The New Year greeted Microsoft with the good news that Internet Explorer is gaining ground as the browser of choice on Windows 7. With hardware accelerated video amongst other features, websites perform like installed programs on your computer. IE9 deals with HD video with ease and presents websites the way they were designed to be viewed and makes them responsive like never before.
Uptil now Chrome held the honors for giving the most space to the webpage but IE9 knocks it off its perch with its top window frame taking 63 pixels compared to Chrome’s 89. The new compact window header still includes the clipped back arrow button though. Apart from the trimmed header, IE9 comes with Tracking Protection, a new and unique feature that lets the user have more control over the browser compared t competition.
IE9 comes with support for multiple languages like English, Chinese traditional and simplified, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and German with plans for extending support to other languages as well. However, it only runs on Windows Vista and Windows 7; earlier versions of Windows are not supported. The installers for both OS’s and 32/64 bit architecture are different.
An improvement over IE8 is that the annoying wizard for choosing search suggestions etc. no longer bothers users when setting up IE9 so it’s ready to browse after being installed.
As mentioned earlier, the new window allows more of the webpage contents to be displayed compared to competition. The controls are confined to a single bar as the address and search boxes are merged into one. If you don’t prefer the new header, you can enable IE’s menus and toolbars, by right-clicking on the top window border.
Now you can drag tabs out of and back into your browser window to create new windows just like in other browsers. Microsoft did however add some flair. The browser can continue to play a video while you drag it while making a new window. In addition, when a tab is dragged to either edge of the screen in Windows 7, the new browser window created fills exactly half of the screen that is it adheres to Aero Snap which Windows 7 users will be familiar with. Other browsers don’t have this functionality.
If you have too many tabs then you can also place them in their own row. The focus on currently used tab is brighter to make it stand out. Tabs can also be closed without switching to them like in other browsers but this was a feature missing from earlier versions of IE. IE9 fits everything into one row so the window size has to be large enough or tabs can go out of the displayed screen but they are easily accessed through arrows which appear on either side of the tab bar.
The new tab page now shows the most frequented webpages but that can be disabled if you’re the secretive sort. It also allows reopening of closed tabs or the entire recent session as well as enabling private browsing. There’s a “Discover other sites you might like" icon there too and a link at the bottom which allows use of the Suggested sites feature.
IE9 aims to give the site you’re visiting center of the stage. And the pinned-site feature is introduced to back that statement up. To create a pinned site, all you have to do is drag a webpage’s icon down towards the Windows 7 taskbar. Thus, a site is given the same treatment as an application. Some of you might be thinking of Google’s ‘every app as a Web app’ idea and its web application shortcuts but IE9 does it better because of its OS integration which includes Windows 7 jumplists for websites that supply the necessary XML data in their code.
In addition to taskbar icons, pinned site’s favicon is used instead of the browser logos place which is in the upper left corner of the window with the back and forward buttons taking on the color of the site icon as well. These are automatically grabbed by IE9 for all pinned sites to display in the window border.
The icon retains itself even when a different domain is reached which is a bit strange. For pinned sites, the Home button disappears from the menu bar which pretty much covers the difference.
IE9 allows addition of multiple sites to a pinned-site icon, a recent development. To do that you have to choose “Add as a home page” after you right-click the site icon in a new tab. This provides an easy way to open a set of frequently visited sites.
The best thing for Windows 7 users is the pinned site feature in IE9. It opens up all kinds of possibilities like site owners promoting their sites for pinned treatment and offering buttons on their pages that pin a site automatically. Microsoft should be lauded for giving sites full control of app even though Chrome’s application shortcuts have the upper hand since they give the whole window to the site.
The One Box
IE9 puts addresses and search in a single text box which is named the One Box. When you enter a search query and get your result page, the One box doesn’t automatically change to a URL of the result page instead, the original search terms remain there, a pretty handy feature if you typed a really lengthy search query.