Monday, March 23, 2009

Internet Explorer 8 review

OK, being the brave intrepid Microsoft Fanboy that I am I put Internet Explorer 8 on both my home and laptop machines. The great thing - I haven't been disappointed. Oh yes - you will read in the news all the "bad things" about Microsoft, but let me tell you some good things about IE8:

  • The new browser is faster - it takes less time to load, less time to load pages, and less time to render. All in all it operates much more quickly than IE7
  • It is one of the first browsers ever, and Firefox and Chrome are included here, that provides a "compatibility mode" so that you can essentially fool a website, and the browser, into operating like an older version so that you can view sites that might have been specially coded to work with IE 6 or 7. It also allows you to link into a central database of known sites that are not compatible, and automatically switch modes so that your sites don't break. This is INCREDIBLY user friendly and a hop skip and jump above all the rest of the browsers out there. User's number one complaint on browser upgrades is that they break some sites. This utility essentially fixes that complaint. Site doesn't render well? Just switch compatibility mode.
  • It's suggestion mode is better than Google Chrome, IE or Firefox in that it suggests both items from your browsing history (first) and items from search (second) as possible URL completion targets. It's like the SEARCH bar in Vista for web, and it's quite powerful. You'll find yourself typing full urls much less frequently.
  • It seems to be compatible with all the toolbars I've previously downloaded (Google, etc.), with no messing around or tweaking required on my part. Similarly external programs that rely on browser libraries (Autotask and others) appear to work just fine with the new versino.
  • The "Suggested Sites" feature is pretty cool if you're just browsing around and looking at stuff. Very handy for finding other sites with similar material.
  • The new equivalent of "View Source" allows you to show all sorts of developer information, a DOM Tree, validation mode in both IE 7 and 8, as well as a "quirks mode". The validation mode will overlay to show you issues right within your pages, making fixes easier and providing for CSS/HTML debugging. Sure you could get all that stuff with an add-in before, but isn't it way better to have it built in? There are some cool options to show (right on the screen overlaying the content) image sizes, dimensions, etc.
  • You can now easily use the add-on's to (for instance) post web content to a gmail message (or hotmail) so you don't need an email client loaded to forward things.
  • The product provides an "incognito mode" similar to Chrome, but unlike chrome this can be managed using GPO's at the policy level to be disabled in corporate environments.
  • Speaking of manageability - the new browser can be managed right down to the feature mode using GPOs. Turn on and off view source browser, incognito mode and other features easily.
  • I'm not sure why they had to rename feed readers as web slices but oh well. The powerful capabilities of an RSS feed reader are built into the product and continue to integrate well with Outlook.

All this and it has not crashed once - not on my 32 bit Vista Laptop or my 64 bit Vista desktop. All in all I think this is a great improvement over IE 7. It's not quite Chrome for speed, it's not quite Firefox for flexibility, but it's got enough of both products to be a serious contender and is a welcome replacement for the aging IE 7. All in all I give this product a big "thumbs up".

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