Explorer Bar Style Guide

This guide will help you design Explorer Bars to add to the Windows Internet Explorer user interface.

General Guidelines

Because Explorer Bars become a permanent part of the end user's browser, all Explorer Bars should add value to the user's overall Web experience and not just to a particular Web site.

For example, an Explorer Bar should never be used to replace or augment a Web site's frameset. Using Explorer Bars this way only affects the user's experience for a single site and does not improve overall Web browsing.

An example of a good way to use an Explorer Bar would be to display information that the user is interested in, like stock prices, using a horizontal Explorer Bar. Instead of having to navigate to an investment Web site, enter the stock symbols, and download the results at various times while the market is open, you could design an Explorer Bar that saves the user's favorite stock symbols, periodically downloads the data, and displays it. The user is then free to browse other sites on the Internet without having to stop and periodically check the stock prices.

Vertical or Horizontal

Now that you have an idea about how to improve the user's Web browsing experience, it's time to decide whether to use a vertical or horizontal Explorer Bar. The final decision is yours, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Vertical Explorer Bars should be used to display lists of items that can be navigated to.

    Vertical Explorer Bars are designed to improve the user's experience when navigating lists of information, like search results, lists of links, or other navigation UI. The Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 standard user interface has three vertical Explorer Bars: Search, Favorites, and History.

  • Horizontal Explorer Bars should be used to display information or provide communication functionality.

    Horizontal Explorer Bars allow for a more natural display of text and edit fields. Any display of textual information about an item, of meta data about the page the user is currently on, or of features that require a lot of reading or typing will work well in a horizontal Explorer Bar. Other applications, like chat programs, annotations of Web pages, or threaded discussions, could also work well in a horizontal Explorer Bar.


Because users will be familiar with how the default Explorer Bars in Internet Explorer look, feel, and operate, there is a definite advantage to following the style and behavior of existing Explorer Bars. Using system colors whenever possible and reusing familiar user interface elements of the default Explorer Bars will help users feel that your Explorer Bar is a part of Internet Explorer, not just something that was added on as an afterthought.

Related Topics

The following list contains links to topics related to Explorer Bars.