Internet Explorer 8 Features Good But Do You Need To Switch?
I procrastinated for nearly two weeks before installing Microsoft’s latest browser upgrade. To be totally transparent, I never installed IE7 on my production systems because, after testing it, I wasn’t happy with it at all.
I’d been happily using IE6 and some competitor’s products like Firefox and Chrome at both the office and at home, and old habits are hard to break. There’s also the memory of an upgrade I did many years ago that broke my operating system causing me untold hours spent restoring files and other important information – did I mention I didn’t have a backup?
In essence, all browsers have gotten so good at delivering the basics that I find little reason to change. The frills are what sets each browser apart, but getting unique offerings in one means giving up features in another. However thrilling IE8’s new offerings may be, I will still keep Firefox or Chrome installed on my machine.
Most notable in Microsoft’s free browser are tools called Accelerators, which are designed to better mirror how people use the Web these days. Accelerators help you share content and blend services from various sites.
You can install Accelerators written by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook or any developer that wants to participate — no one needs permission from Microsoft. Using a mapping Accelerator, I can simply right-click on an address to launch an online map from Microsoft, Yahoo or Google or with a dictionary Accelerator, I can right-click on a word to get the definition from Dictionary.com, Urban Dictionary or Microsoft’s search engine.
There are Accelerators for e-mail, news stories, currency conversions, eBay auctions, searching through Facebook friends and more. Microsoft’s “Add-ons” Gallery shows more than 110 currently available and you can be sure the list will continue to grow.
IE8 also offers “Web Slices” to quickly alert users to updates on their eBay auctions, stock quotes, sports scores and other frequently viewed services. They appear on your favorites bar just like other bookmarks, but instead of static pages or text headlines, you get the latest photos and other goodies as well.
The new Microsoft browser also makes it easier to switch between search engines from the search box. And it offers a “private” mode during which IE8 doesn’t store the addresses of sites you visit or keep the small advertising data files called cookies.
Firefox lets me quickly find information with an “Awesome Bar” that offers suggestions as I type, based not only on previously visited Web addresses but also the Web page’s title, bookmarks and the descriptive tags I’ve added. Microsoft’s new address bar is an improvement from previous versions but doesn’t go as far.
And Google’s Chrome, which has a private browsing mode similar to IE8’s, lets me enter search queries and Web addresses from a single box, so I don’t have to pause before typing to remind myself which one to use. I’m not ready to give up on any of that yet.
IE8 Tabs Feature
One other notable IE8 feature is grouped tabs. Let’s say you’re on the home page of a news site and want to read a story without losing your place. You can right-click and open that story in a new tab next to your current one showing the home page. That was possible before, but now related tabs are given a common color, so tabs opened from that news site might be assigned green, while ones from Facebook might be yellow.
Still A Dominant Player
Internet Explorer is still the dominant browser, but Microsoft has been gradually losing share to Firefox and other rivals as these competitors innovate. As a result, Microsoft has had to come up with new ideas as well.
Users of Microsoft’s IE7 browser might consider an upgrade. Some sites won’t work with the new version, but it has an IE7 mode available for you to temporarily switch back. I upgraded from IE6 which allows me to use “compatibility mode” in case I encounter a website that doesn’t work. Note: I haven’t experienced this yet so I can’t tell you how it works.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not unhappy with the browser you’re already using, I don’t believe there’s a compelling reason to abandon it unless you’re still on IE6 as I was.
Let me know what you think – Did you upgrade? Are you planning to upgrade? What do you like and dislike about IE8. Post a message and keep the conversation going.