Cookie files are ordinary text files. Therefore, virtually any viewer or text editor that you have can be used to display and edit them. Since they are "ordinary" files, they can also be deleted.
Because cookie files are ordinary text files, you can browse them with virtually all text editor or word processor programs. Wordpad and Notepad immediately come to mind. From DOS, you can use the Edit command. All versions of Corel Word Perfect and Microsoft Word, as well as most other word processors, will accurately display these files. If you use any product that is an editor, to view your cookie files, be sure to exit without saving.
The caveats regarding editing these files ring loud, but are largely inaccurate. I frequently view my Cookies, editing those that I choose to. To date, I have not suffered any consequences and the World Wide Web still stands. Because I allow all cookies, I often find cookies from web sites that I do not recognize. Undoubtedly I was doing a search, stopped there for a moment, found nothing memorable and am unlikely to return. Obviously, there is no benefit to me for such a cookie to tie up space on my hard drive. If you are using Netscape Navigator, this justifies removing that specific cookie from the cookies.txt file. If you are using Microsoft Explorer, this calls for a delete.
I prefer to use the Edit command from DOS because I cannot forget to save the file in proper format. Edit knows only the DOS text format. If you use any program that saves in other formats, but also in DOS text (e.g., Corel Word Perfect or Microsoft Word), be sure that when you save the file that you save it in the DOS text format.
The individual cookies within cookies.txt are clearly discernable. While the warnings at the top of the file are loud, I have been ignoring them since cookies have been on the horizon. When you see a cookie you do not like, delete it. Modifying cookies is more complicated. In many cases, it is impossible to decipher the content. When that is the case, which is most of the time, I make my decisions based on the URL at the beginning of the cookie and either leave it alone or delete the entire cookie.
When done, save the file, making sure that you save it as DOS Text, ASCII DOS Text or whatever phrase your processor uses to output a DOS Text file. If you are not sure what your processor does, play it safe. Go to DOS and simply use the Edit command. It is straight forward and quite easy to use. If you do not like going to DOS, use Notepad. It also defaults to DOS Text files. If you have concerns regarding editing the cookies.txt file, make a copy with the name cookies.dup. Then edit the cookies.txt. If you are unhappy with the results, delete the cookies.txt file and rename the cookies.dup to cookies.txt. Have fun.
Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer start fine without a cookies file. Both, on startup, immediately generate one if none is present. Thus, it is perfectly safe to delete any, or all cookies, if that is your preference. Should you take this path, you will not be able to take advantage of the features of cookies like being presented with the initial screen that you prefer or not having to enter an ID and password each time that you access a protected web site. That is your choice.
Once you know where your active cookie file(s) is/are, you can place a delete command in any of several appropriate startup files and your cookie file will survive until the next startup of your PC, Windows or browser, or their shutdown. The preparation of such routines requires a higher than typical degree of skill and the specifics will not be discussed here. If your preference is to not have cookies, but do not enjoy the interrupts that your browser provides you when you do not allow it to automatically write all cookies, there are numerous products on the market to address this problem. Some of the products address other issues including cache content. The Cookies Links button below will give you the opportunity to identify some of these products.
The process of hiding cookies when they are not in use and then making them available to your browser upon demand is not very productive. The solution is complex and your cookies are exposed while the browser is active. Thus, the solution is not effective as anyone aware, can start your browser, switch to any viewer and then view, print or copy those cookies. If the process that reveals your cookies to your browser is sufficiently sophisticated, it is possible to setup a process where the cookies would only be revealed to you yet, others could start the browser.
I do not know of such a commercial product and the effort to create one on your own, is not
justifiable. Simply stated, while I see great benefits to cookies, I do not see this degree should
you be concerned about what your cookies might reveal. I would delete them and forget about it.
© 1997 - M Corby & Associates, Inc. - All Rights Reserved
Last Updated August 28, 1997 by Robert E. Johnston, CISSP