Thursday, 24 March 2011

Internet Explorer 9

The IE9 just came out of Beta, with an all new design and some new features, some of which we will be discussing today. Will IE9 be able to get it’s position back as everybody’s primary browser and become a household name? Let’s see!

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9
All new Design
IE 9 first of all has an all new design which you can see at your first look. Microsoft finally decided to shed some bulk off the Internet Explorer…
By default, the tabs are in the same row as the URL box, but you can change it by right clicking on the title bar and clicking “Show tabs on a separate row”
As mentioned, the interface is nearly identical to that of the IE9 beta. Its minimalist window leaves more room to the webpage contents than any other new browser, keeping controls to a single row and combining the address and search boxes into one. It's not as drastic, however, as Google's reduction of the interface to a single gear icon, and you can still enable IE's menus and toolbars, by right-clicking on the top window border.
Graphics Acceleration 
The IE9 also has some graphical improvements and speaking of graphics, the IE9 comes with Graphics Acceleration, which uses your graphic card resulting in richer video playback.
Internet Explorer also includes support for HTML5 resulting in a better web experience.
Tracking Protection & inPrivate Browsing
Ads that track your online behaviour using cookies aren't the worst problem on the Internet, but they are one of the more annoying ones. Internet Explorer 9 offers a tracking ad blocker similar to Firefox's AdBlock Plus add-on, except this one's built in.
You can watch this video to learn how to configure Tracking Protection.
How to configure Tracking Protection in IE9
IE9 also comes with inPrivate browsing which doesn’t store your browsing session and history to your computer and deletes all the cookies after closing the browser.
One Box
Internet Explorer team lead Dean Hachamovitch used to criticize Chrome's use of a combined address and search box, citing privacy concerns, but IE9 now has a single text box for addresses and search, too, called the One Box. Hachamovitch told me that IE9's version adds privacy, by letting you turn on an off the autosuggest feature of your search engine at will.
The IE9 One Box doesn't offer Chrome's brilliant Instant feature, which loads previously visited sites before you even finish typing their address, but at least it lets you choose among search providers at the bottom of its dropdown suggestions.
One welcome behaviour of the One Box is that after you enter a search and get your result page, the box doesn't switch to a URL, but instead your search terms remain there, in case you want to further refine it. And unlike in the IE9 beta, you can now enter searches like "site:site domain" into the One Box to limit results to a specific site.
IE9 Pinned Sites
Instead of trumpeting its own branding, IE9 gives the site you're visiting center stage. This is nowhere better demonstrated than in the new pinned-site feature. By simply dragging a webpage's icon down to the Windows 7 taskbar, you create a pinned site. This gives the site equal billing with an application. This is strongly reminiscent of Google's idea of every app as a Web app. With its pinned sites, IE9 goes further than Chrome in this regard. Chrome does have Web applications shortcuts, but they don't get IE9's OS integration. These include Windows 7 jumplists for sites that supply the necessary XML data in their code.
IE9 pinned sites not only get their own taskbar icons, but their favicon is used where a browser logo would normally be, in the upper left corner of the window, and even the back and forward buttons take on the color of the site icon. The logo and colors for IE9 pinned sites are automatically grabbed by the browser for display in the window border. If you navigate to a different domain, the icon remains the same as the original pinned site, which struck me as a bit disorienting. One final difference for pinned sites is that the Home button disappears from their menu bar.
A recent twist on IE9 pinned sited is that you can now add multiple sites to a pinned-site icon. Just open a new tab, right-click on the site icon, and choose "Add as a home page." Though I think that wording could be clarified and the feature made more obvious, the feature offers a convenient way to open a set of frequently visited sites.
Pinned sites are a big ace-in-the-hole for IE9, at least for Windows 7 users, and site owners can promote their sites for pinned treatment and offer buttons on their pages that pin a site automatically. Chrome's application shortcuts do have the advantage of giving the whole window to the site, but Microsoft's giving full app citizenship to sites is commendable.
Microsoft has improved tabs work in IE9, bringing them up to date with the competition's. IE9 lets you drag tabs out of and back into your browser window to create new windows, as other browsers have done for a couple years. It even does a couple cool tricks with dragging tabs to a new window: If you do this while playing a video, the video continues to play as you drag it. Also, when you drag to the left or right edge of the screen in Windows 7, the new browser window created fills exactly half of the screen. This is as it should be—adhering to Aero Snap in Windows 7—but other browsers don't do this.
