Internet Explorer 9 Beta
Microsoft released the first beta version of Internet Explorer 9 in mid-September, 2010. It's the first major upgrade to IE in about two years - and, it seems, the first real improvement since the late 1990s! Here's the scoop on the upcoming IE9 browser, and how you can take it for a test drive...
What's New in Internet Explorer 9?
Microsoft got lazy when the only real threat to its desktop hegemony, Netscape, effectively died several years ago. With over 90 per cent of the browser market, there was not much incentive to make meaningful improvements to IE. So-called "major upgrades" IE 7 and IE 8 don't really add much to the browsing experience, and they are rife with glitches that drive users and Web site developers nuts. But over the past three years, competition arose again to light a fire under IE's developers.
In 2008, the upstart Firefox started moving up and over the 20% market share line, by offering a speedy browser with innovative features, a reputation for enhanced security, and an array of popular add-ons to enhance the browser experience. Google also entered the browser market with its Chrome browser: smaller, faster, more standard-compliant than IE. That got Redmond's attention. IE 9 beta is a marked improvement over all previous versions, and it's worth a look even if you're a diehard Firefox or "anything-but-Microsoft" user.
IE 9 works only with Windows Vista and Windows 7; if you are still clinging to XP, you are out of luck. The IE 9 download file is about 19 MB, and when you start installing it the package downloads even more components. You will have to restart your computer to complete the installation.
Imitation is the sincerest form of software development at Microsoft. Earlier versions of IE shamelessly ripped off Netscape and Firefox's best points, and IE 9 is a Google Chrome wannabe. That's good, actually. Microsoft has built a faster, simpler, less confusing browser in the Chrome tradition.
Those intrusive toolbars with their gigantic buttons have shrunk, leaving more screen space for viewing Web sites. Instead of two text boxes at the top, IE 9 combines URL address and search in a single text box.
More New Features in IE 9
You can drag a tab to the taskbar (or "superbar" as Microsoft prefers to call it in Windows 7) and the URL of the site displayed in the tab gets pinned to the taskbar, a convenient link to your favorite fantasy sports league, stock portfolio, or whatever you check frequently. A new feature called Jump Lists lets you hover over a pinned URL's icon and select links even deeper in the site; for example, a pinned Amazon.com icon might harbor links to your account, wish list, or shopping cart.
The back-end code of IE has been totally overhauled and cleaned up. This is the speediest browser Microsoft has ever released, and there are user-controllable features to speed it up even more. For example, you can view exactly how much time each add-on adds to IE 9's startup time, and disable any number of add-ons. (You can turn them on again as needed.) Also, tabs have been isolated as separate processes, so if there's a crash caused by bad code on one Web page it won't bring down the entire browser.
HTML 5 is supported in IE 9 much more completely than in previous versions. This helps Web developers design sites using the latest HTML features without worrying about browser compatibility (except for diehard users of legacy browsers).
The "final" version of IE 9 isn't expected until 2011. Until then, you may want to play with beta versions to get a look at the future of Web browsing. Just remember that beta means "test version," and if you scan the online forums for reports of how IE 9 works in the real world, you'll find that it doesn't render some pages properly, or it may crash under certain circumstances. You may even have trouble reverting from IE9 to an earlier version of Internet Explorer.
That's normal for beta software, so you shouldn't use it in your everyday work environment. A safer way to try out the IE9 beta is to install it in a virtual machine, on a separate computer that can be reformatted if necessary, or in a sandbox environment such as Spoon.
Have you tried the IE 9 beta? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 27 Sep 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Internet Explorer 9 Beta (Posted: 27 Sep 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved