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Tech Take-Apart
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8
by kp

Have you taken the plunge and upgraded to IE8 yet? If you are like me, I wait patiently for the 1.1 version before installing. So, after Microsoft announced the beta version of Internet Explorer 8 last February, I was anticipating trying some of the new features offered in this revamped update of Internet Explorer. Some of the noted new highlights are Accelerators, SmartScreen filter, InPrivate Browsing, Compatibility View and Add-Ons. Microsoft also promised a faster browser to make surfing more efficient.

The first thing about the new Internet Explorer that impressed me was its speed. The browser loaded web pages slightly faster than IE7 version. This is partly due to the number of concurrent connections that the browser allows - IE 7 allowed 2 or 4, IE 8 permits up to 6. Of course, performance is also affected by processor speed and network connection.

IE8 Accelerator
Highlight text and the Accelerator icon appears.

Another new feature for faster browsing is Accelerators, shortcuts to commonly-used used web services based on highlighted content. For example, when you select text on a web page, the Accelerator icon appears and gives you the option to search for keywords, translate words, map an address or even blog using Windows Live. Microsoft has an entire gallery of Accelerators to expand the functionality of IE8 including tools for shopping, maps, email and more.

IE8 Safety Tools
Lots of safety features in Internet Explorer 8.

Some security improvements in Internet Explorer 8 include an updated SmartScreen filter and InPrivate Browsing. The SmartScreen filter works by evaluating phishing sites (websites made to imitate legitimate sites), and blocks malware from downloading. InPrivate allows you to protect your personal information such as browsing history, passwords, cookies, etc when using a remote computer. This feature helps secure your data from being extracted by another user. Both SmartScreen filter and InPrivate Browsing are easily accessed from the Safety menu in the toolbar.

IE8 Safety Tools

One of the more interesting features of the new IE is the Compatibility Mode. By default, IE 8 runs in Standard Mode to view a website. If the site has display issues, you can switch to Compatibility Mode which shifts to the older IE 7 standard. For any site that doesn't meet the grade, Microsoft places the site on a list, and contacts the website owner to recommend updating their site accordingly. Compatibility is not only an issue for users, but also designers and developers who have to rework their code to fit IE 8's standards. If a site follows basic WC3 standards, there is little need to change modes, but currently, Microsoft has about 3,000 sites on their compatibility list for improvement.

Internet Explorer 8 offers some beneficial features such as more speed and quicker browsing. But, the compatibility tool is cumbersome when you have to flip modes to view older sites, and creates an issue for developers. Overall, Internet Explorer is worth the update, but needs to improve how it handles legacy sites.

Microsoft - Internet Explorer 8
Microsoft - What are search suggestions and Accelerator previews?
Microsoft - Add-On Gallery
Microsoft - Internet Explorer 8 Readiness Toolkit

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