Ever wondered about those two different versions of Internet Explorer (IE) you have on your Windows 8 or 8.1 machine? There are IE icons (the “e” with the ring around it) in a couple different locations on your computer, one on the Start screen and one on the Desktop. And you’ve probably noticed that they’re not just duplicates of each other. Clicking on the icon that’s on the Desktop opens up the classic IE browser that we’re used to, while clicking on the tile on the Start screen takes you to an IE that’s pretty different. So what are some of these differences (and similarities)? And do they matter?
Meet the Touch-Optimized Internet Explorer
The IE tile on the Start screen still takes you to the Internet, but it is a touch-optimized format that looks fairly different. The address bar has been moved from its typical place at the top of our screens down to the bottom, and we have much fewer buttons or options to click on. What buttons we do have are much larger, and are easier to select with just our fingers. When you’re not using the address bar or buttons, you get a full screen experience, meaning there are no visible menus or tool bars. This is a feature of the new Windows that is in response to the touch screens and smaller sizes of newer devices. This full screen feature gives you a sleeker, more immersive experience.
When it comes to how it functions, the Start screen IE isn’t just a pretty face, and there are a lot of similarities with our classic IE browser. You can still set your home page to whatever website you prefer. You can also still add a website to your list of Favorites. What’s more, not only can you save favorites using one IE version or the other, but whatever you add as a Favorite in one version will show up on your list of Favorites in the other version. The same will happen with your frequent sites, history, and any URLs you have typed into the address bar.
Another similarity between the two versions is the same great access to privacy through InPrivate Browsing. InPrivate Browsing allows you to go online without worry about important information being left behind when you are done, which is especially significant if you are using a shared computer such as at a library. InPrivate Browsing can be used in the Start screen IE by swiping up from the bottom edge (or using the keyboard shortcut Windows key + Z) to activate the App Commands at the top and bottom of the screen, and then choosing “New InPrivate Tab” in the “…” menu.
When it comes to differences between the two versions, there are a few key features which set them apart. If you are visiting a website for which you already have an app on your device – for example, you are on the Bank of America website, and you also have the Bank of America app installed – then the IE accessed through your Start screen gives you the option to switch directly into the app. If you don’t already have the app installed on your device, but there is one associated with that website, then you’ll have the option to download the app. To do this, tap on the Tools button, and then click on “Get app for this site.”
The Start screen IE also has a great feature called “page prediction”. This feature allows you to flip ahead through multi-page sequenced content (such as with a magazine article) using a swipe gesture. You can also swipe backwards through previously visited pages, allowing you to quickly access content. Although there are back and forward buttons available in the address bar, you won’t need to pull up the access bar and hunt for the buttons and can instead simple swipe to go forward and backwards through the pages.
One other feature of the Start screen IE is found in the button near the address bar that looks like a little thumb tack. You may have noticed this same icon before when pinning apps to or unpinning them from the Start screen. When you tap this button while visiting a website, you have the option to pin this website to your Start screen, meaning you’ll have quick and easy access to your most important sites with the simple tap of your finger. Some websites will even provide notifications or other information for a live tile, meaning you’ll be able to see content on the tile from the Start screen, even if the website is not open on your machine.
So, with these various similarities and differences, which version of Internet Explorer should you use? In part, the answer to this question depends on your device. If you have a more compact device that optimizes portability by sporting a smaller screen, then the IE accessed through the Start screen was created with you in mind with its full screen experience, larger buttons, and flip-ahead feature. If, on the other hand, you’d like to take advantage of the larger screen of your desktop or all-in-one monitor, then perhaps the classic Desktop IE with its tabs is the one for you. The decision also depends on your interface preferences, as you’ll find a better touch-only experience through the Start screen IE, no matter the size of your device. And if you prefer to use your mouse, either version will allow you to click around, although the Desktop IE has more of your options visible on the screen at any one time.
In the end, however, the decision doesn’t have to be set in stone, so if you can’t decide, no worries! If you opt for the IE from the Start screen but then decide that the Desktop version was the way to go, there’s quick access to a “View on the desktop” option through your tools. Simply tap on that, and you’ll be transported over to your desktop and looking at the same website in the other version of IE within moments.
Happy web surfing!
Techspert Jessica on the ms Ryndam