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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First impressions: New beginnings for IE9

Internet Explorer9
Of late, Internet Explorer has taken a beating from the younger, brasher browser crowd. But Microsoft hasn’t given up yet, and the new IE9 Beta is out. Available as a free download, IE9 Beta is clean, lean, fast and slick. Probably the most obvious change in IE9 is the minimalist interface. According to Microsoft execs, the browser should now take a backseat to the website.

Take a look at the features, and you’ll see that IE has been learning from its competitors. Like Chrome, IE9 now features a unified search and address bar; the default search provider is Microsoft’s Bing, but you can always add more (and make it the default too).

Like Chrome, Opera and Safari, IE9 Beta shows you a thumbnail view of recently visited sites, but adds a small indication of how actively you’ve been using that site. This feature can be turned off too. But the biggest change in IE9 is a new type of bookmarking. You can now open a website and drag the tab down to the taskbar to ‘pin’ it there. Then onwards, clicking on the icon in the taskbar brings up a new window to the website.

Right clicking on the icon will bring up a contextual menu, specific to that site (for example, links that can take you directly to sub sections in that site). IE9 also features better GPU acceleration. So if your PC has a dedicated graphics card, you’ll notice speed improvements.

Unfortunately, IE9 Beta is only available to Windows 7 & Vista users. Why Microsoft chose to intentionally shut out the mass of Windows XP users is baffling, but reports suggest it could be because Windows XP does not support DirectX10 and hardware acceleration, some of the main features of IE9.

By that logic, the final version will never be available to Windows XP users. Microsoft also probably sees it as another way to push Windows XP users into upgrading to Windows 7. How kindly Windows XP users take to this tactic remains to be seen.

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