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Internet Explorer 8, the latest update to Microsoft's venerable Web browser, introduces several features intended to provide greater security and ease of use. New security settings in IE8 allow for more privacy, new add-ons allow quick access to Web-based information and services, and a new browsing mode changes the way you interact with your browser.

Some old features return in new form, too, such as toolbar customization, the ability to view pages the way earlier versions of Internet Explorer saw them, and a set of mysterious boxes that have colonized the bottom of the browser window.

These tips will help you take advantage of the new and enhanced features. And if you're among those who still haven't upgraded from IE6 or 7, take a peek to see what you're missing.

1. Use Accelerators to speed up your work

Accelerators are add-ons for IE8 that let you quickly do a variety of tasks based on text you select on a Web page: get a stock quote, look up the definition of a word or phrase, map a location, convert currencies, share selected text on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, create a shortened URL, search for a product at an online shopping site and much more.

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Accelerator button

Select any piece of text on a Web page, and the Accelerator button, shown at right, will pop up; click that button to see the Accelerator menu. (You can also access Accelerators on the right-click contextual menu.)

Some Accelerators show their results in a pop-up window, as shown in the image below, while others appear in a new tab.

Using the <a href=http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9136345/Google_Update>Google</a> Dictionary Accelerator
Using the Google Dictionary Accelerator

IE8 comes with several built-in Accelerators, but third-party developers are already starting to produce a wide range of new ones that you can install yourself. Go to Microsoft's Accelerator Gallery to see the available options.

5. Protect your privacy with InPrivate Filtering

As you surf the Web, you encounter a fair amount of third-party content (primarily advertising) that doesn't originate from the sites you're visiting -- and often that content is served up by the same sources over and over. As you encounter such content on site after site, a fairly thorough profile of your browsing habits, interests and even purchases can be assembled by advertisers using cookies to track your behavior.

Ad services such as DoubleClick put a cookie on your PC every time they serve an ad, and each subsequent ad (on the same site or on a new one) checks for that cookie. So if you visit 10 sites that all have ads from a single source, the ad service can tell that you visited those 10 sites, how long you stayed there, which ads you ignored, which ones you clicked and so on.

InPrivate Filtering is a new IE8 feature that selectively blocks content such as ads, statistics apps like Google Analytics, and other (mostly ad-related) content that does not originate from the site you're visiting. It doesn't block all such content. Instead, it tracks the sources of third-party content and blocks a source when it crosses a certain threshold (10 viewings by default). The idea is not to block ads, but to block the ability to track individuals across multiple Web sites.

To turn it on, select InPrivate Filtering under the Safety menu. Selecting InPrivate Filtering Settings under the Safety menu shows you how many sites you've visited that show content from a particular ad server. Here, you can set the filter's threshold to anywhere from three to 30 sites, or exclude certain sources (or particular content from a source) from filtering.

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