March 21, '09; BANGALORE: Microsoft launches version 8 of its browser, adding some cool new tools
Anand Parthasarathy tries out the new IE8
Internet Explorer, the browser that can be found on 7 of 10 computing platforms has just released a new -- 8th -- version, adding some cool new tools of its own, while bridging the gap with some competing browsers, by adding features they touted--- which is as it should be: the browser business should be called 'catch me if you can', the advantage enjoyed by one browser, rarely remains exclusive within the life of one release: the others smartly clone the feature and level the playing field (for now).
IE 8 can be freely downloaded from
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/default.aspx and unlike the early beta stages, there are now separate versions for Vista 32 and 64 bit as well as Windows server and XP.
IE7 users will like the new Web Slices feature which allows one to view selected snippets from other pages rather than going for the full page. You have to go to the IE add ons page (you will land on this page during initial set up of IE8) and add the required slice from the subject selections offered -- say Sify news or Economic Times -- to your Favourites box. However this requires the web page publisher to have done some special programming to enable the feature. For Indian users Microsoft has partenered wirth among others, bharatmatrimony.com, economictimes.com, games2win.com, in.com, indiatimes.com, naukri.com, msnindia.com, rediff.com, sify.com, timesofindia.com, webdunia.com and zapak.com to provide focused ' desi' content.
Another useful feature is Accelerator. This performs additional functions on selected text on a web page. If you rest your mouse pointer over each Accelerator, you'll see a preview of the information or content. In many cases, the preview will tell you what you want to know, such as a word definition or translation. If not, click the Accelerator and Internet Explorer will open the web service using the text you've highlighted. I realised that this is not, as I had assumed from the documentation, a universal feature but one that this selectively available when installing IE8 from a list of add ons. The same list also enables Visual search in some sites like Google and Wikipedia -- saving you having to do separate text and image searches. But, it will not work unless specially catered for by the site.
One catch up feature in IE that others have implemented is InPrivate Filtering, allowing you to surf without leaving an 'audit trail' of where all you have been. Also promised is Crash recovery -- if a tab crashes, it will recover automatically and restore any information you may have entered on, say, a form. I could not check this feature because I couldn't simulate a crash when I needed to.
Many of the features will be of value to existing users of IE and a huge incentive to upgrade. But speed wise the browser might still seem slower than Firefox or Google's Chrome. The fact remains that IE is favoured by some 67 percent of Internet users, compared to about 20-22 percent for Firefox, 7-8 percent for Safari ( which is now available for Windows as well as Mac) and less than 2 percent for Chrome. So clearly the new improvements to Internet Explorer will still make a significant difference to the browsing experience of the vast majority of Internet surfers.