Geek Note: Back in June, I published a question from Spouse Peripheral about the wisdom of letting browsers store passwords when logging on to secure websites such as banks or credit card sites. This has been a rather hot topic ever since, and has generated a litany of follow-up questions, all of which are picking at a slightly different aspect of the issue of browser security. I haven’t had this much traffic on an issue since the question “Why are there red X’s in my e-mails instead of pictures?” seemed like it just wouldn’t die back when the column first started. But, by all means, keep ‘em coming if you have more questions, and I’ll cover them all. Meanwhile, S.P. actually did go to my website after I jokingly her to do so last time. Here’s her question:
Q: When leaving a website, especially when doing banking etc, is it best (more secure) to log out or "X" out? Sometimes I am in a hurry and think back that maybe I should have logged out.
– Spouse P., Niceville
A: It seems like the answer to this would be obvious, but enough people have asked that I guess it’s not. In all cases, it is always going to be the most secure to log out of whatever sites you are on before closing the browser. That ensures that open sessions are actually terminated. Depending on the website, merely closing the browser without logging out could allow someone who comes along after you to visit the same site and find themselves exactly where you left off, whether that be looking at webmail, doing some online banking, shopping at your favorite e-tailer, or any of a whole host of other things that you simply don’t want someone who is not you to be doing using your credentials. So, when you’re done, log-off first, then close the browser window.
Q: Please settle an argument between me and a co-worker. What is the difference between the “Apply” button and the “OK” button? Don’t they do the same thing? Do I need to push them both when closing a box?
– Darryl A., Crestview
A: Wow! A good, old-fashioned “how does this feature of Windows work?” question! These don’t come along too often. The short answers to the latter two questions are “sort-of, but not really” and “no.” That will become clearer when I answer the first one.
To anyone who can’t tell what Darryl is referring to, he’s talking about the classic dialog box that has been the applications’ method of communicating with the user of Windows programs from the very beginning. These boxes do everything from providing a message or error along with an “OK” button, to asking a simple Yes/No question, to providing controls for configuring program features and appearance. Usually, only that last type of dialog box that has a button labeled “Apply”. So what does it do? Well, clicking Apply takes all the settings in the dialog, and does what it says – it applies them to the program. That’s also what the “OK” button does, but there’s a subtle difference. Clicking the “Apply” button leaves the dialog box open so you can make further changes if you want. Clicking “OK” applies the changes, but then closes the dialog box. So, OK and Apply do similar functions, but are not the same. And you absolutely, definitely don’t need to click them both. I’ve watched people do that for years, and wondered why. One person that I asked explained that he was taught that the settings in the dialog box wouldn’t “stick” if he didn’t click “Apply” first. His evidence was that the Apply button grayed-out after he clicked it. What was really happening was that after clicking Apply, there were no new changes waiting to be applied, so the program grayed-out the button, because clicking it again would have had no effect.
So, that mystery is solved. Do you have any other head-scratchers about how Windows works? Send ‘em along — I love answering this kind of question.
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