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-- by Mike Elgan
Windows users will be playing a new tune when Nashville arrives. Nashville, the code name for Internet Explorer 4.0 (IE 4), will likely be the most significant-at least the most noticeable-change in the next version of Windows. Despite its name, IE 4 isn't just a browser, it's an add-on that transforms all navigation in Windows 95 and NT 4.0.
When you choose IE 4's new WebView feature from the View menu, Web-style navigation is turned on. Hold your cursor over a folder or file, and the object's name displays in blue underlined type; click once and the folder opens or the app launches. You can jump seamlessly from your desktop to the LAN to the Web and back, using links or the browser Forward and Back buttons now on Explorer's menu bar.
You can customize IE 4 to look like IE 3, the old Win95 Explorer or any of several hybrid stages in between.
With WebView enabled, all your folders become "pages," including the desktop. You can segment the desktop and other folders using scrollable frames, and stream live or "semi-live" Web content into them. When you visit sites that support IE 4's Site Map feature, a hierarchical tree view of the site is shown in the left pane, with the actual pages on the right.
And just when you thought it was safe to forget everything you know about INI files-they're back. IE 4 gives each folder an INI file that governs how the folder displays. Windows reads and interprets the INI file and dishes up a real HTML document. When you view folders, you're looking at bona fide HTML pages that can include goodies like ActiveX controls, style sheets and frames.
Microsoft envisions ActiveX-enabled live multimedia content flying around, popping up and sliding across your desktop using a concept called the Active Desktop. Web content can be updated either at preset intervals or whenever the site changes. Microsoft refers to these data streams as channels.
IE 4 brings user and third-party software vendor customizability to new heights. Look for plenty of third-party IE 4 add-on utilities and applications that extend and customize the shell. The public beta should be out by now, so visit WINDOWS Magazine's IE 4 site to download it (http://www.winmag.com/flanga/ie4.htm). Final IE 4 software should be available this summer.