How-to: Set Internet Explorer 10 Defaults in Windows 8

Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8There is a Jekyl and Hyde battle going on in Windows 8 thanks to Internet Explorer 10. There are two versions of the browser in Windows 8.

One is the ‘Metro-style’ (sic) application, the most locked down and constrained browser still able to provide a full-screen experience and which is designed to be usable on tablets with touch-screens. The other is the traditional desktop browser that works much like IE7, 8 and 9 and supports the usual third-party add-ons.

They both use the same rendering engine, share the same bookmarks, but they look and work completely differently. Which one is Jekyl and which Hyde? You decide. IE10 Metro appears to have the personality disorder, though.

Run Windows 8 Consumer Preview and the Metro User Interface is the default, which makes the Metro version of IE10 the browser default. You get an IE10 Metro ’tile’ on the Windows 8 Start screen, but no IE10 desktop tile. There is no evident way to add an IE10 tile to the desktop. Whenever a web browser is invoked, either by another Metro-style app, or a desktop application, IE10 Metro is the version that runs – even if you are in the conventional Windows desktop. Try to cut-and-paste from the browser to anything you have open on the desktop; first, you have to get out of Metro back to the desktop. It’s infuriating.

In order to change the default browser to IE10 Desktop, you can run either, then choose Settings (the gear icon), go to Internet options, then Programs. At the top of this dialog pane, change “Choose how you open links” to “Always in Internet Explorer in the desktop”.

To default the IE10 tile on the Start screen and any pinned web sites to open the Desktop IE10, also check the box labelled “Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop.”

IE10 Metro deliberately excludes any third party plugins, such as Flash and Java, on which half the websites on the planet rely. You can’t install them or any ad blockers, gadgets or toolbars. It is horribly crippled. IE10 Metro is designed plug-in free this way intentionally. Microsoft claims a plug-in free IE10 improves battery life, security, reliability, and privacy for users. HTML5 – or at least Microsoft’s interpretation of it – is the way to go. As soon as the rest of the Web catches up.

You can access IE10 Desktop with plug-ins, although it takes some manual intervention, probably after you stare at a crippled web-page for a bit. Launch the IE10 Metro App bar using WINKEY + Z, or by right-clicking anywhere in the browser window. Click the Page tools button (the little wrench). From the pop-up menu, click View on the desktop. The page you’re currently loooking at will load in IE10 Desktop.

You can install third-party web browsers, Chrome, Firefox and others in Windows 8 and you can even set a third-party browser to the be the default browser. To do this you have have to use the Default Programs UI, application settings in the other browsers can’t override the Windows 8 default browser, it just ignores them.

If you do set a third-party browser to the be the default browser in Windows 8, IE10 Metro literally disappears. On the Start screen, the tile for IE10 Metro will change to a tile for IE10 Desktop and you’ll never see it again. I don’t know if this is Microsoft picking up their ball and taking it home in a huff. It seems a little sukly, even pernicious, to treat your users like naughty children who won’t eat their greens. The only way to get IE10 Metro back is to make IE the default browser in Default Programs again. AJS

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