The Active Network


Internet Explorer Tips

What are Channels?

"Active Channels" is one of the coolest new features in Internet Explorer 4.0. Channels are Microsoft's form of webcasting or "push" technology, which was started with PointCast. However, IE's channels let you do much more and are built on the Channel Definition Format (CDF) and Dynamic HTML.

When you subscribe to one of the many channels out there, you specify how and when it's updated. If you want to learn more, here's a page on that tells you more.

Also, for more information on the CDF spec, be sure to check out this address:

The Basics

Channels are part of the Active Desktop, which in turn is a component of the Windows Desktop Update, also new to IE4.0. When you first started up Windows with IE4 installed, you probably noticed the "channel" bar on your Desktop. From here (or the Channels folder in Favorites, or the Channels pane in Explorer), you can access the channels or groups of channels. For instance, when you choose "lifestyle & travel," IE is launched in a full screen view, giving you a selection of various built-in channels.

If you go to a channel you haven't subscribed to yet, you'll have the opportunity to "Add Active Channel" or "Add to Active Desktop." When you choose to Add to Active Desktop, you'll be placing the channel directly on your Desktop all the time.

Other than viewing, there's lots of other stuff you can do to extend your power over the channels :). For instance, either in the Channels pane in Explorer (accessed by clicking the Channels icon in the IE coolbar), right click any channel you see. From here, you can change the channel's properties, subscribe to it, or open it.

You have a wide range of options when you subscribe to a channel; for instance, you can have IE tell you when updates occur, or you can have IE notify you of updates (even by email and with a red gleam on the icon). You also have complete control over when updates occur. To try out all this for yourself, just right click a channel, and choose Subscribe. From there, you can click the Customize button for even more fun :).

What more could you want? More channels, of course! There are literally hundreds of channels available, and the best place to look for them is at the Microsoft Channel Guide, whose icon is at the top of the Channel bar; or, just go to this URL: (BTW, be sure to add the ActiveIE channel when you're there!)

When you're surfing the net, there's a good chance you'll run into other sites with Active Channels; those in the Channel guide will have an "Add to Active Channels" graphic on their pages to make it easier for you to subscribe.

Making your own Channels

Now that you have a general understanding of channels, you want to make your own, right? Don't worry, it's easy to get started!

Check out Microsoft's Site Builder Network and Workshop site to get started ... there's even a wizard to help you get started!:

And here are some more detailed instructions:

If you think you're up to it, you can even put your channel in the Microsoft Channel Guide! To be eligible for this, you must be a Site Builder Network member, use CDF, include Dynamic HTML, add the "Add to Active Channels" logo, and more. For more on how to apply, see this URL:


Well, that's it for this rather large tip. If you've got more questions, be sure to explore Microsoft's IE4 site ( as well as the Site Builder Network site ( and email me Byron here at ActiveIE! Have fun, and enjoy IE4!


This site is not related to the Microsoft Corporation in any way. Windows and the Windows logo are trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation. ActiveWindows is an independent site. The information and sources here are obtained from series of hard work & research.