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Few thoughts about Internet Explorer 8.0

Microsoft finally released a new version of Internet Explorer, this time numbered as version 8.0. It actually happened few days ago, but I didn’t have time to comment on it out until today. This is just a few random thoughts from a standpoint of occasional user rather then real review. I have to admit I am a bit impressed with this release, compared to the previous one (7.0 aka “pure crap”) which didn’t last longer then 2 days on my computer before it get downgraded to IE 6.0. For starter, 8.0 pops-up on the screen way much faster then 7.0 did, which was the main reason why I downgraded from 7 back to version 6. Version 7 was so incredibly slow, I have to wait several seconds even for empty page to show up. Not with 8.0, it just pops up on the screen, almost as fast as computer is able to draw the window, and it is immediately ready for surfing. But not does it feels much faster at startup, it also feels snappier and faster when rendering pages. Since I didn’t run any benchmarks, I can’t say much, but it does feel faster then 6.0 felt.

New IE also looks much less of a x-mass tree then version 7.0 looked liked. When 7.0 came out I thought that Microsoft hired some 16 year old teen from MSN chat or something to design it. Now it is on par with it’s old 6.0 version (hopefully not when security and web standards are considered), or even better. Not that I am an dedicated IE user – I use Opera for 99,99% of my surfing, but Opera can get a problem with some pages, and in those rare cases it is good to have IE at hand.

Some other highlights – like in IE 7.0 – it is still easy to get rid of menu bar:

This is very useful especially now when most screens are wide and vertical screen space is smaller then before. This feature should be implemented in ALL applications, not only IE and not only Microsoft’s. Another goodie is compatibility mode with older browser, unfortunately only 7.0. Compatibility with 6.0 would be much more desirable, but even one version back is better then nothing. Since I do develop some web pages occasionally, I appreciate this. There are also some developer tools included in 8.0 release, but I have yet to take a look at those. There are probably tons of other features, bug-fixes etc, but since I am very occasional user of IE, for me the good stuff takes stop there.

A spoiler: it is not possible to set custom html-editor any more:

In version 6.0 one could navigate to any executable, so I could have Emacs as my default source viewer. Now only choices available are Notepad and MS Office applications.

Another annoyance, one that keeps me away of using both IE and Firefox as my default browsers, is missing of customizable shortcuts. I prefer to use keyboard as much as possible, and yet of all browsers out there, it is only Opera that will let me choose my shortcuts. It is also only Opera that lets me turn off and rearrange almost ANY part of the GUI that way it fits me. Today on 24” wide screen it is much more useful to have tabs arranged vertically on the right side of the screen then having them running on top of the screen. Wide screens are well – wide, not tall; and vertical screen space is scarce. Most of pages are anyway centered these days, or stuck to the left top corner, so most part of the screen on right side is unused and perfect for having tabs to the right. Just for illustration below is my opera setup:

To wrap this up, IE 8.0 is actually quite good. At last Microsoft had done a worthy replacement for old Internet Explorer 6.0. Considering how many years they didn’t upgrade that old and insecure piece of code, IE 8.0 should have been IE 7.0, and the previous 7.0 should never being released other as beta. If you are still using old 6.0 or 7.0 then switching to 8.0 is a must if you can’t consider using better browser such as Opera, Firefox or even Google’s Chrome.

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