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FireFox Debugging Plugins

Internet Explorer

Did you know that IE9 supports over two dozen command-line parameters (software switches) you can use to install and launch IE in specific modes for specific purposes?

For example, the -k switch immediately starts IE in true, full-screen, kiosk mode — with no frames, menus, toolbars, or other distractions visible. Instead, kiosk mode takes 100 percent of the screen to display whatever webpage or other HTML content you specify.

This is different from IE's conventional full-screen mode, which you can invoke by pressing F11 anytime IE is running. In that simplified mode, you simply press F11 again to exit full-screen mode. But as you might have noticed, when you're using the F11/full-screen mode to, say, watch a video, another program or browser tab might steal the focus and cause the browser to fall out of full-screen mode or even to switch to a different tab or window.

The -k command locks IE9 into the full-screen mode. It launches a new instance of the browser in which no other tabs or pages are active. The browser stays full-screen on whatever page or document you've specified, and it won't quit until you exit. The standard full-screen toggle, the F11 key, has no effect.

The only way to exit the -k full-screen mode is to press Alt + F4, which closes the full-screen instance of the browser.

Try it! Click the Start orb and type (or copy/paste) the following into the Search programs and files box, then press Enter. The Windows Secrets home page will open full-screen.

iexplore -k

(Of course, you can substitute other sites in place of

When you're finished, press Alt + F4 to exit the full-screen browser.

This is just one simple example from the many commands available for setting up and running IE. Others include -nohome, which starts IE while bypassing whatever home page you normally launch; -new, which starts an entirely new instance of IE; -extoff, which prevents add-ons from launching; -nohangrecovery, which tells IE not to try to automatically reload any pages that cause a crash (avoiding potential loops where a tab crash leads to an attempted recovery, which leads to a new crash, etc.); and many more.

You'll find command-line options for IE explained in the TechNet article, "Using command-line switches," and in Microsoft Support item 927677.

But there's more in IE's bag of tricks than just command-line switches. My personal favorite, among IE's lesser-known features is the suite of built-in developer tools — more than 50 in all.

These tools give you ways to examine what's going on in any webpage — to see how it works or to learn what's hidden in the page's coding, to immediately resize your browser to any of several common proportions, to gain immediate control over your browser's caches and cookies, to set or alter the user-agent string (you can tell IE to identify itself to websites as, say, Chrome or Firefox, if a site requires a non-IE browser), and lots more.

And all you have to do to access the developer-tools windows is press F12. Figure 1 shows an example.

Figure 1. Pressing F12 puts IE into split-screen mode, with a bevy of powerful tools in a subwindow right at your fingertips.

For complete information on the developer tools for IE9 and other versions of IE, see the MSDN article, "Discovering Windows Internet Explorer developer tools"; the MSDN blog page, "Improved productivity through Internet Explorer 8 developer tools"; or the MSDN article, "How to use F12 developer tools to debug your webpages."

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