user friendly, especially for the nontechnical user.

One of the cool new features of Internet Explorer 6 is the Personal Bar, which is found on the Standard toolbar. You can use the Personal Bar to search the Web, view news from MSNBC, manage your calendar, and play multimedia files such as music or video. In addition, each of the Explorer Bars can be customized, allowing you to view stock prices, current weather conditions in your city, and the latest news in the business, technology, or sports worlds. As shown in Figure B, you can access the Personal Bar pane by clicking the Personal Bar button, located on the Standard toolbar.

Figure B
In the future, you will also be able to add third-party Explorer Bars, making the Personal Bar pane a very useful and customizable tool.

The Personal Bar pane is divided into three windows. The top window allows you to use the MSN search engine to perform Web searches and the bottom window provides you with easily accessible controls to play audio, video, and mixed-media files without additional software or an additional browser session. The middle window of the Personal Bar pane holds the customizable Explorer Bars that display things such as your Contacts, Favorites, History, Folders, and MSNBC News. This is done by clicking the double arrows near the top right corner of the Explorer Bar window and then selecting Add/Remove Explorer Bars, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
You can add Explorer Bars, such as Expedia Travel and MSN Calendar.

The Add/Remove Explorer Bars dialog box will appear, providing you with the opportunity to add or remove Explorer Bars from your system. To add an Explorer Bar, click on Add Explorer Bar. Figure D shows the subsequent dialog box that allows you to select the appropriate Explorer Bar to add to your system. For this example, I chose MSN Calendar.

Figure D
Once you have added the Explorer Bar, you can use it by once again clicking on the double arrow of the Explorer Bar window and then making a selection.

Another nice feature of the Explorer Bar is the Contacts Bar. If you use the MSN Messenger service to chat with your friends online, you can use the Contacts Bar to sign in, sign out, and manage your contacts. If you have a Hotmail account, you will be notified when new mail has arrived. In addition, if you use the Net2Phone service, you can easily place a computer-to-telephone call.

Keeping things private
Internet Explorer 6 provides you with stronger security and privacy capabilities, helping you to keep private things private. As part of this effort, Internet Explorer 6 supports the Platform for Privacy Preferences, or P3P. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is developing this standard, and it allows you to manage the personal information that you allow Web sites to collect from you. This beta version of Internet Explorer 6 doesn’t have all of these features built in yet, but when they are, you will be able to easily decide what personal information you will provide and under what circumstances you will provide it. Should your security needs require high-level encryption techniques, you can download and install the Internet Explorer High Encryption Pack which provides 128-bit encryption.

To configure your privacy and security settings, select Internet Options from the Tools menu. As shown in Figure E, the Security tab allows you to configure the cookie settings for sites that have been placed in zones called Local Intranet, Trusted Sites, and Restricted Sites.

Figure E
The Internet zone contains all Web sites that have not been placed in any of the other three zones.

To configure your Security, or cookie settings, you must highlight the appropriate zone and then click the Custom Level button. Figure F gives an example of the types of settings you can configure.

Figure F
The default for most settings is Prompt.

The Privacy tab is new to Internet Explorer and allows you to set the privacy level for the Internet zone. In future releases, you will also be able to import custom privacy preferences, but this feature is not available in this beta release. As shown in Figure G, you can set the privacy level to low, medium, or high. The default setting is medium, which should suffice for many environments.

Figure G
Setting the privacy level to high will prevent any Web site in the Internet zone from placing cookies on your system.

A picture is worth a thousand words
If you have ever wished for an easier way to save, print, or e-mail a picture, your prayers have been answered. The Image toolbar in Internet Explorer 6 provides you with the functionality to easily save, print, and e-mail pictures. To use the toolbar, place your mouse pointer on an image that measures at least 130 x 130 pixels. After a short delay, the Image toolbar will appear, as shown in Figure H. You can easily click on the appropriate button, including the Open My Pictures Folder button that is located on the right of the toolbar.

Figure H
The Open My Pictures Folder button gives you instant access to the My Pictures folder and all of its related functions.

Another great feature of Internet Explorer 6 is automatic picture resizing. If you attempt to display a picture that is larger than the browser window, the new resizing feature will adjust the picture so that it fits the proportions of the window. Before you worry about the picture being distorted, the automatic resizing appropriately adjusts the picture’s height and width so that it is clearly viewable in the window. In addition, if you change the size of the browser window, the resizing feature will adjust the picture appropriately for the new dimensions.

Final thoughts
The look and feel of Internet Explorer 6 has definitely changed, and I personally like the new interface. While I don’t use the Personal Bar all the time, it has made checking my local weather, stocks, and sports teams much easier. If you would like to download and try the beta version of Internet Explorer 6 and your system is running Windows 9x/Me or NT/2000, you can point your browser to the Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 beta Web site.