If you are using Internet Explorer 11, let's make sure that you know how to enhance your user experience with add-ons. Like any other web browser, Internet Explorer allows users to enhance it by adding extensions written either by Microsoft or, most often, by others. Read further to learn how to install add-ons and improve your navigation on the web with Internet Explorer:
Before you can install Internet Explorer add-ons, you need to find them on the internet. There are two types of sources for Internet Explorer add-ons: official add-ons curated by Microsoft and others which do not benefit from its quality and security approval.
Internet Explorer Gallery: The add-ons distributed by Microsoft
The add-ons distributed by Microsoft can be found in the Internet Explorer Gallery webpage. Make sure that you open this page using Internet Explorer. Otherwise, the instructions provided here do not work. The list of add-ons present on this page is short (although it used to be a lot longer) and contains two types of add-ons:
- Search providers
- Tracking Protection Lists (scroll down on the page)
The list is language dependent, and the page content changes when you select a different language. The current language is shown on the top right corner of the page. When you hover or click/tap over it, the list of available languages is displayed, and you can choose a different one:
The installation of one of the add-ons is quite simple. For this guide, we will install as an example the add-on that adds Google as a search provider in Internet Explorer. Identify the add-on that you want to install, and you should find a link labeled "Add >", at the bottom of its description. Click or tap on it.
A pop-up shows up, asking whether you want to add the selected item. Click or tap "Add" to complete the installation in Internet Explorer.
In our example, the result is that Google is now one of the search providers available in Internet Explorer. This can be verified by going down the list of the search providers in the search box in the top right corner of Internet Explorer:
The second section of the add-ons provided by Microsoft contains the ones related to tracking protection. The procedure to install them is identical to the one for search providers.
How to check if an add-on from the Internet Explorer Gallery is already installed
On the Internet Explorer Gallery webpage, you can verify whether an add-on is already installed. Identify the add-on that you want to check and press the Add link in the same way as during an installation.
When you press on an add-on that is already installed, the pop-up window changes, and it gives you a warning message about it. End it by pressing OK, and you should return to the Gallery webpage.
How to install Internet Explorer add-ons from providers like LastPass
You may find add-ons for Internet Explorer offered directly by their providers. We are going to pick as an example LastPass - a popular password manager. The add-on that works on Internet Explorer is listed on their website, on the download page. Identify the "LastPass Universal Windows Installer" and click or tap the download link next to it. The notification pop-up from Internet Explorer appears, asking how you want to deal with it. Click or tap "Run" to get the installation started.
On the installation screen, click or tap "Advanced options."
On the "Advanced options" screen, make sure that Internet Explorer is selected and then click or tap "Install LastPass."
You need to make sure Internet Explorer is closed, to allow the installer to make changes. If it is not closed, you get a warning from the installer showing the programs that you need to close. You either close Internet Explorer yourself, or you get the installer to do it for you, by clicking or tapping "Close Programs."
When the installation is completed, LastPass asks you to log in or create a new account. The installation procedure has one more step. The next time you start Internet Explorer, you have to confirm, for security purposes, that you want to enable the LastPass add-on. Click or tap the Enable button that shows up at the bottom of the Internet Explorer window.
Make sure you trust the providers of the add-ons that you install. Their installation can expose both your Windows computer and your online experience to risks.
How to find add-ons for Internet Explorer on unofficial lists
Since Microsoft has drastically reduced the Internet Explorer add-ons available to be installed from the official Microsoft page, it may be worth checking other lists. An example of a reasonably good list is the one offered by CNET: Internet Explorer Add-ons & Plugins for Windows. At the time of writing this article, it was offering more than 700 add-ons:
The installation procedure for these add-ons is similar to the one described above for LastPass. You run an installer similar to any other installation of a desktop app for Windows, plus the extra step to enable the add-on the next time you open Internet Explorer. Be careful with the installation of add-ons not coming from Microsoft, as the security risks are high when you operate outside the official frameworks. Not all these add-ons work or can be installed.
From the first couple of pages in the CNET list, we have tried a few add-ons with mixed results:
- IE Download Helper does not work anymore because the site that supported it is down.
- Adblock Plus for Internet Explorer works.
- Web of Trust (WOT) for Internet Explorer works.
Are the add-ons for Internet Explorer worth installing?
As Internet Explorer is now a legacy app, and Microsoft switches their attention to the new kid on the block, Microsoft Edge, the add-ons for Internet Explorer are becoming scarce. When you do manage to find the right extension, your life becomes more comfortable as it extends the standard features provided by Microsoft. Try some of the add-ons that are still available for Internet Explorer and tell us about your experience with them.