People talk a lot about the "browser integration" features in Internet Explorer 4 and Win98. But some of the new feature have nothing at all to do with browsers or browser-like functionality, as Microsoft likes to call it.


Here are a few neat tricks -- some of them never before printed anywhere -- that let you customize Windows (either Win95 with IE4 or Win98) in some powerful ways. Here's how to clear your desktop of all those pesky icons. Open My Computer and select Folder Options from the View menu, then click on the View tab. 


Find the item "Hide icons when desktop is viewed as a Web page" and select it, then click OK. Drag each icon on your desktop to your Quick Launch Toolbar (if you don't have one, right click on the taskbar and select Toolbars/Quick Launch). Finally, right-click on your Desktop and make sure the item Active Desktop/View as a Web page is selected.


One of Win98's most powerful hidden gems is a universal command line, where you can launch programs, open folders, go to Web sites and more. Right-click on the taskbar and select Toolbars/Address. When the Address box shows up on your toolbar, click and hold on the word "Address" and drag it to the top of your desktop. Right-click on it and select Always on Top. Now, when you maximize applications, they'll expand between your Address bar at the top and your taskbar at the bottom.


One example of how you can take advantage of the universal command in windows 95/98 you can quickly address an e-mail message, even if your e-mail application isn't running, by typing (using my e-mail address as an example) mailto: and pressing the enter key. Note that this also works in the Run command line (Start button/Run) or, of course, in your browser Address box.


Here's another neat tip: The two main hard-wired Win98 desktop icons, My Computer and Network Neighborhood, will magically transform into Toolbars if you drag them to one of the four edges of your screen and let go. You can "stack" the two on the same edge, drag the new toolbars to the Taskbar or drag them to the center of the desktop to create floating Toolbars.