Back in October 2006, IE7 was released. Chances are your reading this page with it right now. (Maybe, maybe not, you know who you are). It had been 5 years since IE6 was released in August 2001 just two months prior to Windows XP’s release in October of that year.
It won’t be long before IE8 becomes available. Just yesterday, August 27, 2008, Microsoft made the second test version (Beta 2) available to the public. Please note this is still a test version. The purpose for releasing it is to get it out of the lab so people can try it in the real world and help Microsoft “shake out the bugs”. This is common practice in the computer and software industry. These test or non-final versions are called “Beta” versions. For example, Google Mail (Gmail) has been in Beta for over 4 years now, and still is today. See for yourself.
IE8 looks pretty much the same as IE7, but they smoothed its looks a bit, and put some new items under the hood. My favorite tool, the right-click. And if you ever wondered what that key is just to the right of the spacebar and ALT, you know, the one that looks like a tower with an arrow on it? That’s the right-click key. It does the same thing as the right mouse button. It brings up a shortcut menu.
Here’s a list of some of the new features in IE8.
Accelerators: Common everyday tasks can be performed faster and hassle free with the new Accelerators feature. For example, you’re looking at the address of a restaurant you’d like to go to, and you want to see a map of the location, just highlight the address and an arrow will popup over the highlighting. Click the arrow and choose the “Map” option to see a map of the location. Or you could choose the “Email” option to send it to a friend. Choose “Search the NY Times” to see if they’ve reviewed the restaurant. You’ll even be able to use accelerators with social networking sites such as Facebook. More accelerators will become available after IE8′s release. Visit the Accelerator’s Gallery for more information.
Instant Search: IE8 is linking with top search sites such as Live Search, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Amazon, Google, The NY Times and others. With Instant Search a list of suggested or similar searches will appear as you type. If a search suggestion matches what you were going to type, you can click on that suggestion to execute the search without having to finish typing. The results come from your chosen search provider and are influenced by your browsing history. Images will appear along with your search results, too.
Favorites, The Links Bar, and Web Slices: The Favorites and the Links bar has been a common feature on Internet Explorer for many years now. This is the row of buttons just under the address bar that list the names of web sites. Currently you can click “grab” the icon to the left of an address in the address bar and drab and drop it to the links bar. A little arrow will appear on the Links bar wherever you can drop it. That enables you to click the name associated with that web site to quickly jump to that site.
IE8 adds a new quick use feature to the Links bar. It’s called the “Web Slice”. If the page associated with that Link bar button gets updated, the button will become highlighted. Now you can click the button and a drop down window will appear revealing the “slice” of the page that has been updated. See the picture at right. (Read more about web slices at the IE8 Beta site.)
InPrivate Browsing: Ever wanted to erase your browsing history or cookies? With InPrivate browsing in IE8 all traces of your browsing activity can be erased just by closing the Internet Explorer window. Or you can set the Internet options (under Tools) to determine what information you’d like InPrivate browsing to control or conceal for you. I suppose parents will be able to disable this feature when their kids use the computer so you can keep tabs on how your children use the Internet.
SmartScreen filters: Fake or spoofed web sites, phishing schemes, and other attempts to trick the unwary will continue on the web, but IE8 has added features to protect you and make your browsing experience safer. One feature is called “Domain Highlighting”. This feature will apply boldface or highlighting to the main address (also known as an URL or domain name) of the site in the address bar. So if you think you’re looking at a Yahoo site, you can check the address bar to see if that’s true. The page might look like Yahoo, but does the address bar say Yahoo? (After all, my living room may be covered in copies of the Wall Street Journal, but that doesn’t mean I live in one of their offices.)
Other safety features include phishing and malware filters that block documented scams or infected sites. Microsoft’s update service will automatically update your browsers list of danger sites. This isn’t a substitute for antivirus software, and it’s not meant to be.
Compatibility mode: The internet is changing fast, and not even the web designers can keep up with it. SOme web sites might not work well with IE* as a result. With compatibility mode you can switch to IE7 mode to see the site as it would appear in the earlier version of Internet Explorer.
Microsoft has a series of video demonstrating the new features of IE8. Here’s a list of some of the avaiable videos you can view online.
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