Please note that this message is also being posted as Toolbar Tips (Text Only).
Many people have been asking me to post a few tips about using the new Explorer Toolbars that are a feature of the Desktop Update of Internet Explorer 4.0.  I have written many times that I find them to be the single, best feature of the entire IE4 suite, but I haven't always explained why I think that.  In this article I hope to show you why by showing you how.  (I suggest you double-click this message to open it in its own window, and minimize all other open windows.)

It is important first to understand that the Desktop Update is not the same thing as ActiveDesktop.  Most of the media (as well as Microsoft) have stressed the latter, with its WWW-as-Wallpaper features.  It can certainly be useful for many people to have a web site constantly in view, and it can indeed be great fun to animate the static Windows desktop.  In the end, however, the ActiveDesktop is a small part of the possibilities that the Desktop Update gives to you.  It is not necessary to have the ActiveDesktop displayed in order to use the much more interesting Explorer Toolbars.

There is already an Explorer Toolbar open by default after installing IE4.  That's the Quick Launch, nestled between the Start Button and the normal Windows Taskbar.  The fun begins when you right-click a blank area on the Taskbar and select Toolbars.  A sub-menu offers you the choice to open Address, Links, Desktop, Quick Launch, and New Toolbar

To begin, select Address.  Now click-hold on the title and drag it to the top of the screen.  The Address bar now appears across the top of the display.  Right-click on the title, and select Always on Top, and again to select Auto Hide.  Anything you type into this Address bar will be remembered between sessions, so I like to use it for infrequently accessed folders, especially the ones with long path names.  A good example is the Outlook Express Mail folder.  It doesn't need to be accessed very often, but when you need it, it's buried rather far down.  The default path is this:

C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook Express\Mail

Next, try creating a system control Toolbar.  Open the Desktop as a Toolbar first, then drag its title to the right side of the screen.  If you keep only a few items there, right-click and uncheck Show Text, and again to set View|Large.  Now right-click on a blank spot below the icons, and open a New Toolbar.  A folder browser opens, so select the Dial-Up Networking folder.  Repeat this process and add Printers, My Computer, and Control Panel.  Each of these can retain independent settings for View|Size, Show Text, or Show Title.  To switch to any Toolbar that is hidden by another frame of the Toolbar, just double-click its title.  You can also rearrange the frames of the Toolbar by dragging the title up or down. 

Now that you're getting the hang of Toolbars, I suggest you make a folder called My Toolbars, and put it somewhere you can access quickly from the folder-browser window.  You can make sub-folders for specific Toolbars, with shortcuts to your applications.  But I want to share with you my own Messaging Toolbar, because it contains some very useful tricks that are not well documented.  (Note that some of this requires that Outlook Express be configured as your default mail program.)

Make a sub-folder in My Toolbars named Messaging.  Drag the new folder to the left side of the screen, and it will open as a Toolbar.  This is much faster than the right-click menu method.  In the open window view of Messaging, right-click and add a new shortcut, with this command line: 

  mailto:

Name the shortcut Write Mail.  You now have instant, one-click access to a blank, new Mail message from anywhere in Windows.  If you want to do the same for  a new News message, just start one in Outlook Express, click File|Save As, and save the blank news message to the Messaging folder as Write News.  It will appear in the Toolbar immediately (you might have to right-click the Toolbar and select Refresh).  You can use this technique to save blank messages with non-default stationery, or in Plain Text.

You can also create shortcuts pre-addressed to friends, family or even groups.  To save a shortcut to a Group, open a new message in Outlook Express, put the Group in the To: field, and then File|Save As to save it to the Messaging folder.  For pre-addressing messages with the default stationery, it's easier to use a mailto: shortcut, by simply adding the e-mail address:  mailto:somebody@some.where.  If you have assigned a unique Nickname in the Windows Address Book (WAB), you can also use it in the shortcut (mailto:coolcat).  You can assign each shortcut its own distinctive icon (right-click the shortcut, Properties, Change Icon). Don't forget that you can use a scanned photo of the person as an icon (create it as <name>.bmp, then rename it to <name>.ico). 

I use multiple WAB's for Outlook Express.  If you have only used one, you first need to know how to make a new one.  The easiest way is to copy your default WAB (c:\windows\<user>.wab), open the copy, and delete all names.  Save that as New Address Book.wab.  Now just copy that file to create a new WAB.   You can drag and drop names between open WAB's.  I keep two extra WAB's, one named Friends and one named Family.  I suggest you keep all your WAB's (including the New template, but excluding the default) in a separate Address Books folder.  Then you can drag shortcuts to them (including the default) into your Messaging folder, and assign each WAB shortcut a distinctive icon.  (To get the most out of multiple WAB's, you simply must visit Eric D. Miller's OE Tips page.)

You now have a MUCH enhanced shell for working in Windows.  With all of your Toolbars set to Always on Top and Auto Hide, every edge of your screen is loaded with one-click access to the tools you need.  And they are all instantly accessible from anywhere in Windows (except Full Screen Browser Mode).  For even more fun and functionality, be sure to install the Powertoys from Microsoft.  You'll gain some great new right-click context menu options.

Internet Explorer 4.0 is most definitely not "just another browser."  It will change the way you work in Windows, and you'll never want to be without the Desktop Upgrade again.


Tom Koch

Please reply only to the group, so that everyone can benefit from the discussion.

If you wish to reply to add your own tips to this list, please include only the text from here down.  Thank you.
 
Miscellaneous Toolbar Tips: 

Every right-click context menu option is available for every shortcut on a Toolbar, except for the Rename option.  To rename an item in a Toolbar, you must right-click a blank spot on the Toolbar, and choose Open.  Rename the item in the open window.

If you change the contents of a folder and the Toolbar does not show the change immediately, right-click on the Toolbar and select Refresh.

If a Toolbar is set to Auto Hide, you cannot drag and drop new items on to it.  Right-click the Toolbar and de-select Auto Hide, drag and drop, then reset the Auto Hide.

You can drag a shortcut from one Toolbar to another.  You can also drag a Toolbar to another edge of the screen.

You can re-arrange shortcuts on a Toolbar.  To move a shortcut to the right side of another, drag it until you see the underline bar on the icon that is to the left of the desired location.

If you are unhappy with the new Start Menu being slower to open sub-folders, create a folder for your most used applications and open it as a Toolbar.  It's much faster than the Start Menu.