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October 13, 1997

Tools on the Web respond to new Internet Explorer

By now, there are probably a few million people using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0, which was officially released Sept. 29. I've been using beta versions of Explorer 4.0 for a few months now. I hope to write more about the impact of this upgrade to Microsoft's Web browser in the future, but let's start today with some issues raised by the newest edition.

Probably the most notable new feature of Explorer 4.0 is the so-called Web View. If you choose this option when you install Explorer 4.0, your Desktop takes on some of the appearances of a Web page. Specifically, Desktop and Windows Explorer icons that formerly executed programs when you double-clicked them now run with a single click.

Although Microsoft spent a lot of time publicizing how this made Windows "work like the Web," I found it so irritating that I turned the feature off when I re-installed the package.

A few other people must have gone ballistic over this major change to the Windows user interface, because Microsoft has changed the installation default. Although the Preview 2 beta version automatically changed your Windows interface to turn everything into a single click (unless you had the foresight to select a rather poorly explained option during the install), the release version defaults to not changing your interface.

From a Windows 95 user's perspective, losing the ability to single-click an object on the Desktop or in the Explorer detracts from the ability to select and manipulate these objects.

For example, I commonly select a file name in the Explorer, then hold down Shift and select another file name. The Shift/Click combination results in all the files between the two clicks being selected. It's a lot easier to delete, move, or copy a group of files this way than it would be to perform such operations on each file individually. (If you want to select a group of files that aren't all in one sequence, click the first file name, then Ctrl-Click to select each additional file you want to put into the group.)

Explorer 4.0 brings with it a new feature to enable or disable "cookies." Cookies are small text files that Web sites write to your hard disk to identify you and track your use of various services within a site. Many people object to information being maintained about them, so they turn off Explorer 4.0's ability to accept cookies automatically. To do this, click View, Options, then click the Advanced tab. In the Cookies section, you can choose to accept or reject all cookies, or make Explorer ask you before accepting one.

Configuring Explorer 4.0 to reject cookies entirely, however, had the effect of locking me out of many pages on Microsoft's own Web site,, that require you to accept cookies.

One utility that deals with cookies -- and allows you to accept or reject them on a site-specific basis -- is Cookie Pal, available from A new version was recently posted to handle the Explorer 4.0, Beta 2. Cookie Pal is free for 30 days, after which it costs $15.

The controversy over cookies has spawned a number of Web pages, one of which,, informs you how many times you've visited the site (using cookies, of course). A more thorough description is at; click "Privacy Issues."

Brian Livingston is the co-author of several best-selling Windows books, including the most recent Windows 95 Secrets (IDG Books). Send comments to Unfortunately, he cannot answer individual questions.

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