Press the Internet Explorer 8 Accelerator

Plan your next ride faster with your favorite search, mapping, and weather web services

By Jay Munro

As a biker who grew up on the East Coast, I'm not a big fan of waiting around. I have no use for chatty clerks and slowpoke drivers—just get me there already! I certainly don't like dragging out my search for something on the web, so when I discovered Internet Explorer 8 Accelerators, I knew I'd found the perfect copilot.

Accelerators are the fastest way to get to the web services I use everyday. Getting directions, checking the weather, and searching for great Western Washington motorcycle rides is easy now. All I need to do is select the text on a webpage that I want information about and click the Accelerator icon Picture of Accelerator icon to get going.
Picture of Accelerator icon and menu
Clicking the Accelerator icon displays a menu of your Accelerators.

Fire on all cylinders with Accelerators from the Add-ons Gallery

When I first installed Internet Explorer 8, I chose Express settings to start up quickly with the basic set of Accelerators. These were a good beginning, but I needed to add a few more Accelerators from the Internet Explorer 8 Add-ons Gallery to kick things into high gear.

Because I like to use blogs and web articles as guides to plan my rides, the first thing I do when looking for a destination is search for a map to find out how to get there. This is where my search Accelerator comes in handy. If none of my search results show a map, I select the address and use my mapping Accelerator to show me a preview map. The great thing about both of these accelerators is that I never have to leave my webpage. The same thing goes for full driving directions. I just click the Accelerator right on the webpage to open the website and get turn-by-turn instructions. Finally, on my trips, I can use the weather Accelerator to help me determine the right gear to pack, and to decide on the best time to hit the road.

Go to the Internet Explorer 8 Add-ons Gallery

Picture of Internet Explorer Add-ons Gallery
The Internet Explorer 8 Add-ons Gallery is a Microsoft website that offers dozens of Accelerators, Web Slices, toolbars, and extensions.

The Add-ons Gallery really comes in handy when planning my rides. Once in the gallery, I can search for my favorite services, and find others I didn't even know about. But, because anyone can create and upload an Accelerator, I need to remember to double-check who created it before I install it. After I've found an Accelerator I like and trust who made it, I just click Add to Internet Explorer and I'm done. It's installed quickly and it's ready to use immediately, with no restarting or rebooting.

What's around that corner?

Using Accelerator previews is like being able to see around a corner before I get there. Previews show me the content that the website offers without even having to click the Accelerator. In the Add-ons Gallery, I always look for a note that says "Preview Enabled" because a preview is often all I need.

Not all Accelerators support previews. Some Accelerators, such as my weather services, have previews, but they often don't provide enough information. For these Accelerators, I still need to click through to the website.

Picture of Bing Maps Accelerator and map
I use Accelerator previews to view a snapshot of the website's content.

Throttling back on the Accelerators

When I first discovered Accelerators, I went a little nuts and installed more than I needed. Like removing parts from a Harley weighed down with too many chrome goodies, I had to thin out my Accelerators in order to keep going fast. Too many Accelerators on the menus became confusing, so I started using the add-on manager to organize my Accelerators.

Picture of Accelerator section of add-on manager
The Accelerator section of the add-on manager

The add-on manager in Internet Explorer is the place where you can take control of your Accelerators, search providers, toolbars, and extensions. It can be a little daunting because it shows you a lot of information. However, if you know what to look for, it's pretty simple. Here is what you need to know:

The main thing I use to help keep my Accelerator menus clean and fast are the status settings. The status settings show me if an Accelerator is the default Accelerator, and if it is enabled or disabled. As I mentioned already, default Accelerators show up on the first menu you see when you click the Accelerator icon. An enabled Accelerator will show up on the All Accelerators menu; the ones I don't want to see on any menus, I click disable. I can use the Remove button to get rid of an Accelerator completely, but if I change my mind and want to use it later, I'll have to install it from the gallery again. One time I added the Get Stock Quote Accelerator, but removed it because it was too depressing watching my stock drop in price. For more information, see Using the Internet Explorer Add-on Manager.

High octane Accelerators

Accelerators have some hidden talents. So far I've been telling you about how I use Accelerators with selected text, but Accelerators can also work with the entire webpage or with links. These Accelerators show up when you right-click a webpage, or click the Page button to the right of the tab row in Internet Explorer. For example, if I'm on a foreign language webpage that looks interesting (there are a lot of Harley riders all over the world), I can click the Page button, choose my translate Accelerator, and the whole page is translated for me.

Picture of Page button menu
Accelerators you see on the Page menu, such as Translate, work on the whole webpage.

Other Accelerators use links on a webpage, such as StumbleUpon which finds related websites. When I right-click a link (no need to select it), and pick the StumbleUpon Accelerator, it finds websites related to that link.

Another talent that Accelerators have is being able to do something with text I copy from other programs. This is great when I'm using my Microsoft Office Outlook e-mail accounts, rather than web mail ones. When a friend sends me a great ride destination, I can copy the address from the e-mail message in Outlook, open a new tab in Internet Explorer 8, and quickly map it with my mapping Accelerator.

Picture of Accelerator section on new tab page
Use Accelerators on the new tab page with text you copy from other programs

Tricking out Internet Explorer with Accelerators

I've already talked about a few types or categories of Accelerators, but here are some others from the Internet Explorer 8 Add-ons Gallery that I've found helpful. Before you start using these, look at how the Accelerator was rated by the online community first. If you're trying to decide which one to use, one with a better rating might be more appealing than one with a low rating. Keep in mind when choosing Accelerators that a single, five-star rating of "Joe's awesome blog" might just have come from Joe's best friend—so use your judgment.

Getting directions online helps you ride more and stop and ask less. Using an Accelerator for addresses on a webpage is about as fast as it gets.

Web 2.0, social networking, or whatever you want to call it, is hot. I don't blog as often as I should, but with these Accelerators, I can share my life on the road faster than ever.

Ever run across a word you don't know? I do this all the time, especially for acronyms. So, I use these Accelerators:

Want to impress your friends, expand your horizons, or learn a few new words in Turkish? These translators have come in handy when I'm checking out international biker forums.

And, just for fun, what else can I say?

There are a lot of cool things you can do with Accelerators, and the more you use them, the more you find to do with them. Well, I've got my map to my next destination, a full tank of gas, and the weather is breaking, so I'm hitting the road.

About the author

Picture of columnist Jay Munro

Jay Munro is a writer on the Windows team at Microsoft, specializing in Internet Explorer. Previously, he was a project leader with PC Magazine labs and a freelance writer for PC Magazine, Extreme Tech, PC Today, C-Net, Computer Shopper, and other magazines.

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