A browser by itself is a poor thing, letting you browse the Web, but little else. To get the most out of the Web, you need add-ins that give your browser plenty of extra features.
Firefox is well known for its plug-ins, but there aren't as many available for Internet Explorer. Still, you needn't feel left out in the cold. In fact, there are plenty of add-ins for IE as well.
In this article, I'll clue you in to my favorite Internet Explorer add-ins. I'll ignore the obvious ones, such as the Google Toolbar, Yahoo Toolbar or Windows Live Toolbar, because you probably already know about them. Instead, I'll concentrate on lesser-known ones that do everything from killing annoying ads, to restoring crashed browsing sessions, to grabbing video from sites like YouTube and more. Better yet, everyone one of them is free.
Tired of being besieged by ads, including exceedingly annoying Flash ads? Then you'll want the free Quero Toolbar, which includes a very good and customizable ad blocker. It will block just about any ad you'll come across, including banner ads, Flash animations and many others, including Google ads.
You can turn it on and off, of course, but better yet, you can customize it for individual sites, allowing ads from some sites and banning them from others. Better still, you can fine-tune it to a remarkable degree, for example, by allowing Google ads and banner ads from a particular site, but banning Flash animations.
There's more to the Quero Toolbar as well, including a nice inline search feature that jumps straight to text on a page as you type in a term, the ability to search for any word on a Web page by selecting and right-clicking it, and the ability to quickly resize windows. And plenty of included shortcut keys means that mouse-haters need to reach for their rodent less frequently than before.
For an even more comprehensive add-in, including ad blocking and much more, get the free IE7Pro. It's a remarkable add-in and has features that rival the best of Firefox plug-ins.
Like the Quero Toolbar, it will block Flash ads as well as other ads, although it doesn't give you quite as many fine-grained controls over blocking or allowing specific kinds of ads on a site-by-site basis.
The program truly shines in the way it handles tabs, and this may be its best feature. If IE7 crashes for some reason -- and as we all know, there are plenty of reasons why it crashes -- the program will automatically restore all the tabs that were open at the time of the crash. You can also automatically reopen the last tab you've closed to display the site you were visiting when you closed it. And you can reopen tabs you closed before that as well.
This freebie has so many clever features that there's no way to list them all. Here's a simple but particularly useful one: You can have the program automatically scroll down a Web page at one of three speeds. It's great for when you're reading a long Web page and don't want to have to scroll manually. Just choose the speed, and it'll scroll for you. Similarly, you can have the program autorefresh your current tab, at any interval you chose.
There's plenty more as well, including a forms filler and a mouse gestures feature that lets you do things such as scroll up or down, close tabs and go forward or back by right-clicking the mouse and making a gesture with it.
This is clearly the best of the bunch -- it's staying in my browser.
The feed reader built into IE7 is one of its niftier features.
Make it even better with Feeds Plus, a free add-in built by members of Microsoft's RSS team. (Because Feeds Plus isn't an official Microsoft product, though, you won't get support.)
It adds a few nice features to IE7's RSS capabilities, including being able to read groups of feeds in a combined view, instead of one feed at a time. In addition, you can tell IE7 to notify you when there's new content in a feed -- the Feeds Plus tray icon will glimmer.