Launching Websites in Non-Default Browser

Unfortunately there are some websites out there that have decided they are going to favor a specific web browser. For example most sites created by Microsoft are optimized to work with IE. This is great for Microsoft but not so much for people who know enough to recognize that IE is not at all the best web browser out there (a rant for another time). A more specific example would be Microsoft’s SharePoint. For SharePoint they take advantage of ActiveX controls that are not available in other browsers to do things like integrate with Single Sign-On and Office Communicator, and their WYSIWYG editor seems to only work in IE for probably a similar reason. This often causes people to switch between using the browser the prefer and the browser that gives them the best experience on the site they need to use. This post discusses several options for dealing with the management of these ‘bookmarks’.

List of Culprit Websites

  • Netfix (Silverlight Player)
  • Informz
  • Microsoft Share Point
  • Microsoft Live

IE Tab Extensions

Google Chrome (my current preference) and Firefox both have extensions called “IE Tab” (Chrome Extension or Firefox Extension) these effectively create an instance of Internet Explorer inside of a tab within each browser. This allows you to get most of the “benefits” of using IE for a particular site without needed to open a separate browser and not interrupting your web experience. They also provide options that allow you to do things like specify sites that you always want opened in an IE Tab.

NOTE: Using these extensions however, is not a 100% affective replacement of the actual IE browser. You will inevitably run into situations where a website’s functionality will be hindered by the nature of the extension versus the native browser.

Browser Shortcuts

If the extension IE Tab Extension approach is not an option either because you are not using a browser with extensions or you are not trying to open a website in IE but rather a different browser, you can create windows shortcuts for the browser that include extra parameters that will cause the shortcut to open the browser than immediately launch the URL of our choosing.

Browse to the install directory for the browser you ‘need’ to use on your computer (IE will most likely be C:Program Files\Internet Explorer), right click on the executable file for the browser (iexplore.exe for IE) and select “Create Shortcut”. You can now move this shortcut to whatever location you want. I created a folder under “My Documents” for “Start Menu Shortcuts”. Once you have the shortcut in the location you want it you can rename the file to whatever you prefer. Then right click on the shortcut and select “Properties”. In the field labeled “Target” at the end of the existing text add the URL you want to open. (ex. "C:Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" http://www.google.com), then click OK. Now when you click on the shortcut and it will open Internet Explorer and launch the web address you specified. The process should be the same for most browsers in Windows.

NOTE: I have run into issues with this method in that specifically Windows 7 doesn’t like you having more than one shortcut in your start menu or taskbar that run the same application. When it notices that you are placing a shortcut to a application that already has a shortcut windows will replace the existing shortcut with the new one.

Batch File Shortcuts

To counter the Windows 7 shortcut issue I started playing with the idea of running command line code to accomplish my goal. You can do this in Windows by creating batch files (.bat). For those who are unfamiliar, these are essentially text files that contain command line code that automatically gets executed when the file is run. To create the batch file all you need to do is open Notepad (or your text editor of choice, not a word processor), insert the following code, and save the file as a .bat file.

START iexplore.exe http://google.com

The file that you end up with will now execute the command you specified. In the case of the example I have above it will run Internet Explorer and launch Google.com.

As with the shortcuts example you can put this file where ever you want on your computer. You can even create a shortcut to this file that can be placed on the start menu or task bar and you will not run into the issue previously mentioned because you will have a separate batch file for each website you want to open.

If anyone has any other tips or issues with the tips I have described above please comment. I should point out that if you haven’t noticed all of the previously mentioned examples are for use on a Windows PC and will most likely not work on a Mac, I honestly have no idea.