Microsoft has recently released the Internet Explorer 8 RC1 for public testing. Being a release candidate, you would expect most of the functions to be in place and ready for the main release.
If you are interested in the latest version of Internet Explorer, but don’t want to download the RC version, here is a screenshot Internet Explorer 8 review of some of the newest features in IE8.
One of the best features of IE 8 are the Accelerators. As its name implies, Accelerators lets you get more things done quickly and easily. Whenever you highlight a word (or a paragraph) on a page, the Accelerators icon will appear to allow you to access various services.
For example, you can highlight a phrase on a webpage and select the “Search in Google” to immediately search that term in Google.
The default Accelerators comes with services mainly provided by Microsoft. You can also add third-party Accelerators services via the Accelerators Addon site.
Ever since Google Chrome introduced incognito browsing, many browsers started to include the private browsing feature in their latest version. In IE8, the InPrivate Browsing is the equivalent of Incognito browsing. When you are in the InPrivate Browsing mode, all your data (temp Internet files, web address history, cookies, password etc) will be removed when you close the window.
The InPrivate Browsing mode can be accessed via the menu (Tools -> InPrivate Browsing) or as a link in the new tab. In InPrivate Browsing mode, an icon will appear beside the address bar telling you that your current session is private. To deactivate the InPrivate Browsing mode, simply close the window.
Web Slices is a function that allows you to easily keep track of a particular item that change frequently. It can be your email inbox, the weather report, sport scores, stock quotes or an eBay auction item. It has a similar concept to subscribing to a RSS feed – you subscribe (add to the Favorites Bar) to the Web Slices for the thing that you want to monitor. Whenever the Slice is updated with new information, it will become highlighted and you can click on it to see a preview. You can then decide if you want to click on it to go to the actual site.
Web Slices does not work with any sites by default. Developers/Webmasters have to insert a few lines of code to their Web pages before their users can monitor their site with Web Slices.
In case you come across any site that is not compatible with IE 8 and all the text and images are misaligned, you can now use the Compatibility View to view the site with the IE 7 rendering engine instead. The Compatibility View button is just located to the right of the address bar, so you can turn on the IE7 view mode easily and quickly.
You can also maintain a list within Internet Explorer 8 for sites that should be displayed in Compatibility View so you don’t have to switch to Compatibility View mode every time you visit the sites.
Enhanced Tab Management
If you open too many tabs, IE8 comes with a Quick Tab that allows you to find and go to a particular tab easily. The Quick Tab button is located at the left of the tab bar. When you click on it, it will open up a popup canvas showing the thumbnail preview of all the tabs. You can then find the tab that you want and go to it quickly.
The concept of tab groups are also introduced in IE8. Whenever you open a new tab from a link within a page, the new tab is considered as the child of the current tab. When you close the new tab, the tab focus will return to its parent tab, rather than the adjacent tab. Also you can choose to close a single tab, or all the tabs within the same group.
Like Stumbleupon, the Suggested Sites feature in IE8 recommends sites based on your browsing habits and interests. When you turn on Suggested Sites, your web browsing history is sent to Microsoft where it is saved and compared to a frequently updated list of websites that are similar to the ones you visit often. The closest result is then sent back to your browser for your viewing. If you are seriously concerned about your privacy, you might want to turn this feature off.
On the security side, IE8 comes with a Smart Screen Filter that prevents you from visiting any sites, or downloading any files that could potentially cause harm to your computer. When you visit a site that is not considered safe, you will see the following splash page:
In addition, you will also find that the domain name in the address bar is now highlighted while the rest of the URL is greyed out. This helps you to avoid any deceptive and phishing sites that attempt to trick you with misleading addresses.
If you are a seasoned user of Firefox, Chrome or Safari, you will find that most of the ‘new’ features in IE 8 are not really that new after all. My sense is that the IE8 development team took the best feature from each browser and integrated them all into one place.
So instead of using Google Chrome for the Incognito browsing mode or domain highlighting feature, installing the Stumbleupon toolbar for site browsing, Safari for its superb Search and Find features and Firefox for its addons flexibility, you can now use them all in IE8. The Compatibility View is also a welcome addition to the browser, giving you the flexibility of viewing your site with the IE 8 or IE 7 rendering engine.
So is Internet Explorer 8 good enough to replace your default browser? I don’t know about you, but I would still stick with my Firefox for the time being.
For those of you who want to try out Internet Explorer 8 RC1, you can download it here.