Internet Explorer 9 beta Tour
Sep 15, 2010
With all the attention paid to Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox in recent years,
it's easy to forget that Internet Explorer is still the World's most widely used Web
Meet the new beta for Internet Explorer 9
Internet Explorer 9, the latest version of Microsoft's browser, arrives in beta form Wednesday.
Among its improvements, it has better support for HTML5 and other Web standards, taps the
Here's a look at some of what you'll find in the IE9 experience.
New look for a new browser war
IE9's new look cribs heavily from other browsers that have gone minimalist. The search bar
has been removed, and the search features in the location bar are more robust than before.
The Command bar is now hidden by default, and its options have been folded into the Tools
menu. The Status bar is off by default, too.
There's also an updated New Tab landing page, one that favors favicons for easy
identification over screenshots for your most frequently visited sites. It also has links to
previous sessions, closed tabs, and InPrivate browsing.
More 'new tabs'
Mouse over one of your frequently visited sites to see a generalization, such as "most active",
of how often you visit it. One problem with the new tab page is that Microsoft undersells it a
bit. Using favicons instead of screenshots gives it a clean, unified look, but there's no easy
option to make it your default start page; you have to manually type "about:Tabs" in as your
Minimalist notifications, too
The interface isn't the only part of IE9 that's gone back to basics.
Notifications, such as the session recovery warning shown here,
appear at the bottom of the browser window and won't
"grab your focus" and prevent you from continuing to browse.
Perhaps too minimal?
Though there's no doubt that IE9 goes to great lengths to make the browser the
stage and not the play, anyone who prefers to run more than a couple tabs at
the same time will quickly see a problem in having tabs on the same level as the
location bar: cramping.
Merged Tools menu
The merged Tools menu could have become a
lengthy laundry list of options, but the new design is easy to use.
Midlevel options need work
On the other hand, midlevel options menus, such as tab management,
are lengthy and could have better layouts.
Location bar becomes the OneBox
With the removal of the search box, IE9 elegantly folds its features into the location bar.
You can navigate to a site, search for sites, or look at browsing history or favorites.
You can also change search providers at the bottom, which is a slick merge of the old
search bar functionality into the location bar. By default, the OneBox won't remember
your keystrokes. If you let it, though, you'll get additional search suggestions.
Favorites and Home in new locations
The Favorites and Home buttons have been pushed to new locations on the right side of the
interface, and Favorites has been redone in an attempt to make the feature more useful. The
connections to Feeds and History are certainly worthwhile, though.
E9 knows if an add-on is bad or good
Following up on a report from earlier this year that toolbars and other add-ons were a major
source of instability in Internet Explorer, IE9 keeps a stern eye on your add-ons and will warn
you when one is unnecessarily slowing down your browser.
Pinned sites is a new feature in IE9 that lets users pin Web sites to the Windows 7 desktop
taskbar. The pinned site's favicon becomes its taskbar icon, and IE automatically re-skins
itself based on the favicon's color scheme.
Pinned sites features
Developers who take advantage of the options available to them for Pinned sites can
customize the Windows 7 jump list for their site when pinned, or add in special features, such
as an unread count for Webmail or media player controls for streaming audio and video sites.
Pinned, but unbranded
This is what the Pinned sites feature looks like on a site that hasn't yet incorporated the
Tab process isolation is nothing new to IE, but IE9 makes a point of attempting to recover the
tab that's crashed. (Of course, it's not always successful.)
The big question:
Is the IE 9 Public Beta any good?