Change in Toolbar Management

Internet Explorer 8 now allows users to more easily manage their toolbars and add-ons. Feedback from Internet Explorer 7 users clearly indicated that there is a need for easier management of toolbar and add-ons.

Our IE7 user feedback showed that less experienced users had problems with hiding toolbars to free up browser screen real estate, or to get rid of a toolbar that they no longer wanted. More experienced users understood that any toolbar and add-on that runs in a browser will have an impact on browser startup time, new tab creation time, and navigation speed and they wanted an easier way to manage the set of add-ons that actually run.

In Internet Explorer 7 most users used the Tools - Toolbars menu to hide a toolbar; or they used the browser frame context (right-click) menu. Although this hides the toolbar user interface, the toolbar add-on's code actually continues to run and Internet Explorer 7 still loaded the toolbar add-on every time the user opened the browser or a new tab, thus still affecting performance.

To hide and disable a toolbar add-on in Internet Explorer 7, a user had to click Manage Add-ons on the Tools menu, then click Enable or Disable Add-ons, and then, in the Manage Add-ons dialog box, click on the toolbar's name and select Disable. In addition, because a lot of toolbars consist of two or more related add-ons that plug into Internet Explorer, the Manage Add-ons dialog box might display several entries for a toolbar, and the user might have to disable them as well. Thus, few Internet Explorer 7 users completely hid and disabled a toolbar, neutralizing its effect on performance.

Improvements in Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer 8 makes it easy for users to be in full control of their IE add-ons. Clicking the new Close button next to a toolbar opens the Disable Add-on dialog box:

Picture of the IE chrome. There is a toolbar with a red x displaying.

dialog box asking if you want to disable an add-on. The dialog box also asks about related add-ons

This dialog box shows that the toolbar consists of three add-ons: the visible toolbar, and any toolbar helper add-ons . The user has a choice to clear the option under ‘Related add-ons that will also be disabled’. In addition, clicking the Disable button will cause Internet Explorer to disable both types of add-ons and to free its resources for faster browsing.

We also (with the instruction at the bottom of the dialog) tell users how to get their toolbar back. (Sometimes users want to only temporarily hide a toolbar, to maximize the browser screen real estate on a certain site.)

The same dialog box may appear as follows:

Dialog box asking if you want to disable an add-on. The dialog box also asks about related add-ons 

In this case, Internet Explorer has also found two other add-ons by the same publisher that the user may want to disable. Some installations of toolbars do not group all related components, so users are given the option to disable all browser add-ons from the same publisher.


Enabling toolbars is just as important as disabling them. Our research showed that users don’t have any issues with figuring out how to show the toolbar again – Just like in IE7, an IE8  user can enable a toolbar again by clicking the Tools button, and then clicking the desired toolbar from the Toolbar menu. Or, they can use the browser frame context (right-click) menu. When a toolbar is enabled, all the related components can also be enabled.

All these user experience changes tested very well in our IE8 usability studies: Users were delighted to discover that they can now disable or enable exactly the right set of toolbars and add-ons – keeping them in control of their browser.

Frank Olivier
Program Manager