This chapter deals exclusively with configuration management and service desk topics related to Microsoft Internet Explorer. Many students will be familiar with Internet Explorer and Web browsers in general. Our goal is to give them added depth to enable them to support the features they might not use regularly. Among these are accessibility, privacy, and security features. You might suggest that technicians will probably be more focused on privacy when dealing with the home user, and on security with the corporate user.
This section covers personalization issues. Some of the items that fall under this broad category include configuration of the visual elements of Internet Explorer, either for accessibility purposes or simply for personal preference. We also cover language support and common usability issues such as Favorites, History, and search settings.
This slide introduces the Internet Options dialog box. This is the central configuration tool for most of the features in Internet Explorer. You will frequently reference this dialog box in later slides, so take this opportunity to give your students an introduction to the tabs and their contents.
Accessibility settings such as text size, font, and colors can be controlled to make pages more readable to those with visual impairments. The next three slides depict some of the available options for configuring Internet Explorer’s accessibility settings.
The Text Size setting serves two distinct purposes. First, it can increase the size of text to allow those with visual impairments to read the contents of the screen. Second, it can be used when monitor resolution is set so high that the text is difficult to read. This is similar to the font size settings in Display Properties, but applies only to Internet Explorer.
This slide depicts the Colors dialog box and the Fonts dialog box from Internet Options. You might note that high-contrast colors have been selected and the Use Hover Color option has been enabled to draw attention to hyperlinks as the mouse pointer encounters them. In addition, Verdana and Lucida Sans Typewriter have been selected for their better readability. These are examples of the types of modifications that can be made to make the browser more accessible to visually impaired individuals.
Many Web sites dictate fonts, text sizes, and colors. If you have configured Internet Explorer for high-contrast colors and readable fonts, you might want to override the site’s settings. You can do so in Accessibility. You can find an excellent resource to managing accessibility at the HTML Writer’s Guild’s Accessible Web Authoring Resources and Education ( AWARE) site located at http://aware.hwg.org .
Using the Languages dialog box in Internet Options allows the selection of the user’s preference for languages presented by Web sites. When a user encounters a Web site that makes multiple languages available, the order of preference indicated in this dialog box dictates which language is selected for presentation of the Web site’s content.
Internet Explorer provides many features to allow users to customize their browsing experience. Among the most common are the items presented on this slide. As you present the next few slides, it is helpful to demonstrate the use of each option and encourage your students to do the same on their systems. Much of the apparent skill of support technicians comes from their comfort with these menus and dialog boxes. The more practice they have with them, the better they will be able to support their end users.
There are two components to viewing History: using the History view in the Explorer bar, and configuring History to retain data for the appropriate number of days. Demonstrate the use of the History feature. You might show the different views available and demonstrate the Search feature. This is helpful both for certification and for real-world expertise with these tools. Demonstrate setting the number of days to be retained in History. Some sites restrict this to fewer than the default 20, and some users will want to retain a month or more.
Internet Explorer includes Related Sites, a third-party extension that accesses data compiled from click-through data collected by the Alexa toolbar (also a third-party add-on). Users of this feature are presented with a listing of sites used in relation with the site currently being viewed. At times this is helpful because users are presented with sites having similar content; at other times, it presents sites with competitive products or views. You must add the Related Sites button to the toolbar by using the Customize option. Another useful tool you might wish to mention is the Research button. This button presents a research function within the Explorer bar. Entering a search term allows the user to search multiple MSN-based sites including Encarta, Expedia, Factiva, and other MSN resources.
These additional resources can also be presented within the Explorer bar. Search uses MSN search to present sites containing keywords entered into the Search box. Favorites displays the personalized Favorites menu compiled by the user. Media accesses content from Windowsmedia.com. Folders allows browsing of local file system folders and resources. Users can access each of these features by selecting the appropriate option from the View—Explorer Bar menu. You might wish to demonstrate one or more of these options to promote familiarity with this feature.
Many corporations distribute customized versions of Internet Explorer to their users. Although there are tools provided to administer this, there are some simple ways to create a corporate identity for your users. Two of these are demonstrated here and on the next slide. Setting a home page is the quickest way to get your users all on the same page. This is useful for corporate intranet sites and sites containing information you want all users to see daily. Administrators can use group policy to lock in a home page, but simply setting this option in the Internet Options dialog box also gives your users a starting point. Personalized Title bars are also a way to “brand” your browser. Domain administrators can also do this using group policy, or locally using the Group Policy editor (Gpedit.msc). There are more in-depth customizations possible, such as using customized bitmaps to replace the spinning globe in the toolbar and other “branding” opportunities, but these are beyond the scope of this course and beyond the ability of the tools we present here.
