Playing around with IE

IE Toys gives you 13 useful tweaks to make your Internet Explorer experience a little bit easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.

I am one of the 15 percent. Or maybe it's 11.6 percent.

Whatever metrics company you swear by, Mozilla Firefox is the go-to browser for a growing but statistically small percentage of Web surfers. I go to great lengths to avoid using Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer, but I still like to see improvements made to any program, so I was glad to discover a tool that made using IE more bearable.

"Bayden IE Toys" isn't a name that sings, but it does add more power and flexibility to IE with 13 useful browser tools. Weighing in at a tiny 175kb, it didn't slow down IE in the slightest, even with every one of its tools installed.

When you run the EXE, you get to choose which functions you want to add. Expanding functionality in some areas and creating it in others, IE Toys works mostly through right-click access to the Context menu. Broadband Tweak, for example, simply increases the maximum simultaneous downloads from the same server to 16.

Most of the others require some user input. If you highlight a piece of text and right-click on it, your Context menu shows a few new options. Choosing "Google" or "MSN" will automatically open up a new tab with the highlighted text as the search term in the respective engine. Highlight again and hit Linkify to convert plain text into a hyperlink, useful for malformed URLs. Highlighter highlights selected text in yellow.

Another great tool, HTML Accessibility Helper, automatically searches Web pages for hidden hotkeys and tells you what they are. There's also a Proxy Toggle, an ImageList, Encyclopedia and Dictionary tools, and HTML source. By highlighting any part of a page and selecting it from the Context menu, HTML source is supposed to show you the source code for just that section.

Unfortunately, this last option was the only one that tested wonky. It only worked for standard text sections and wouldn't show the source code for several different sections of different pages we looked at--including images and other non-text-only code.

Still, IE Toys is a robust, lightweight tool that adds a lot of useful functionality to IE. If you like IE, or you're forced to use it for corporate reasons, IE Toys is more than just a cute little browser plaything.