Internet Explorer 9 Beta (IE9 Beta) Review: It’s Great!

It was a big surprise to me as Internet Explorer 9 Beta (IE9 Beta henceforth) isn’t compatible with pre-Vista OS from Microsoft. I think this is an ill-sighted move from Microsoft when it wants to gain a bigger share (though it has the largest) in the browser market. At a time when Chrome, Firefox are all supporting their latest browsers to XP (the most used OS in India, almost all the cyber cafes run Windows XP).

Before going into details let me clarify my stand on ‘ill-sighted’ decision. India is still a place where every home doesn’t have a desktop (I am sure Indian households will skip desktop and jump directly into netbook/notebook era) and most of the users, mainly students, go to cyber café to surf internet. Cyber café, in most of the cases (from smaller towns like Patna to bigger ones like Delhi), have not updated their systems to even Vista let alone coming to Windows 7.

Overall the IE9 which is in beta phase looks quite good by design and is faster on performance with a lot of cool features, which I will talk later. At the first look it looks like copying Google’s fast evolving Chrome but as Time magazine quoted, Microsoft gives its best when it is running scary!

Design and feel:

A neat, clutterless interface goes very well with Microsoft’s latest OS Windows 7. It’s transparent, no extra toolbars (I don’t know why they existed), bigger ‘back’ button, necessary home and settings button below the min, max, close buttons make the browser look aesthetically pleasing. All the commands and menus are hidden and there is lot of browsing window!

The address bar doubles up as a search bar (and is customisable, keep dragging to make it bigger) which have Bing as the default search engine but one can choose Google as well. Another interesting thing is that the whole theme-colour of the browser changes as per the site you are surfing (that works only when you have ‘pinned’ the site on the task bar- which is a new feature). That means for facebook the Back-Forward button will be blue and for Times Of India it will turn into red! That’s cool!

Tabs:

Tabbed browsing remains and works better now. It follows Chrome with ten most frequently visited sites’ thumbnail showing up in ‘new tab’. The cool feature here is the status bar at the bottom of each thumbnail which will tell you the frequency of that site in categories like: very active, active etc.

The tabs can be ‘torn off’ to open in new window, they can be rearranged by just pulling and shifting them left or right to a designated place on the tab bar. New tab also gives you the option of InPrivate browsing right from that tab but will open a new window. It also has Chrome like ‘reopen closed tabs’ and ‘reopen last session’ which is good for frequent users of same group of sites.

Speed and performance:

IE9 is great as far as speed is concerned if compared to IE8 and even the current Firefox. In several tests conducted, it was at par with Firefox in one and went on to beat it some times! So that’s something to cheer. And my own experience says that it is really at par with Chrome.

Though at times the links don’t work and you will have to click it more than once but that can be forgiven because it is the first public beta. Another problem is that sites become stagnant for a while without letting you know what are they upto! I mean they must at least show that waiting ‘ring’. The bugs will surely be fixed before the final release.

It offers computer hardware –accelerated text, graphics and video which makes it faster. Now the content is played locally from the resources of your computer rather than the browser itself.

Another good thing is that you are given the option to choose whether you want ‘add-ons to run in a particular site or not. Less add-ons mean faster access.

IE9 doesn’t compromise on security and has done a lot to protect your system from phishing attacks or the malware infected sites. It warns you about the dangers the site can cause to your system.

New notification area:

Whether a pop-up is blocked, add-on should run or not or you have a download in progress, you can find it in a neat rectangular strip at the bottom of the browser with an ‘option’ button. The download manager has the option to ‘save’ (to default location), ‘save as’ or ‘save and run’ (for executable files). It also shows you the progress of the download in percentage.

Cool features:

Pinning a site to task bar: As soon as the site has completely opened (the waiting circle stops); you can pull the site by clicking the icon, left to the typed address, and dragging it to the task bar and it will get a separate button for one click access! What else, right clicking that icon anytime brings a list of options related to that particular site. If you have Facebook pinned, then the options include “news, message, events, friends”.

All controls and menu hidden: To bring them up, press ‘alt’ and they will appear.

Customisable address bar: The address-cum-search bar can be dragged to extend its length. But take care of the tabs as well!

Address bar suggestions: Once you start typing in the address bar, the default search engine starts suggesting you the words or URLs you might be interested into.

Technical part:

Microsoft has written the codes anew to get a faster performance. The crash of one tab doesn’t affect the other as the computer treats each tab as a separate window. It sports the latest HTML5 technology which doesn’t need Flash plug-in to play videos. And as already said, it uses your computer’s hardware to give you 3D graphics at faster and much more efficient speed than ever in a browser.

So that was a comprehensive review of the IE9 beta on the basis of my usage. I will be glad to hear from you people. The browser will be shipped with Windows 7 after the final release. It can’t be updated to the final release rather you will have to manually install it on your system running Vista or Windows 7.

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