Browsers and Email
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The browser is the program you are using to view this site. While most people use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google’s Chrome have big followings. If you use a Mac, you might also use Safari - the logos of all 4 are at right. The features are mostly the same with one big exception – both Firefox and Chrome have the ability to easily add extensions which add additional features – and only those you want. There is not enough room on this page to go over all the differences – but there’s no reason why you can’t try them out yourself.
As an example, I use Firefox as my default browser and I have the following extensions installed:
- ieview - allows a quick change to Internet Explorer for those odd sites that need it.
- AdBlock Plus - stops banner ads - subscribe to EasyList and all the work is done for you!
- Web of Trust - marks sites that should not be trusted.
- Video Download Helper - Allows you to save a copy of a video on your hard drive.
Whatever browser you use, it is important to make sure the settings are right. This is easiest in Firefox (or Chrome) but the default settings for Internet Explorer suit most people. However, it is always worth looking at them to see if things can be improved.
Browsers on smartphones are a whole different subject and changing quickly. For some info on them - especially on how they handle Flash, go here.
Configuring Internet Explorer
The very top row (bar) is the title bar which shows you the "Title" of the site you are on and finishes with "Windows Internet Explorer". The next row (bar) down includes the forward & back buttons, the refresh button and the stop button (with a red cross). Next is the Address bar where you can enter a URL for a site and see the address you are currently on. On the far right is the search box.
If you have not already done so, you may need to make some other toolbars visible - they are not strictly necessary but I would not have a browser without at least the menu bar. To access, right click the bar under the Address and Search boxes - choose the bars you want. If you are like me, you'll want the menu, command, status and favorites bars. You now have access to all the items that can be configured.
Most of the settings you want can be found via the menu bar at Tools>Internet Options. General recommendations are not possible because needs vary for everyone. Be sure to go to each tab and decide what you'd like.
Also be sure to configure Plug-ins where required (e.g. Quick-time). Plug-ins usually happen automatically and no action is required when you install Firefox or IE.
The most popular Search Engine is Google. Microsoft's Bing is also a good choice.
Managing scripts in Internet Explorer
This is relatively complex. First, each "Zone" is separately controlled (Internet, Trusted, Restricted) - The Trusted Zone allows all scripting, the Restricted disallows all. But you can customize the Internet Zone which is what most sites will be since it's the default zone.
To customize (or see what your settings are,) in Internet Explorer, go to Tools>Internet Options and select the Security tab. Click the Internet Zone (Globe Icon) then Custom Level. You'll see a Settings window with lots of choices. Near the top is the heading ActiveX controls and Plug-ins. The default choices allow ActiveX if they appear safe. Unless you are very concerned about security and/or you are comfortable managing how the browser works, it's best to leave them that way.
Notes on Firefox Configuration
Firefox is easier to configure than Internet Explorer but some items are "buried". For Internet Explorer, buried items cannot be changed but Firefox provides a tool to access all configuration items. In the URL address box, enter about:config and you will call up your personal configuration stored on your computer (more here). For more and a list of parameters and their options.
All browsers keep a cache of what you have been viewing and it will get updated at some point using a formula known only to the developers. This can be a nuisance although usually (not always) it can be cleared by refreshing (F5) or refreshing the server cache (CTRL F5). In Firefox 4 to really clear your cache, go to Tools>Options>Advanced>Network and under Offline storage click Clear Now. If your internet connection is fast and your computer reasonably fast, you might want to make this happen whenever you close Firefox. Do this by going to Tools>Options>Privacy and under History, select Firefox will: Use Custom settings for History. Then check Clear History when Firefox closes and click the Settings button alongside that. In settings, choose only cache (unless you want others cleared too - keep cookies so you will keep auto logins to favourite pages). For more on cache - go to this article.
Speed up Firefox on Broadband
In the address bar, type about:config then <Enter>. Go down to network.http.pipelining and double click to set the value to true. Then double click network.http.pipelining.maxrequests to bring up the Enter Integer value dialog box. Enter 15 instead of 4. Double click network.http.proxy.pipelining to set it to true. Put the cursor on a blank part of the screen on the page and right click. Select New>Integer from the menu. In the New Integer value dialog box enter nglayout.initialpaint.delay and click OK. Now Enter Integer value as 0 and click OK again. Exit Firefox and restart Firefox to a faster browsing experience.
To play Flash, Open Adobe Documents, Play Real Player music and to open many other external files, FireFox (like other browsers) needs a plug-in. When Firefox installs, it will generally configure itself to use whatever your computer has available. Also, when you install a new item, it will be added to Firefox. However, to see what is currently installed, in the URL address box, enter about:plugins In Firefox 4 or higher go to Tools>Add Ons>Plugins for the same list.
