Internet Explorer 9 Beta Review


Whenever I get my hands on a new computer, or after reinstalling Windows, there's always a list of things to do, first of all being opening Internet Explorer 8 to download either Chrome or Firefox. And I'm not the only one. But why is it that we must replace IE with another option? Well, its usually covered with toolbars, making it extremely slow to load even Google. But even with said toolbars uninstalled, it just feels slow and sluggish when compared to Firefox, and downright pedestrian when compared with Chrome. Oh, and there are other (smaller) items, least of which is the download manager, which uses more RAM than the competition.

I've barely touched on the complaints, and it seems as though Microsoft has been listening. For months the company has been saying that Internet Explorer 9 (now available as a public beta, download from Microsoft) will solve those problems, and even more. Many improvements will come in speed - hardware acceleration has been talked about since November last year, but there other features, most notably the "Pinned Sites" and "One Box". So, with that said, does IE9 live up to its hype, and should you go and download it? Hopefully I can answer that question with this review.

User Interface

[image source: Endgadget]

Microsoft has answered our pleas to see more web, and as you can tell from the screenshot above, the new new minimalist design  truly focuses on the content. In fact, , Microsoft claims that with the new design,  more of a web page can be seen than in Firefox. It appears however that Chrome still has the edge,  allowing you to see slightly  more of a page, but in all essence, the difference is insignificant.

The address bar and back/forward buttons now move to the fore, with the menu bar being removed completely. It does look a lot like Chrome, something that Google is bound to be aware of. The compatibility view, refresh and stop buttons have been attached to the address bar, with dedicated favourite and tools buttons on the far right. An aesthetic worth mentioning is the changing colour of the back/forward buttons, which, for instance, change to red after a few seconds after launching Gmail. With its new look, IE9 has really matched the look of Windows 7, a feature that I cannot fault.

New Features

For all the cleaning that Microsoft has done, there are still many new features to be found in IE9. There are a variety of options that help make the surfing experience easier, while integrating browsing better with Windows 7, or, dare I say, Vista (no support for XP over here however, the demise is near). A summary of a few of the new features below:

  • Tabs - by no means a new feature, but Microsoft has added a few little tricks. The tabs can now be snapped out of place, and even if you are playing a video, detaching it doesn't lose your place as the video is constantly rendered. Taking (another) leaf from Chrome's book, there's the ability to close down one tab if a website begins to hang, as opposed to closing the entire browser. The new tab page shows frequently visited sites, and how much each site is visited. Byte Lounge was one of my most visited ;) 

  • Pinned Sites - not one of the most obvious new features, but it does come in pretty useful. Many people keep the same pages open all day long; Gmail, Facebook, Youtube etc, but mistakenly close them when they are together with a group of other open pages. IE9 now lets you sift out these site,s, and pin them directly to the taskbar, pulling the favicon so that it looks like a separate program.
  • One Box – The address bar in IE9 doubles as a search bar, bit it has even more features. Being a Microsoft product, the default search engine is  Bing, but there is the option to  install Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and many others through the Add-On page. Bing is growing on as a search engine, and keeping it as the default has its perks: typing in terms like "Weather AMS" brought up the temperature and conditions online for example.
There's a fair bit new over here, but the main question remains: should you continue switching to Chrome or Firefox everytime you move to a new PC? In my opinion: it is by no means mandatory anymore, at least not when the final release of IE9 is available. The new interface is clean, the feature set has been improved, and speed has seen a significant markup. It at a point where IE9 is a pleasure to use.

But is it worth downloading right now? Should you replace Firefox or Chrome? Well, that is entirely up to you. For what its worth, give the beta a test, there's nothing to lose. I still find Google Chrome to be a faster browser, and those looking for sheer speed will be happiest with Google's Product, yet with the new feature set, IE9 is going to make a very good contender at final release.

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