Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 review. Well, a big part of Windows 7 (you can read "My Windows 7" blog post here) will be the new version of Internet Explorer. Personally I'm a Firefox user, but I always like to try out new technology, and being as Microsoft has a 70% market share with Internet Explorer, their new release is worth checking out.

The basics:

The rendering is improved over Internet Explorer 7, though it's still not as fast as Firefox3. Specifically the one thing that nags me is opening a new tab, this happens seemlessly in Firefox and there's no real reason for a hangup in Internet Explorer 8, but just as in version 7, there's a tiny delay. Web page rendering is fast though, it's not unusable by any means and it's still only in beta.

Speaking of rendering...

Internet Explorer 8, aside from it's aesthetic, has a different rendering engine than Internet Explorer 7. As you can see from the picture of visiting myspace, the page is out of alignment. This made me think about a few things, especially when I put my web developer hat on and wonder what new "standards" I'll get to learn to make my web sites IE8 compliant. Don't fret there is a fix, but why does there have to be a need to have a fix in the first place? I don't understand the benefit I'll get from Internet Explorer 8 and it's new way of rendering web pages. I konw the effort is there to display the pages faster, but if Firefox can do it without causing alignment issues, why can't Microsoft?

The compatibility button...

You'll have to click on the image to see an enlarged view, (just hit back to return) there you will see to the right of the URL, next to the refresh and stop buttons is a picture of a page with a tear through the middle of it. This enables Internet Explorer 8 compatibility mode for a specific web site. I had to click this for myspace, and here is the result:
So, that wasn't really that bad, just the click of a button and all the sudden IE8 is in IE7 emulation mode and myspace displays correctly. There is also another fix for web developers, just add this meta tag:

meta equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=EmulateIE7"
(source: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/952030)

This will pretty much tell Internet Explorer 8 to emulate IE7 while rendering the page. Microsoft will also have a running list of web sites, the list will be made of web sites that need to run in compatibility mode, when IE8 checks the list it will render the page in emulation mode. Every time you engage compatibility view, Internet Explorer 8 adds the site to a compatibility list, you can get to this list by going to Tools > Compatibility view settings. Seems like a decent amount of work went in to getting Internet Explorer 8 to emulate IE7, which just gets me back to what I wrote earlier - why the change?

Suggested Sites...

IE8 comes with a "Suggested Sites" favorite (the link/favorite bar wasn't enabled by default in the beta) icon on the link bar. This has been somewhat novel so far, but I'll add more later if I get addicted to it. It operates pretty much like the Google "related" operator, which is pretty much just giving you a list of relevant web sites to the page you're viewing. For example, while I edit this post on the blogger.com domain, the Suggested Sites feature listed some other popular blogging web sites.

Developer tools...

Within the Tools menu, is a menu item for developer tools. It's not too shabby, I prefer the HTML Tidy plugin for Firefox, but this isn't bad. I won't review the entire section, but it comes with what you'd expect. You get your info about the page you are viewing, HTML tags split between head and body sections, CSS markup, etc. As a web developer, I can see this come in handy for sure. Though, I probably won't change my habits too much (I'll try though!).

For a beta 2 Internet Explorer 8 so far isn't so bad. Like I said, I'm a Firefox user, but out of the box, if I never used Firefox before I wouldn't go looking for a different browser if this is what I started using. It's fast and clean and fits nicely in to Vista & Windows 7. (I always thought IE7 felt out of place installed on XP). Though, there is still some work to be done, as I wrote this review out on blogger, IE8 locked up on me! Go figure right?


  1. I was quite enthused to find that finally I could rely on a site rendering the same whatever browser I used - I think the problem is all those sites who've adjusted for IE7 quirks that don't seem to work with IE8 in it's standards mode - hence the horrible 'compatibility' view.

  2. I think IE8 is really bad. I do IT support for Small business and Home user. You would not believe the kind of problems I encounter every day with IE8. In the beginning i tried to fix , but that normally caused other IE8 problem. Now I just install Firefox for the user and know that the problem is sorted...