Internet Explorer Administration Kit 8 Makes It Easy to Customize IE 8

REVIEW: Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 may lag behind rival Web browsers such as Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Opera Software's Opera when it comes to some features, but IE 8 can't be beat when it comes to facilities for deploying customized versions across a company. eWEEK Labs' tests show that the free Internet Explorer Administration Kit 8, or IEAK 8, makes it easy to build highly customized versions of the Windows browser for employees.

When I tested Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, I found that it was a significant improvement over previous versions, but it lagged behind competing browsers-such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Opera Software's Opera-in some features and capabilities.

However, there is one area in which IE 8 has a big advantage over its competitors, especially when it comes to using browsers in corporate environments: The Internet Explorer Administration Kit makes it simple for any business to create highly customized installations of IE 8 and deploy them to employees seamlessly.

When it comes to building customized versions of a browser for business use, Microsoft IEAK 8 far surpasses the customization options for other browsers. There is a Firefox extension called CCK Wizard that allows for the creation of customized Firefox browsers, but this is pretty basic when compared with IEAK. Companies can also leverage software management platforms to customize and deploy browsers, but this adds cost and complexity.

Click here for a look at Internet Explorer Administration Kit 8 in action.

IEAK 8 is free for businesses to use, though the capabilities and license vary based on intended use. There are versions of the IEAK available for ISPs, Websites, software providers and businesses, and the permitted level of customization varies with each.

For this review, I used IEAK 8 Corporate Version, which provides the highest level of customization options available.

Easy to use

In tests, I found the kit to be very easy to use, and I was able to quickly build highly customized installations of IE 8 that I could deploy to employees.

The first thing to do when getting started with IEAK is to perform some customization of the version of IE 8 that you have running on the system with IEAK installed. In some instances-especially when it comes to search providers, add-ons and Favorites-IEAK will pull information from the IE browser on the same system. So a good first step is to make sure that the browser on that system has all of the add-ons, search providers and Favorites that you want to add to your custom install.

The next step is to fire up the Customization Wizard, which walks users through the entire process of building a custom IE 8 installation.

One somewhat tedious aspect of building custom IE installations is that you need to run the wizard for each different version of Windows that you need to support. This means that you might need to build custom installations for Windows XP, Vista and Windows Server 2003, and then different versions for each of these platforms for x86 and x64. However, this has more to do with IE itself than with IEAK.

One of the first steps in the wizard is choosing the platform the IE installation will run on. The deployment of the custom IE 8 installation can be done through CD-ROM, downloadable file (in .exe and .msi) or as a configuration file to be applied to systems that already have IE 8 installed.

Running through the full Customization Wizard can be a bit time-consuming, so I appreciated that one of the first screens let me choose which areas of the browser were to be customized. By deselecting browser features that would be untouched, I could greatly cut down on the number of steps in the wizard.

Another nice feature of IEAK 8 is Automatic Version Synchronization. By using this feature, I could make sure that my networked installation of IE 8 would always stay up-to-date with the latest versions and patches.