Digital certificates serve three purposes in Internet Explorer. They can validate the identity of a provider of Internet services such as a secure e-commerce site. They can validate the identity of a user of Internet services. Many corporations provide their employees with digital certificates to enable virtual private network (VPN) or intranet access. They can also be used to encrypt data. They are often used for both authentication and encryption simultaneously. You manage digital certificates for Internet Explorer in the Content tab of the Internet Options dialog box. During your discussion of digital certificates, cite examples of secure e-commerce sites using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) with digital certificates to safeguard customer credit card and transaction data.
The two most common features requiring maintenance in Internet Explorer are temporary files and cookies. Allowing temporary files to get out of control can hinder browser performance. Allowing cookies to get out of control can compromise a user’s privacy. This section discusses both of these topics and presents ways to manage each.
Temporary Internet files are the files cached by Internet Explorer in preparation for subsequent returns to the pages from which they were downloaded. They help speed the browsing experience by preventing the need to download every part of the page every time it is visited. Instead, the page can be reloaded from the cache, greatly accelerating the presentation. You can access the settings for temporary Internet files in the Internet Options dialog box. Clicking Settings exposes the settings, including cache behavior and the amount of disk space to dedicate to storage of these files. Spend some time explaining the different caching options and their effects on performance. The section in the textbook titled “Configuring Temporary Internet File Settings” explains these settings. You can also demonstrate using the Delete Files button in the Temporary Internet Files area of the Internet Options dialog box. This option manually deletes the files, and can go further to delete all cached content such as pages that are synchronized for the purpose of offline viewing.
Another way to clean up temporary Internet files (and other clutter for that matter) is the Disk Cleanup utility. This slide depicts the progression of the scan Disk Cleanup performs, and the dialog box that allows selection of which items to perform. You can explain that this utility does not directly affect the operation of Internet Explorer outside of its effect on cache files, but it is a good tool for maintaining system performance in general.
One last way to clear temporary Internet files is to delete them when closing Internet Explorer. This takes a little time to run every time Internet Explorer closes, but keeps the cache files purged. At this point it might be helpful to explain that all this deleting has another effect. Deleting cached files necessitates their download whenever the page they were downloaded from is visited. This slows the presentation of these pages and reduces the productivity of the individual using Internet Explorer. Technicians and administrators need to strike a balance between performance and usability at times, and some effort might be required to find the appropriate balance for your users.
This section covers the management of cookies and related privacy concerns. We begin with a discussion of the role of cookies. We discuss privacy settings and the effect they have on cookie acceptance and storage. We then demonstrate how to manually delete cookies.
Originally called a “magic cookie,” the cookie is a small bit of data used by a Web server to identify a user on subsequent returns to the server. It can contain information on your display preferences, authentication data, or even personal information used to maintain your identity on the site. Often a concern to privacy advocates, cookies must be managed in accordance with an individual’s privacy preferences or their corporate policy for the same.
Internet Explorer has several default levels of privacy settings to allow users to quickly manage the ways in which the browser handles cookies. Be sure to emphasize that some of these settings will defeat the functionality users can expect from some Web sites. A trade-off has to be acknowledged between protection of privacy and functionality of the sites using cookies. The textbook includes a list of the different privacy settings and a summary of what each does. In addition, the Privacy dialog box in Internet Options does an excellent job of explaining what each setting accomplishes.
You can manually delete cookies in the Internet Options dialog box by using the Delete Cookies button. Stress that this deletes all information related to preferences and authentication for sites storing cookies on the user’s computer.
This section of the textbook has several anecdotal examples of different scenarios that might be presented to a support technician. These fall into two broad areas: usability and security. Usability encompasses visual presentation, preferences, and performance. Security encompasses privacy and security. We present a discussion slide for each area, and you can choose to discuss any items related to that area that you wish.
This slide presents some issues that can be discussed as possible support scenarios. You can add more from your own experience or discuss any of these in greater depth using what the students have learned during the course of this chapter. Feel free to use the textbook examples to demonstrate your discussion points. There are additional items that apply to this discussion after the section of the textbook covering security zones.
Internet Explorer includes default zones that can be used to generate lists of sites fitting one security profile or another. The next slide leads a discussion of how these zones are used. You can take this opportunity to discuss the organization of sites into zones and how to manage this dialog box.
As you demonstrate the settings available in the Security tab in the Internet Options dialog box, lead a discussion of the different zones and what the settings mean to the performance and functionality of Internet Explorer.
As you present this slide, recall the parts of the chapter dealing with configuration, accessibility, maintenance, and security. Most calls about Internet Explorer involve one or more of these areas. Be sure to stress the security features and how they can be used at home or in a corporate setting to configure zones and the way Internet Explorer handles sites from each zone.