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Using Tabbed Browsing in Internet Explorer 6

by Wei-Meng Lee

Microsoft has announced that the next version of Internet Explorer (IE 7) will finally support tabbed browsing, a feature long available in competing browsers such as Firefox and Safari. While the beta of IE 7 is expected to be released within the next couple of months, you can have tabbed browsing today without needing to switch browsers (if IE is still your favorite), using the MSN Toolbar. The latest version of the MSN Toolbar now supports tabbed browsing in IE.

In this article, I shall show you how to use the tabbed-browsing feature of the MSN Toolbar.

Obtaining the MSN Toolbar

You can download the latest version of the MSN Toolbar at Once you've downloaded and installed the toolbar, restart IE and you should see the new tabbed-browsing toolbar (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1. The new tabbed-browsing toolbar

Adding a Tab

To add a tab, click on the Add Tab button. A new tab will then appear, and you can proceed to load the new tab with the page you want to visit by typing the URL in the address bar. The sequence is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Adding a new tab

Closing Tabs

To close a tab, right-click on a tab and select Close. To close all other tabs except the current one, right-click on a tab and select Close All Other Tabs (see Figure 3).

Figure 3
Figure 3. Closing tabs

My Tabs

The MSN Toolbar includes a feature known as My Tabs. My Tabs contains a list of sites that will be opened in various tabs. For example, you may visit certain sites regularly every morning (such as,, or The New York Times). In this case, it is useful to save the URLs of all these sites in My Tabs so that they can be displayed with the single click of a button.

The MSN Toolbar includes a default set of pages in My Tabs. They are:

  • The Help topic page
  • MSN home
  • MSN Search
  • The MSN Add-ins page, where you can find the latest add-ins to extend the power of MSN Search Toolbar.

To display all the pages contained in My Tabs, click on the My Tabs button and select Open My Tabs (see Figure 4). If the current browser window already contain tabs, you can close all of them and open My Tabs by choosing the Close All Tabs and Open My Tabs option.

Note that you can customize the pages in My Tabs by choosing the Set Current Pages as My Tabs option--all the tab pages currently displayed will then be saved in My Tabs.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Displaying My Tabs

The Open Last Viewed Tabs option allows you to open all previously viewed tabs. For example, you might accidentally close the browser window and need to view the tabs that you last viewed (this happens to me all the time). In that case, this option is really useful, as it can remember the pages you last visited.

Opening Pages in New Tabs

By default, when you click on a link in IE, the new web page will be displayed in the current tab. To display the page in another tab, right-click on the link and select one of the following (see Figure 5):

  • "Open in new background tab," to open the page in another tab. The current tab is still active. This option is useful if you want to continue viewing the current page. The shortcut for this option is to Alt-click on a link.
  • "Open in new foreground tab," to open the page in another tab. The new tab is now active, and in the foreground. The shortcut for this option is to Ctrl-Alt-click on a link.
  • To display a link in a new window, you can Shift-click on the link. The page will then be opened in a new window.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Opening a link in a new tab

Notice that on the tabbed-browsing toolbar there is a button called "Open all links in a new background tab." This is a handy button that allows you to change the default behavior of IE. When activated (see Figure 6), clicking on any of the current page's links will cause the new page to be loaded in a new tab. This is useful if you want to simultaneously open a few links as background tabs so that you can view them later.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Using the "Open all links in a new background tab" button

Switching Between Tabs

To switch between tabs, you either click on the tab itself or on the "Show all tabs" button on the right of the window (see Figure 7) to view the list of tabs available. Simply select the tab you want to make it active. Note that the name of the current tab is displayed in bold.

To close a current tab, click on the "Close Current tab" button.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Selecting tabs

If there are too many tabs on a page, a pair of arrows will appear to let you scroll through the tabs (see Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8. Scrolling through the tabs

Configuring Tabbed Browsing

You can turn off tabbed browsing by going to MSN Search Toolbar Options (see Figure 9).

Figure 9
Figure 9. Configuring tabbed browsing via MSN Search Toolbar Options

If you switched off tabbed browsing and want it back, go to the MSN Search Toolbar options to bring back the MSN Search Toolbar Options window (see Figure 10). Check the "Turn on tabbed browsing" check box and click on OK. You'll need to relaunch IE to bring back tabbed browsing.

Figure 10
Figure 10. Configuring tabbed browsing

For Techies Only

If you are curious where the URLs in My Tabs are stored, you'll find them in the Registry under the My Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MSN Apps\Tabs\favorites\_0000 and My Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MSN Apps\Tabs\favorites\_0001 keys. The _0000 key holds the URLs stored in My Tabs, while the _0001 key holds the last-viewed tab pages (see Figure 11).

Figure 11
Figure 11. Examining the Registry entry for tabbed browsing


While I am eagerly awaiting for IE 7 to support tabbed browsing and RSS, I am perfectly happy to see the MSN Toolbar support tabbed browsing. The only downside is that in order for tabbed browsing to work, you need to ensure that you enable the MSN Search Toolbar; otherwise, tabbed browsing will not work. This will no doubt take up valuable screen real estate, especially if you are using other search toolbars (such as the Google Toolbar). However, for tabbed browsing this is a small price to pay, and hence I can still bear it. At least, until IE 7 arrives.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.

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