September 15, 2003

MyIE2: Internet Explorer on Steroids?

LawTech Guru Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Unhappy with the prospect that Microsoft could stagnate Internet Explorer 6.0? It doesn't mean you have to suffer without IE innovation and new features until Longhorn, the next Windows version, is speculated to be released in 2005 or 2006.

Ever since Mozilla hit the scene, I've really liked its tabbed browsing (initially introduced by the Opera browser), pop-up blocking, and numerous other features. After a while, using IE just felt like driving last year's model.

Enter MyIE2, a browser that's based on the IE extension architecture. Simply put, MyIE2 puts its own interface over the top of IE (IE 5.x or IE 6.0 required). I just took it for a test spin, and really like it.

Check out the added features for IE 5 & 6 when using MyIE2:

  • Tabbed browsing

  • Mouse gestures (e.g., for "go back a page", simply hold the right mouse button down, and drag the mouse to the left a little bit -- it's much easier than it sounds)

  • Privacy protection: Clean cookies, web addresses, history, cache, form data, and undo list upon closing MyIE2 (but are they really gone, or can one undelete them?)

  • Ad blocking

  • Pop-up blocking

  • Google bar support (however, not supported well under Win 9.x per the MyIE2 site)

  • Auto-hiding toolbars for uncluttered full-screen viewing

  • Super Drag&Drop for dragging links, doing searches on highlighted text, etc.

  • Skinning: Change the browser's appearance with over 50 skins available for download.

  • Plugin support (it comes bundled with several, such as a text highlighter for highlighting all occurrences of a word on a page)

  • Saved tabbed browser groups: Save all open browser tabs as one group, for automatic launching of the grouped sites later -- perfect for saving and restoring research projects with multiple open windows
There's even more features I haven't listed. I have to admit, it didn't even feel like I was using IE anymore, and it was fairly easy to catch on to the differences. If these new features are too alien, don't fret -- you can still use IE normally, as MyIE2 doesn't replace it. Since they both use IE, your bookmarks are shared between them. Since it uses IE's rendering engine for all the heavy lifting, MyIE2's download is less than a 2 MB Zip file download. Now that's slick.

I ran SpyBot and Ad-aware (both latest versions and fully updated) on my PC after installing MyIE2, and it came up clean. Thus it doesn't appear to install any adware or spyware.

I still think Mozilla beats IE in rendering speed and standards compliance. If you want sheer performance, try Firebird. These browsers, along with Opera, are leading the charge in innovation. Despite this review's catchy title, MyIE2 can't improve upon IE's rendering performance, as it's more of a feature facelift. Another downside is that MyIE2's pull-down menus are somewhat cluttered with features, so it's a bit difficult to quickly find the desired feature or setting.

Other minor annoyances include the lack of displaying the IE link bar by default, which is where I keep my frequently-accessed sites. MyIE2 has a feature for marking selected IE bookmarks as "Most Favorite", but it's just not as convenient as IE's link bar. Fortunately, MyIE2's support forum decribes how to set your IE Links folder to appear on the MYIE2 "Favorites" bar to restore the IE Link bar equivalent, so it's not really missing. Also, the "close window" "X" buttons are not located on the same bar as the tabbed browser windows -- which requires some extra mousing to close the embedded browser windows, especially when I have the "autohide" feature enabled. But again, these are fairly minor, and thoughtful features like "minimize to system tray" help offset these shortcomings.

[Addendum 10/7/03: After further use, I've discovered there are several additional methods for closing the tabbed browser windows without using the standard "X" buttons on MyIE2's System Bar: 1) Double-click on the desired tab button, 2) Right-click on the tab button and click on "Close", and 3) Add the "Click Close Button" by clicking on the "Options" pull-down menu, then click on "MyIE2 Options", click on the "Tab" category on the left, and customize the options further, including checking the "Quick Close Button" option. I particularly like the ability to quickly close any tabs by double-clicking on them. However, it does take some care to avoid double-clicking when you intended a single click to select it instead of closing it.]

If you don't like switching back and forth between IE and another browser like Mozilla (think of the bookmark management issues), or just want to give IE some zing, this is one to check out. The tabbed browsing feature alone is worth the trip, especially in conjunction with the group tab save and restore. I also like how the skins and 3D menus really spruce up IE's plain jane appearance. Who knows? Perhaps we just might see some of these features in IE7. So here's your chance to drive next-next year's model today. (After all, Longhorn isn't due until at least 2005.)

Perhaps the best part is that MyIE2 flies in the face of Brian Countryman's (Microsoft's Program Manager in Internet Explorer) statement that "Legacy OSes have reached their zenith with the addition of IE 6 SP1. Further improvements to IE will require enhancements to the underlying OS." After all, think of all the great improvements MyIE2 added as an extension to IE 5.x and 6.0, and it just happens to run on "legacy OSes" such as Windows 98.

The price? Per its donation page: "MyIE2 is free, which means you could use it free of charge for non-commercial purpose [sic]."

Pretty darn good for this much functionality.

[Updated 9/22/03 re: tabbed browsing and IE link bar features.]
[Updated 10/7/03 re: easier methods to close the tabbed browser windows.]

Topic(s):   Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard

Another in this vein is CrazyBrowser, also freeware. One of its most useful features is the promiscuous use of the middle mouse button. Use it to open a link in a new window or to close a window.

Posted by: M. Sean Fosmire at October 27, 2003 06:28 AM