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Michael Crump Microsoft MVP, INETA Community Champion and XAML Advocate.

We have come a long way since IE 1…

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image property of wikipedia

…to IE9

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In case you are living under a rock, IE9 Beta was released today. This browser is a major update to the previous version IE8. It is also supposed to give Firefox/Chrome a run for its money. How did it turn out? Read below to find out.

So what are the best features of IE9? Lets give it a quick run-through then we are going to look at a few key features and a benchmark (note the benchmark is against a beta – so things may change).

  • Hardware accelerated HTML5 Support : This is absolutely the biggest reason to upgrade to IE9. This includes the new H264 Video Support, SVG and CSS3.
  • Brand new JavaScript Engine: Called Chakra. This will run on a separate core and allow you to render JavaScript faster.
  • DirectX Video Acceleration – This will use less of the CPU to render video. So far it has smoked Google Chrome while playing 2 720p videos at once.
  • Developers Tools added. Just hit F12 to access the tools.

What sucks?

  • Only supported in Windows Vista [SP2] and Windows 7.
  • They haven’t officially given a release date for the final version.
  • Requires a reboot after install. (Chrome has spoiled me)
  • I have had a few pages that would not load. I also had a crash. (This is a beta, so hopefully those will be removed in the final version.)

Key Features

Your WebPages now have more screen real estate. A few key differences below:

  • Tabs are now on the top (like Chrome and Mozilla 4)
  • Search and URL bar are combined (like Chrome). For example: If you type in weather and a zip code then it will return the weather without taking you to a website.

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Example of Live Search:

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New Tab Window which shows your most recently visited site (like Chrome)

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Another thing that is really cool about this page is that it tells you how active it is.

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Notification System – I really like this, instead of taking up a majority of your screen for a notification (such as download or install flash) you will only see a small notification from the bottom of the screen.

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The ability to “pin” a website to your Windows Taskbar. – You can drag the URL to your Windows Taskbar and you will be given the ability to click on it once or to right click and get a Jump List. If you click it once then it will launch in a new tab. If you right click it then you will get a Jump List that will bring up site specific news like “Latest News”. So if you went to Twitter.com and dragged it to your task bar and right clicked then you would get the following Jump List.

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After right-clicking on the Twitter Logo:

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New Way to Keep Track of Downloads

The new downloads window helps you keep track of all of your downloads and allows you to search for them pretty easy.

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Tearing off Tabs

Have you ever been shopping for something and wanted to compare the products side by side? Well now, you can simply grab a Tab and “Tear it” out of the browser by dragging it off the screen. You can use Aero snap to quickly put the products side by side.

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Mixed-Content Notification

Microsoft says its best “An HTTPS page that loads HTTP content leaves you vulnerable to Mixed Content attacks.
This demo is a fake bank site. It uses a secure HTTPS connection with the intent of keeping your information safe. Just like many real bank and ecommerce sites, this site also loads an insecure HTTP script. Insecure script can be hijacked to steal your identity and upload it to the web.”

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Developer Tools Built-In

I am a developer so this part really made me happy to see. Load up a webpage and hit F12 to view all kinds of information about the webpage. It comes complete with a JavaScript profiler, CSS editing, network traffic inspector and more.

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There were a couple of features that I didn’t mention like the Performance Advisor, Smartscreen Filter, Hang Recovery and Compatibility View.

Out of that list the Hang Recovery will prevent a hang-up from only locking up the tab that instantiated it. You can go ahead and browse in another tab without shutting down your entire browser.

The Compatibility View is for older websites that look better in older browser. After you select Compatibility View you never have to set it again.

Benchmark

I’ve researched a lot of ways to benchmark a browsers compatibility with HTML5 and really like HTML5Test.com. Note the author’s added this disclaimer: The HTML5 test score is only an indication of how well your browser supports the upcoming HTML5 standard and related specifications. It does not try to test all of the new features offered by HTML5, nor does it try to test the functionality of each feature it does detect.So in other words, take this with a grain of salt.

Here is the results from Google Chrome 6.0.472.59 (227/300 points)
Latest non-beta release as of 9/15/10

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Firefox 3.6.9 (143/300)
Latest non-beta release as of 9/15/10

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IE8 (27/300)

I’m aware this isn’t a fair test since IE8 doesn’t fully support HTML5 but its nice to benchmark previous version of IE against the latest IE9 Beta.

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IE9 Beta (99/300)
Release as of 9/15/10

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Final Thoughts: IE9 is a fast browser, while it didn’t blow away the HTML5Test.com, it is still a good browser. The test drive demos really show the speed of the new engine. I have found that Chrome struggles with most of the test drive demo’s found on that site. Yet, Chrome got the highest score on the benchmark. I would definitely recommend that you download the beta and keep an eye on this browser. 

If you want more information on IE9 then you can download the product guide here.

Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 2:34 PM | Back to top

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