Not bad, IE8!

August 10, 2009 at 1:19 pm (Internet surfing) (, , , )

I am not a big fan of Microsoft. For one, their products cost a lot, and secondly, everyone still uses their products! I never like the feeling that my choices of Internet services are limited or that I’m following the majority of American consumers. I think it’s my innate need to be unique–just like everyone else. :-P

For those of you who read my article about IE8, I have a confession to make. I wrote that without ever using it. But now I am. And I love it! I will tell you why, and this time, it’s from experience!

1. Web slices really are the bomb! Not many websites are compatible with this thing, but I think the more we get the hang of it, the more we’ll start seeing them available. A green webslice button shows up  in your command bar (top right, next to the home button) when it is available.

Basically, a web slice is for seeing a mini page of a site you look at frequently–right from your favorites toolbar. The example they use on the Microsoft website is bidding on an ebay item. You can add a slice for an individual item, not just that webpage, and the slice becomes bold when new information is available. I would test it if I had money to buy something! *tear* 

I use a web slice for my yahoo mail. I can just click on it and see what messages I have in my inbox, regardless of what website I’m on! I really wonder why no one came up with this sooner! I haven’t seen it become bold, so I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong, or what. I still like it!

2. Accelerators are a major time-saver! Whenever you highlight anything a webpage, you’ll see a little blue accelerator button. It gives you a pile of options. These are the ones I use the most:

  • Highlight any address and open a Google or Bing maps page on a new tab with this location mapped. No more copy/paste, new window, clicking and typing! I actually thought of this idea before! Read my mind! :-D
  • Highlight any word or phrase and run a google or wiki search in one click. AMAZING! I use this all the time!
  • Right click on any website and share it with digg, reddit, stumbleupon, and Delicious. Sometimes you can do it right from the current page, or you it will quick link to the website in a new tab. Either way, it’s a wonderful time saver.

I would suggest browsing through all the accelerators and adding all of them that interest you. You may be surprised how many they have and how often you’ll use them. Plus, both web slices and accelerators either open new tabs or don’t require you to leave the page you’re on, so you don’t have to lose what you’re working on just to look something up.

3. One sweet search box! You can set up default search engines, like Google, Bing, Wiki, Amazon, etc., choose any of them at a given time for a quick and easy search.

4. Three words:  previous session recovery. Ever accidentally closed all tabs and realized you still wanted them? Now all you have to do is open IE again, click Tools, and then click Reopen Last Browsing Session. Works like a charm. I’m saved!

There’s other features that I haven’t covered (or figured out how to use). I would suggest reading over more features on the Microsoft website or watching the videos so you can get the most out of IE8.

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Bing: Explore Microsoft’s New Search Engine

June 23, 2009 at 12:16 pm (Internet surfing) (, , , , , , )

For your next online purchase, you may want to try Bing.com, Microsoft’s new “decision” search engine. Perhaps you have tried it already and you haven’t noticed any difference from other browsers, other than the pretty picture backgrounds on Bing’s homepage.

If you’re not sure where to start or what Bing offers, click the “Tour Bing” link in the top left corner of the home page. The features are most convenient when you have a Microsoft account, which may be worth your while. You may also want to change your preferences, which can be found under “Extras” in the top right corner.

From the homepage, you will see a column of options on the left side if you want to focus your search results. If you click on these options, such as “Shopping” or “News, more subcategories will appear that may assist your search.

If you search from the main bar, more options will be available based on your keywords next to your results. Here are a few examples:

  • Search: Honda Civic, sidebar options include: Used, Parts, and Videos
  • Search: Border Collie, sidebar options include: Breeders, Training, and Adoption
  • Search: Yosemite, sidebar options include: Lodging, Weather, and Camping

Each search results page also include related searches, sponsored links, and search history.

Bing is termed “The Decision Engine” because it offers more than just search results, most of which are related to buying decisions. For example, if you search for “mountain bike”, you will see a “Shop for mountian bike” heading above the website results. This feature includes brands, prices, and guides, where you choose more specific results. These links take you to a page that shows an image, price, and description with the option of going to that website.

Bing helps you compare businesses at a glance. Suppose you type the keywords “hotel San Diego”. The first result is a “Listings for hotels near San Diego, CA” feature that itemizes names of hotels—including a link to their website and their phone number—next to a map showing all their locations. A link for directions is available for each hotel, which directs you to a driving directions page similar to MapQuest. If you click on the name of the hotel, you will see a simple rundown of reviews, prices, and contact information, etc.

You can get local information like traffic and weather simply by typing those keywords into the search bar. Check on flights and track your packages by typing the flight or shipping number. Review your stocks’ statuses on a table by searching for the ticker symbols in a row followed by “quote”. Ask basic trivia or math questions in the search bar, like “who wrote the constitution” or “how many liters in a gallon” and Bing will have the answer.

Bing offers some interesting interactive features as well. Each website result has hover option to the right that brings up a summary of that site and other related links. If you hover over images results, you can see the size, name and a link to related images. Videos on Bing will begin playing if you hover on them.

As with any product or idea, Bing is most helpful for certain occasions, preferences, or needs. If you want to find a specific website or lesser known topic, Bing is probably not going to be any better than another search engine. In fact, the “helpfulness” could become an annoyance if you’re an experienced surfer who’s not interested in the latest deals and fads. Most of Bing’s features don’t ever require you to leave their website, which is very helpful for shopping, comparing and researching simple trivia, but sometimes completely irrelevant to your searches. That doesn’t mean you should not use Bing for those reasons, the normal search results are still available in plain sight. You just won’t always need the extras.

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Optimizing Your Search Engine Experience With Google

June 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm (Internet surfing) (, , , , , )

Google has become a widely popular and prominent authority in the search engine world. Finding the right website for many topics is relatively easy on Google, but sometimes a simple keyword search doesn’t bring the answer right away. Obscure topics, past events, and genre-specific searches sometimes take a little more effort. Google has additional features that you may find helpful for your extensive research.

Google shows the most popular ways to refine your search at the top of the page, such as Images, Maps, and Shopping. If you click on “more”, you’ll see some additional queries that may interest you, such as Finance or Blogs. The “even more>>” link will display all of the search options and special features Google offers. Each item has a short description if you are not familiar with these features.

Suppose you want to research a certain topic with which you are unfamiliar and which has many subtopics and fields you want to explore. At the top of the results listed for your search query, you will see the “Show options…” link. This displays a sidebar to the left with additional search tools.

In the first section you can view videos, forums or reviews of your topic. You can specify when the page was added/updated in the next section for results with recent articles. The third section changes how the view of the search results to show pictures or more text to determine if you want to peruse that website further.

The fourth section shows four more research tools: “Related searches” show common topics related to your search. The “Wonder wheel” shows related topics on spokes with your topic in the center. For example, if you’re searching for “apples”, the wonder wheel shows “apples nutrition” and “apple types”. If you click on a sub category, it becomes the main category and shows more subheadings. Clicking on “apple types” brings up “apple varieties baking” and “sweet apple varieties”. When you find the topic you’re looking for, switch back to standard view to see websites from this topic.

Lastly, Timeline shows the popularity of your topic over time and shows select search results in chronological order. You can also click on parts of the time line to get month to month results from a certain year, etc. The earliest results show excerpts from books written in the first millennium.

With all of these handy features, there’s little question why Google has become a name brand for search engines. Try it out and experience the world of Google search at its finest.

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