The basic choices are:
Outlook Express - comes with Windows XP and is a good basic choice. This is called Windows Email in Vista and Windows Live Mail in Windows 7.
Outlook - part of Microsoft's Office and looks similar to Outlook Express but is actually quite different. Includes an integrated Contact manager, Task manager, Calendar, Note keeper. One advantage is that you can use WORD to edit your e-mails and therefore make them much nicer. Its junk-mail filter is more powerful than the one with Outlook Express. Overall, if you have Outlook, it is much better than using Outlook Express.
Thunderbird - excellent companion to the Firefox browser. Has better security. Can be integrated into Firefox. But it is not integrated with a contact manager although an add-on is available. For more from the developer (Mozilla). I much prefer Outlook because I find it more user friendly.
Web-mail - e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail. These all require a separate log-on to the internet and all your mail is stored on line. Suitable for people who want to access their mail from different places (school, work, home, friend's place, internet cafe, etc). Most ISPs (and customers of Cobourg Internet) also have a web mail service which works the same way but looks at the same mail box that you would normally access from home.
To add or modify accounts you will usually go into Outlook and select Tools>Email Accounts. But you can also go into Control Panel and select Mail to access accounts and more. This is useful if you've deleted the Outlook icon by mistake! From Mail, you can also quickly find out where your Outlook pst file is stored. This is the file you should back-up if you want to back up your saved e-mails and contacts.
When you send an e-mail, many e-mail programs are configured such that they don't check that you are authorized to send e-mails on that account. This allows certain "viruses" to take over your computer as an e-mail relay of others' e-mail.
This problem is fixed using SMTP Authentication since the ISP now checks that you are a legitimate e-mail user and not relaying e-mails. If you are configured for SMTP Authentication, part of the "send mail" process is that the ISP says "who are you?" and your computer responds with your stored user name and password to prove that you are indeed authorized to send e-mail on that ISP.
E-mail Security Settings
As well as the settings required to activate your e-mail, you should make sure your e-mail is configured to ensure maximum security. On both Outlook Express and Outlook, the security configuration is set up to bar attachments with "dangerous" extensions. If you have an effective Anti-Virus program (e.g. up-to-date NOD32, Avast, Kaspersky or AVG), you can make your e-mail program accept all attachments (with no danger) as follows:
To see pictures (graphics, images)
This setting causes many people wonder why they can't see pictures in their emails! It is unnecessarily paranoid and is not needed unless you do not have an anti-virus program. If you do, then this is just an aggravation.
If you have an updated Anti-Virus program, the default settings in XP with SP3 are actually too restrictive.
Go to Tools then select Options. Then choose the Security Tab. First, check "Internet Zone" and not "Restricted Sites Zone". One of the things that this permits is the graphics in many e-mails where they download them from their web site rather than include them right in the e-mail.
Now uncheck box beside "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus".
Also, immediately below, uncheck box beside "Block images and other external content in HTML e-mail". Many people have these set opposite to these recommendations.
Go to Tools and select Options. Then choose the Security tab. Under Security Zones, make sure "Internet" is selected and not "Restricted Sites". You will now be able to receive Word and Excel attachments. For additional information on this subject see Outlook on our Software page.
Go to Tools>Trust Center and click Automatic Download. Then uncheck "Don't download pictures automatically in HTML email messages or RSS items".
Go to File>Options>Trust Center and click Trust Center Settings. Got to Automatic Download and uncheck the box next to Don't download pictures automatically in HTML messages or RSS items.
Also look at attachments on our software page.
If you want to send large quantities of mail, your ISP may think you are a spammer. How big is a "Large quantity"? It depends on your ISP but certainly more than 200 is large. And it doesn't matter if it's one email sent to 200 people or 200 separate emails - they all count. But it's measured over a one hour period, so if you send them spaced out over several hours you might escape their wrath. Why do they care? Because if you are identified as a spammer by other ISPs, your ISP could get blacklisted. This means that ALL emails from them will bounce - not good for them or their customers. This makes this threat a very effective tool against spam. If they think you are a spammer, they may stop you sending email - at least for a while. In my "test", Cogeco stopped me for 24 hours.
So if you have a legitimate need to send mass email (e.g. a newsletter), how do you do it? Well, because of some unhappy experiences in this area, I recommend that you use a company who will do it for you - e.g. Mail Chimp although there are others.