Some people would consider the idea of using Internet Explorer for a whole month to be some sort of ancient torture device. They imagine themselves strapped to a chair in a dark dungeon with an old Windows PC on the desk in front of them. The only app available on the desktop is Internet Explorer, and you are forced to use it against your own will.
That nightmare is very real for people who still think Internet Explorer is the old piece of garbage it used to be. The truth is Microsoft has done a lot in the last few versions of IE to make it a respectable browser. The problem is not many people are willing to actually give it a chance. Chrome and Firefox have roped users into their ecosystems and it’s hard for anyone to leave. Especially for something with the reputation as IE.
During the month of February I strapped myself to that chair in the dark dungeon and forced myself to use only Internet Explorer and Bing. During my time I learned a lot about how to make it work for me, and how Microsoft’s approach to IE is so different from other browsers. Let’s get started.
Toolbox vs Tool
I was initially having a very hard time using Internet Explorer until I had an epiphany. In order to use IE and be happy with it you have to understand how Microsoft approaches a browser compared to Google or Mozilla. Chrome is a toolbox, while Internet Explorer is a tool.
Google does not own Windows. Their goal with Chrome is to give you everything you will ever need to not only browse the web, but also do all the other stuff that people do on PCs. They want you to be in Chrome 100% of the time because then you are living in their ecosystem and using their services.
Microsoft owns Windows. They are not trying to keep you in Internet Explorer. They already have you in Windows. All they are trying to do with IE is give you a tool for browsing the web. All the other things can be done with their other tools, such as Office, that work outside of the browser. Once you understand this it’s easy to use IE.
With this discovery I went ahead and used IE as Microsoft intends it to be used. Instead of using a TweetDeck web app I download TweetDeck for Windows. Instead of using the Gmail notifier browser extension I found a Gmail notifier taskbar widget. I had to learn to live outside the browser. It’s a big change coming from Chrome or Firefox, but by the end of the month it felt like second nature.
The funny thing is that this is exactly how I started using a computer for the first time. Chrome had made me forget what it was like before everything was done inside a browser window. A lot of people will argue that that is the better way to do things. Neither way is better than the other, just different. You will have to decide which one you prefer.
Tips & Tricks
There are a few tricks I picked up during my month with IE. First of all, if you’re using IE on a desktop PC do not use the Metro version. That version may be great for touchscreen tablets, but it’s not good for mouse and keyboard power users.
Turn on the favorites bar and put the tabs on their own row. You can do this by right clicking on the menu bar. I found this configuration to be a lot easier for a power user like myself. Having all your bookmarks just a click away is important, and this also gives much more room for multiple tabs.
If you own several Windows 8.1 devices and use IE on all of them you can sync data between them. Things like open tabs, bookmarks, and passwords can all be synced across devices. In order to do this go to the Windows Settings > SkyDrive > Sync settings > turn on “Web Browser” under “Other settings.”
What about Bing?
There’s not much for me to say about Bing, and that’s a good thing. I actually started using Bing on all my devices a little while before this challenge. I was getting sick of all the “fluff” in Google search results, and since I was already using Bing on my Windows Phone and Surface tablet I decided to make the switch on PC too.
I’ve never missed Google Search since I made the switch. Every once in a while I will consult Google Search if I’m having a very hard time finding something, but I did the same with Bing when I was a Google user. Sometimes you just need a second opinion. There is no reason everyone can’t use Bing. It’s perfectly fine and every bit as capable as Google.
Now that the month is over there is one final question: will I continue to use Internet Explorer? I will continue to use IE on my phone and tablet, but I’ve decided to go back to Chrome on my desktop. If my profession didn’t rely on using the web so much I could absolutely use Internet Explorer with no problems. Unfortunately there are just too many extensions that I rely on in Chrome. I’m just happy that I can say I gave IE a fair chance. Can you?