Security, ease of use, and improvements in RSS, Cascading Style Sheets and AJAX support are key priorities for Internet Explorer 8, according to Microsoft
Microsoft has released its Internet Explorer 8 browser for download.
The timing of the release was set to coincide with a keynote to be delivered by Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft, who formally announced the technology’s release to the Web at Microsoft’s MIX09 event.
In an interview with eWEEK at the MIX09 event, Mike Nash, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows product management, told eWEEK that Microsoft is also announcing that there are more than 500 new add-ons for IE 8 in the way of accelerators, Web slices and visual search.
“This means there is a tremendous number of opportunities for developers to differentiate a Website or to do various things with it,” Nash said.
Accelerators are a form of selection-based search that enables a user to invoke an online service from any other page using only the mouse. According to Microsoft, Accelerators eliminate the need to copy and paste content between Web pages. IE 8 specifies an X M L-based encoding that enables a Web application or Web service to be invoked as an Accelerator service. Web Slices are snippets of an entire page that a user can subscribe to. Web Slices will be kept updated by the browser automatically and can be viewed directly from the browser’s Favorites bar, complete with graphics and visuals.
IE 8 also features the Internet Explorer Administration Kit 8. Nash said IEAK “allows an enterprise to configure the browser to meet the company’s default settings.”
IEAK enables enterprises to configure or customize their browser settings to give users access to specific intranet and Internet applications, and ensure that all browsers have the same functionality and make support easier. According to Microsoft, IEAK allows developers to deploy customized packages and manage IE settings post deployment.
According to a Microsoft fact sheet, here are the ways Internet Explorer 8 makes browsing faster and easier:
• Smart Address Bar. The Smart Address Bar makes it easier for people to locate the sites they want to visit. It does this by efficiently matching what a consumer types into the address bar with titles in their History and Favorites, without duplicates.
• Tab Groups. Tab Groups allow consumers to quickly discern which tabs have related content. Clicking on a link within one tab spawns another; the new tab is placed next to the originating tab, and both tabs are marked with a color.
• Redesigned “New Tab” Page. The “New Tab” Page in Internet Explorer 8 has been redesigned to allow people to perform common tasks by clicking on links on the page.
• Reopen Last Browsing Session. For those who accidentally close the browser or experience a crash, Internet Explorer 8 enables people to reopen their last browsing session from the most recently closed instance of Internet Explorer 8.
• Enhanced Find On Page. Find On Page functionality has been enhanced to improve how consumers search for text on Web pages.
• Find On Page. Find On Page now appears as a tool bar activated by pressing Ctrl-F or choosing Find On Page from the Edit menu or Instant Search Box. The tool bar appears below the user’s tab so it doesn’t obscure any of the text on the page.
• Result count. The enhanced Find On Page functionality shows how many places the search text appears on the page.
• Result highlighting. The enhanced Find On Page functionality makes it so users can locate an item at a glance, since it highlights all places on the page where the search text appears.
Features that improve IT network management and deployment include:
• Slipstream installation. This enables the deployment of Internet Explorer 8 and customizations as part of the Windows Vista operating system image, eliminating the need to install the browser separately. When Internet Explorer 8 is deployed in this way, it will behave as part of Windows Vista, thereby improving desktop consistency and manageability.
• Simplified Internet Explorer Administration Kit. The Internet Explorer Administration Kit helps IT professionals easily configure deployment settings, and now has Favorites customization and the ability to import Accelerators.
• Group Policy enhancements. Internet Explorer 8 allows IT administrators to control and configure browser features, including Accelerators and Web Slices, with more than 140 new Group Policy settings in Internet Explorer 8, bringing the total to nearly 1,500—to ease browser deployment, configuration and customization. There are multiple new Group Policy Objects in areas such as Connection limits, InPrivate, Compatibility View and SmartScreen actions.
In addition, Internet Explorer 8 improves performance in many Internet Explorer subsystems, such as the HTML parser, CSS rule processing, markup tree manipulation, the JScript parser, garbage collector run-time and memory management to help Web developers build compelling sites more easily, Microsoft said. Additional developer investments include these:
• CSS 2.1. Web developers and designers can write their pages once and have them more easily render properly across different browsers because Internet Explorer 8 fully supports the CSS 2.1 specification.
• DOM (Document Object Model) and HTML 4.01 improvements. Internet Explorer 8 fixes many cross-browser inconsistencies; for example, get/set/remove Attribute implementation is now interoperable with other browsers, and developers will experience significant performance gains in AJAX design patterns.
• Emerging standards. Internet Explorer 8 incorporates advancements for what will become the standards of tomorrow, such as W3C’s HTML 5 Draft DOM Storage standard, the Web Applications Working Group’s Selectors API and ECMAScript 3.1 endorsed syntax.
• New navigation features for AJAX applications. Developers can now update the browser back and forward navigation stack and address bar from their AJAX application so those browser features work correctly in an AJAX application.
• Acid2. Internet Explorer 8 renders the Acid2 browser test correctly.
• Compatibility. Internet Explorer 8 ships with a more standards-compatible layout engine that allows developers to build a single standards-based site for multiple browsers. To provide developers with the choice for when they migrate their sites to the new standards-compliant layout engine, Internet Explorer 8 enables Web developers to ask for the Windows Internet Explorer 7 layout engine by inserting a simple meta tag into their code or by adding a single HTTP header on their servers.
• Developer tools. Developer tools enable developers to quickly debug HTML, CSS and JScript in a visual environment. These tools have been built directly into Internet Explorer 8 with expanded functionality, including a helpful menu option for choosing which application to use when viewing a Web page’s source. Developers can quickly identify and resolve issues because of the deep insight the tool provides into the DOM.
Several security and privacy investments found in Internet Explorer 8 include:
• InPrivate. InPrivate helps to protect people’s data and privacy from being retained locally on the PC they are using. This protects against third parties who might be in a position to track a consumer’s online activities. Consumers have the ability to use either of the features (InPrivate Blocking or InPrivate Filtering) independently.
• InPrivate Browsing. When activated, InPrivate Browsing helps ensure that history, temporary Internet files and cookies are not recorded on a PC after browsing. When in InPrivate Browsing, tool bars and extensions are automatically disabled, and browsing history is automatically deleted when the browser is closed.
• InPrivate Filtering. InPrivate Filtering helps protect privacy by enabling the consumer to filter content coming from third parties that are in a position to track and aggregate their online behavior. Users are provided with notice, choice and control of which third parties to allow and which ones to filter.
Other features include a compatibility view, a compatibility view list, crash recovery, delete browsing history, SmartScreen filter, clickjacking prevention. cross-site scripting filter, data execution prevention, cross document messaging, cross domain request, cross document messaging, domain highlighting, per-site ActiveX and per-user ActiveX.