As part of the Windows 8.1 release, users will also get IE11, this includes both the metro and desktop versions. Behind the scenes the IE11 engine is the same with basically two UIs. When asked why the two versions exist, the answer was actually simple, those people that live in the new (Metro UI) need a browser, those that live in the desktop need a browser.
There’s plenty new to discuss, so let’s get stuck into the changes. Users can now open new tabs in a new windows that shows 2 windows side-by-side. The browser will automatically scale zoom level to fit the content. There’s also the ability to access your downloaded file list. Previously this was available in the desktop version, but not the metro version and is a welcome addition. You can see from the screenshot that both browser windows can contain their own set of apps, app bars and controls.. this isn’t a new view, it really is running two instances of metro IE.
Tabs is one of the biggest areas of change, they have been moved to the bottom of the screen which makes sense when used on a tablet, they are now reachable without repositioning your hands. This could have been identified with IE10 on Win8, so there’s been a rethink here. Users can now have up to 100 tabs per window and Microsoft say tabs are managed in a way that doesn’t hurt battery life. You can now turn on the display of tabs at all times, vs the typical right click or tap to reveal the tabs. The last thing to say about tabs in IE11 is that you can now open tabs from other machines you’re signed into. That means if you were looking at a site at home and needed it in the office, you could open that tab.
When it comes to touch, hover states for things like menus are now mapped to the tap and hold gesture. This should mean web developers do not need to rewrite code to support touch interactions in IE11.
IE11 now supports drag and drop via touch, Microsoft say this is the first browser to do so. It follows the W3C spec for HTML5 drag and drop so again, there’s no work for developers to do to support this. IE11 is also the first browser to support the new W3C standard that allows developers to stipulate content priorities which effect load orders. This will change the way websites are displayed and depending on the priorities of the site, may see ads load before content, but I’d hope most opt for the opposite approach.
Website credentials can be saved to SkyDrive.. That means that if you’re signed into another Windows 8.1 machine, you’ll never have to re-log into a website. This sounds very similar to keychain in the Cloud that Apple is adding to OSX Mavericks.
IE11 introduces a Skip forward mode which ads on the skip back already available. This works by prefetching links and up to 2 preloaded pages before the user clicks on them. This may be something simple like the first search result, or the second page of a multi-pgae article as they are the most likely user behaviors. This page loaded without loading during demos, if it works as advertised, it has the potential to really speed up browsing. The cost of course is that you’re spending downloads on pages you may never click on.
In their continued effort to ensure websites are first class citizens with apps, pinned websites can now set tile sizes and push updates to the start screen. There’s also a completely new F12 developer tools in IE12 on the desktop (one of the only user-level changes), this has been rewritten from the ground up. Get more information on this at – http://buildmypinnedsite.com
Finally the inevitable question of support, IE11 will come to Windows 7, but no time frame committed to, Windows 8 will definitely be first.
Under the hood there’s some performance improvements but they’ve also added support for two new formats – MPEG DASH and WEB GL. One of the best demonstrations today was a tablet held by the presenter was used to pan a panorama, after initially navigating using touch. This is the capability of WebGL that is apparently now secure enough for the mainstream.
On a side now, Microsoft is now calling Metro ‘Immersive’. A message from above has clearly been handed down as a number of speakers across a number of sessions used this terminology. Personally they’ll also be Metro apps for me.