Is Internet Explorer 8 for you?
Mar 30, 2009, 16:41 GMT
Washington - After a long gestation period, Internet Explorer 8 has been born. Available now world-wide for downloading, the most popular web browser tacks on a few new features but largely aims to improve upon areas that most consider essential: speed, ease of use, and security. Does it succeed, and is it stable enough to warrant installing on your PC? Read on for some answers.
Q: What's new about Internet Explorer (IE) 8?
A: IE8 introduces a feature called Accelerators, which is a response to what Microsoft says is one of the main actions that users perform in web browsers today: copying information from one page to paste into another. For example, today if you find the address of a restaurant you'd like to visit, you probably paste its address from one website into a mapping site so that you can get directions. Or you might copy a passage of text on a Web page into an e-mail message that you send on to a friend or colleague.
Accelerators can automate this process for you. In IE8, whenever you highlight a section of text on a web page, an Accelerator icon appears at the end of the selection. Click it, and you'll see a menu containing a list of 'accelerators,' which are applications or websites that can do something with the text you highlighted.
IE8 comes pre-configured with Microsoft-branded accelerators, including Live Search, LiveMaps, Hotmail, and others. But you can configure your own accelerators quite easily. The only downside is that it does not appear to be possible to get rid of the Accelerator icon entirely if you'd like to have nothing to do with the feature.
InPrivate browsing - a response to Google's Incognito feature in its Chrome web browser - is also new. In a nutshell, InPrivate gives you a browsing session in which no tracks are left of websites that you visit or text that you type into form fields. In justifying the feature, Microsoft likes to use the example of someone who might wish to shop in secret for a special birthday gift. Others will no doubt find different uses for it, but it's important to note that InPrivate does not disguise your computer's Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is the number that uniquely identifies each computer connected to the Internet.
Web Slices is another major feature introduced in IE8. Available only with sites that are 'Web Slice enabled,' this feature will constantly monitor sites that you visit frequently in search of updates. When updates to the site appear - whether it's new e-mail messages, a change in status to an auction you're monitoring, or a new blog entry - you'll be notified by means of a Web Slice icon in the new Favourites bar, which features quick-access buttons for Favourites, Web Slices, and Suggested Sites.
There are a host of other, smaller feature additions or improvements in IE8. Pressing Ctrl-F, for Find, for example, no longer bring up a Find dialog box that hovers over the web page. Instead, as with Firefox, Find is embedded atop the web page so that nothing potentially obscures the text on the page as you're searching. A new SmartScreen Filter helps to protect you against Web sites that are known perpetrators of phishing scams. So even if you fall prey to a bogus e-mail in which you click a link that takes you to a scamming site, SmartScreen may save the day.
Q: Is IE8 compatible with all of my Web sites?
A: Microsoft developers built a new rendering engine - which is used to decode and display web pages - for IE8. The goal was both greater compatibility and improved speed, and the latter has certainly been attained. IE8 is both subjectively and quantitatively faster than previous versions of Internet Explorer and can go neck-and-neck with the fastest web browsers available today.
Complete compatibility with all websites, however, was a goal that was harder to attain, in part because some websites have been built to work around the bugs and idiosyncrasies present in previous versions of IE, which were not always compliant with web standards. IE8 is more compliant with web standards, but the ironic effect of this is that some sites may not display properly in IE8.
Microsoft's solution to this issue was to introduce a 'compatibility view,' which, when engaged, will almost always fix any display problems you encounter on specific websites. You'll find the compatibility view in the Tools menu of IE8, and there's also a compatibility view button that can appear to the right of Web addresses in the Address bar.
Q: If I install IE8 and don't like it, can I get IE7 back?
A: Yes. If you find that IE8 is not to your liking, you can uninstall it through the usual Add/Remove Programs (XP) or Programs and Features (Vista) tool. When you do so, your previous version of IE will be restored, as will all of your settings.
However, you cannot run both IE7 and IE8 simultaneously on the same computer.
Q: Can I run IE8 and Firefox on the same computer?
A: Yes. There`s no limit to the number of different browsers you can run on one machine. You can have IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and others all installed on one machine to see which one you like best.
Q: Where can I download IE8?
A: For the version most appropriate to your location, just open any search engine and type 'ie8.' The download page should be the first one you see.
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