Microsoft have just officially unveiled and released the IE9 Beta. You can grab the beta bits from http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/
This mornings IE9 beta release event was streamed live and will be made available for download later today. Keep an eye on Microsoft.com if your interested in the full run down. The event essentially ran as expected, just highlighting the new features, surprisingly Microsoft tweeted the download location before the slide was revealed
The download and installation of IE9 can take a while, its clear IE9 hooks pretty deep into Windows with a post shut-down installation required, restart, then further configuration before being able to get hands-on. After early testing, the wait is certainly worth it. Lets take a look at the new features in IE9.
Microsoft have opted for a very clean and minimalisatic design has clearly been a focus for IE9. The end result is a very slick UI that works even better when maximized.
Tear off tabs (w/Aero snap)
A feature dual-monitor users have been waiting for in the past 2 releases of IE has finally arrived – tear off tabs. This was a must-have feature for me to be able to switch, its something I use many, many times a day. IE9’s implementation is actually better than other browsers as its the only one you can tear off tab and aero snap in one click. While it may seem like a small differentiation, I can assure this is an important efficiency.
First introduced in Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 9 has updated to a single combined search and address bar. This saves space and helps simplify the UI. It functions much the same as Chrome, with one exception, you can click to opt-in to get live web results as you type, as well as searching through favorites and history.
Websites in your Start Menu / Taskbar
A brand new feature in IE9 is the ability to add website shortcuts in both your start menu and your Taskbar. Your favourite sites are then fully searchable through Start Menu search. Interestingly when launched from these shortcuts, the browser window is slightly customised to match the specific site. As you’ll see below, the favicon for the site is displayed on the left, while the colour of the new Back/Forward buttons is influenced by the colours in that logo.
According to Microsoft, Add-ins are responsible for 70% of browser crashes, so they’ve come up with a way to manage them easily in IE9. The ‘Choose Add-ons’ control panel not only indicates which are installed, but how long each of these are impacting on the browser startup time. After disabling a couple, improvements were noticeable, this is a pretty clean system, I’m sure many others have lots more to clean up.
Something IE has traditionally done very poorly is remember passwords for site. Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook all seem to be saving passwords so far, but this will need testing over a long period of time to confirm for sure, but looks like they may have finally fixed this long running issue in IE.
New tab page
Below is the new tab page and while it borrows strongly from Chrome’s offering it has one glaring omission – Pinned tiles. IE9 now lets you see your most frequented sites, however it’d be nice to be able to pin some of these so they’re always available. Sure the sites like Facebook that you always go to will show up as IE9 learns your common browsing habbits, but what if there’s sites that you don’t visit frequently, but still want convenient access to ? Chrome handles this much better, allowing users to simply pin any of the new tab tiles to keep them in place.
New Download Manager
IE9’s download manager has been improved significantly over that of IE8. There’s the ability to cue multiple downloads, track speeds, search, pause and resume downloads all from the one clean window. This is clearly ‘borrowed’ from other modern browsers, good to see IE catch up in this area.
One of the first of only a couple of issues I noticed in IE9 was the lack of Jump List support in the 64-bit version. Admittedly not a huge issue considering most people will run the 32-bit version and Jump Lists work just fine there.
Another issue I’ve discovered is the rendering of headings on techAU.tv in IE9. There’s obviously something very strange about the theme / how IE9 renders it, because story titles, simply don’t display. I’d ask all IE9 beta users to simply click the compatibility button until I work on a fix ASAP.
IE9 beta using compatibility mode
Unfortunately Microsoft have decided to leave the pretty terrible Favorites management in place. To add a site to your favorites is still a 3-step process. Something they certainly should have copied from Chrome is the ability to simply click the Favorite icon in the address bar.
Yes this is beta software so there’s bound to be some stability issues. IE9 generally recovers pretty well from a crash, but in the couple of hours I’ve been running IE9, I’ve had a few crashes. Testing has only been on one system so far, so a more detailed report of IE9’s stability can only be gained over a number of systems over a longer period of time. Despite these IE9 has already become my new default browser, sorry Chrome.