Internet Explorer 9 Beta Download Available

Boy, there sure are a lot of articles about IE9 on the RSS feeds today …

Microsoft has released the first public beta of the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 web browser a few minutes ago. This beta release is the first public version of IE9 with a user interface. And that user interface has changed a lot, compared to previous Internet Explorer versions.

The new Internet Explorer 9 interface is minimalistic, actually as minimalistic as it can get. Only a few UI elements remain in default view, including the back and forward buttons, the address bar, some controls at the end of the address bar,tabs and three tiny buttons that offer access to the homepage, favorites and tools. All elements have been packed into one bar.

That leaves more screen estate for the websites than ever before, especially since the status bar is also hidden by default.

internet explorer 9

internet explorer 9

A right-click on elements in the main Internet Explorer 9 toolbar displays a menu with options to display the favorites and command bar as well as the status bar. IE9 in this regard is not as customizable as other web browsers. Many users will dislike that it is not possible to move the tabs from the main toolbar to another bar. The size of each tab changes dynamically so that 27 fit on a 1920×1280 monitor in fullscreen. After that scrolling controls are displayed to scroll through the tabs.

This honestly is not the best solution. We would have hoped for more controls so that the user can pick the location of the tabs in the browser.

ie9 tabs scrolling

ie9 tabs scrolling

Internet Explorer is furthermore not displaying the title of the active web page. There is lots of room in the title bar, and there should not really be any reasons why the title cannot be displayed there.

Microsoft has found a better solution for displaying link urls on mouse over. The link url is displayed in the lower left corner of the screen. That’s a location on the active website, a clever solution and definitely better than having a status bar displayed all the time.

The address form now incorporates search as well. One interesting option that has been added by the development team is the ability to switch search engines directly in the form.

ie9 search

ie9 search

Here it is also possible to activate search suggestions directly in the popup that is displayed once the first character is entered into the address form. They appear there next to favorite, history and add-on matches.

New tab pages now display the most popular sites and the recently closed tabs. This page looks similar to that of the Google Chrome browser.

internet explorer 9 new tab

internet explorer 9 new tab

Most browser controls, other than navigating forward and back, stopping and reloading a website, accessing the favorites and loading the homepage are available via the single Tools button at the right end of the main toolbar. And even there, not all options are available that users may have grown accustomed to.

ie9 tools

ie9 tools

A tap on the Alt key on the other hand displays the full File menu in the browser. Good to know but nowhere prominently explained.

Another nice change is the option to drag websites to the Windows taskbar to pin them there. It works fine in Windows 7. We had no option to test it in other operating systems, but it seems unlikely that this option is available in Vista as well.

What does it mean to pin a website to the taskbar? The website basically as as a shortcut to that website, with full jumplist support, which is the main difference to placing website shortcuts on the computer desktop.

The feature sounds pretty good on paper, it does have a serious disadvantage though: Add-ons are all disabled if a website is launched from the pinned location on the taskbar. Another disadvantage is the fact that they are all loaded in their own browser window. Chance is, not many users will use this new feature, considering that plain desktop shortcuts are way superior to it.

Downloads and probably other notifications as well are no longer displayed as a popup notification window, but on the page they have been triggered on. That’s a big change to the way all other browsers handle those notifications.

ie9 downloads

ie9 downloads

Another interesting addition is the developer mode, which can be triggered by pressing F12. This looks similar to Firebug on Firefox. It offers options to capture the network traffic to analyse a site’s loading time, as well as script, HTML and CSS debugging.

Design Verdict

The minimalistic design will appeal to many users. Users who configure their browser to offer the maximum screen estate for the web pages that are displayed in it will like it a lot.

The major problem that we see is that there is not really much to customize, for users who prefer a tabbar for instance, or users who want to see the page titles in the window title of Internet Explorer 9.

ie9 developer mode

ie9 developer mode

Internet Explorer 9 Speed and Accessibility

The Internet Explorer team has done a great job. The speed and performance seems similar to that of the preview builds, and outshines Internet Explorer 8 by a mile, or even more than that.

Internet Explorer now does not feel like that slow browser that comes preinstalled with Windows, it feels like a real contender speed wise. Chrome and Opera may be a few milliseconds faster in rendering but this is not drastic enough to justify the usage of those browsers alone.

Downloads are live, article will be updated later today. You can download Internet Explorer 9 right now at the Beauty of the web website.

Update: Internet Explorer 9 Beta requires that several updates are installed on the operating system before the installation can complete. These updates can be downloaded here. Windows users who have difficulties installing Internet Explorer 9 with the web based installer should take a look at Internet Explorer 9 direct downloads to download offline installers.

Final Verdict

Microsoft has improved Internet Explorer 9 a lot. Especially the improvements in speed are noticeable. The minimalistic design has seen a few changes that may confuse users at first. This includes the on page notifications, missing toolbars and page elements.

In the end, it is up to the individual user to test (or do not test) Internet Explorer 9 to see if it is a suitable browser for that individual user. It is likely that IE9 will replace older versions of Internet Explorer on a lot of systems in the end.

Have you already tested the new Internet Explorer 9? Let us know what you think about it in the comments.


© Martin for gHacks Technology News, 2010. | Permalink | Add to del.icio.us, digg, facebook, reddit, twitter
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Western Telematic, Inc. (WTI) designs and manufactures remote device management products for IT applications. WTI’s Serial Console Server products, Remote Reboot products, Switched PDU products and A/B Fallback products are engineered to allow you to securely manage and troubleshoot rack equipment in remote locations.

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