Internet Explorer 9 Beta1 has just been released for download
To summarize: WOW!
Performance & standards
IE9 is quick. Not just a bit quicker than IE7/8. I mean “Holy cow, Batman, you just shredded the tires on the Batmobile” quick. It is as quick as IE7 is not.
IE7 and IE8 were both good releases that focused on users’ safety and security, stability, but they only made minor improvements to IE’s performance and standards compliance. And all the while, Firefox, Chrome and Safari continued to make rapid progress in making their browsers markedly faster and more standards compliant.
However, it looks like with Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft might not just have caught up with the competition, but it might actually leapfrog them!
But a tech preview of the rendering & script execution capabilities of a new browser are only part of the story: The browser’s user interface and features are just as important.
As Ed Bott said – I’ll leave it to others with the time and tools to generate the inevitable perf comparisons, but I can honestly state that IE9’s performance surprised me - in my testing, IE9 is easily as fast as Chrome and markedly faster than Chrome, Firefox or Safari on graphically-intensive sites.
Less is more - the new IE9 User Experience
Let’s face it, IE has been looking a little tired and dated ever since Google out-Apple’d Apple and released Chrome with its minimalistic … well … “chrome”. Out went the toolbars, search boxes and UI gadgets and in came the single combined address & search box:
Here’s IE9: You have to squint to see the difference between Google (above) and IE9 (below)!
I love the fact that Microsoft appear to be following Google’s lead and reducing the IE shell to the minimum “chrome” necessary for most users. Many of IE’s traditional features are still there if you want to turn them on, but Microsoft is opting for simplicity and cleanliness by default.
IE9 is also littered with a number of important features that I encourage you to explore:
Navigate to a page. Any page. Now open another page in a different tab. Now open a new tab, go to YouTube and play a video. Decide that you want to watch the video while you’re reading one of your other pages.
Now click the YouTube tab and drag it off to a different portion of your screen (or different screen if you have more than one monitor). Notice that your page drags smoothly, the video continues uninterrupted and doesn’t miss a beat.
It still amazes me how few people know how to do this: Open a page. Any page. Now press and hold your CTRL key while you scroll your mouse wheel backwards and forwards. Notice that your page zooms smoothly in and out, all elements remain where they should be. All text renders properly …
… even when you zoom all the way in:
Look at how clean that text is even zoomed in THAT far!
Aside: Hey, Amazon, you DO know that you don’t need to use bitmaps for your headings, right? I mean, the <hn> tags are there for a reason, render more cleanly and require less bandwidth for you and your customers. Just sayin’
Internet Explorer 8 introduced full-page zoom, but it didn’t work as well as this, many controls didn’t render properly when you zoomed in, etc. It’s flawless in IE9
Storing and managing browser Favorites can be a real pain. Over time you just end up collecting a huge catalog of links which, if you’re anything like me, you often forget about and rarely use. I tend to use a small number of sites very frequently. Wouldn’t it be great if you could pin your favorite sites to your Task Bar? Now you can:
Open a page. Click and drag the page’s icon in the left of the address bar …
… and drop it into your taskbar:
Now your pinned website will appear in its own icon on your taskbar …
… and IE9 will reopen your new pinned web page in its own IE9 browser window color coded to the primary color of your pinned site’s icon – red in this case:
If you’re a site owner, you can add metadata to your site that IE9 uses to not only name your site and its hover-over tooltip, but also provides you a way to specify any number of site-specific “tasks” that appear as shortcuts in your pinned site’s context window (right click on your pinned site):
If you’d like to delve further, I can recommend reading the following:
User Experiences: Site-Centric Browsing on Windows
IE9’s Page Content Hardware Acceleration
Putting sites at the center of the browsing experience
For some great in-depth reviews of IE9, go see what Ed Bott @ ZDNet, Joanna Stern @ Engadget and Paul Thurrott have to say about IE9 Beta1.
This is only Beta1. Can’t wait to see how
Post feedback on what you think of IE9 so far. Do you like it? Do you think MS have simplified IE9 too much? Is IE9 fast enough for you? If not – where is IE9 too slow?