You can now place IE9's tabs on their own row if you find you're opening too many to fit. The tab with the focus is now brighter, making it stand out. I quite appreciate that I can now close a tab without switching to it, as I can in every other modern browser. But this only works if the window was sized large enough—nearly full screen on a laptop. Since IE crams everything on one row—the address/search box, tabs, and controls—tabs can get mighty narrow. But there's some help for that: arrows appear on either side of the tab bar if you open too many tabs to display in the allotted space.
The new tab page helpfully shows your most frequently visited pages, but you can hide these if you'd rather not have everyone seeing some sites you frequent. The new-tab page also lets you reopen closed tabs or your whole last session, or you can star InPrivate browsing from it. Now there's also a "Discover other sites you might like" icon there and link at the bottom which encourages you to use the Suggested sites feature.
Tab isolation and Security, and Privacy
There's still a fairly widespread perception among Web users that IE has security problems, and we do occasionally hear about exploits that need to be plugged. But a report by the NSS Labs showed that IE8's SmartScreen filtering did the best job at thwarting socially engineered malware and phishing attacks (okay, the study was commissioned by Microsoft, but it is an independent lab). On the other hand, at the annual, pwn2own hacking contest, only Chrome wasn't penetrated, thanks to its total sandboxing. IE9 does run plugins in a sandbox, and adds ActiveX filtering for more safety.
Internet 8 started a trend of browsers running tabs in more than one process, to prevent a total browser crash if one bad site acted up. But IE8 bunched 3 or 4 tabs per process, while Chrome actually ran each tab—and each plugin—in its own process. IE9 now gets closer to this extreme: When I had 12 tabs open, there were 9 running processes, so figure two tabs per process and three for plugins.
Tab isolation & Security
Microsoft has done more than separate processes for tabs, though. They've added "hang recovery," for when a website script runs on forever, and crash recovery can either restore a bad-acting tab or reload a group of tabs to the last good point if the browser closes. In addition to the download manager's scanning for malware, IE's SmartScreen has been updated to block malicious content even when it's on a good page, such as an externally served malicious advertisement on a legitimate news page.
Performance and Compatibility
Speed was the reason so many turned away from Internet Explorer (and Firefox) to Google's Chrome. IE8 trailed Chrome on JavaScript benchmarks by orders of magnitude. IE9 rights that, with top performance among all current browsers on some tests. It also adds speed through its innovative hardware acceleration, which works for more than just 3D graphics. By precompiling JavaScript on a second CPU core, the browser can take performance up a notch.
In one measure of performance that's important to everyone—the time it takes to start up the browser—IE9 has nothing to worry about: I tested the big three browsers. After a reboot, IE9 took 3.5 seconds to start up, Chrome's 2.6 took seconds, and Firefox 4 took 6 seconds. Closing and restarting the browser without a reboot took IE9 1.1 seconds, Firefox 2.2 seconds, and Chrome .9 seconds.
IE9 now wins the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark, with 246ms, compared with 283 for Google Chrome. Microsoft has been accused of optimizing for this benchmark, but, as we'll see, the browser does well on other JavaScript measures, too (though this is the only one it wins).
It's Trim, It's Fast, and It's Secured, But Is It For You?
Microsoft reps told me that this browser had been the fastest adopted beta in the company's history and benefited from the most tester feedback by far. This should translate into fewer site-compatibility issues going forward. The browser also offers great speed, security and privacy tools, and support for much of HTML5's glories.
Though this is called version 9 of IE, in some ways it feels more like a version 1: it's a complete rebuild of Microsoft's browser. It still lacks some conveniences and frills found in other browsers, like themes and bookmark syncing. Some of these may come, but Microsoft may consider those features to be "the browser getting in the way."
IE9 is the result of a massive effort by a large team of super smart people, and huge number of beta testers. And it's an impressive, innovative app that I'm sure will come to benefit millions of Web users, especially once graphics-heavy sites are common. It's a no-brainer for those using IE8 on Windows 7 or Vista. Google Chrome 10 is my Editors' Choice among Web browsers, because it adds nifty tricks like Instant page display and syncing to already blazing speed and minimalist design—and brings that stuff to every currently popular operating system, including Windows XP.
Are you eligible for an IE9 upgrade
Unfortunately,  Windows XP users will not get the IE9 upgrade. Windows Vista and 7 will be getting the IE9 upgrade.