The updated browser is faster, leaner, and relies on touch UI and HTML5
Microsoft has revealed the latest iteration of its browser – Internet Explorer 11(IE11) – as part of the Windows 8.1 (previously known as Windows Blue) preview.
The announcement was made at the annual Build conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. IE11 features an improved, heavily touch-oriented interface, better energy efficiency, offers faster page load times and introduces brand new developer tools.
Microsoft hasn’t set a release date for either IE11 or Windows 8.1 yet, but the company has confirmed that the new browser will also appear on Windows 7.
Microsoft is promoting IE11 as “the best way to experience the Web on modern touch devices”, and it has made a serious effort to make users type less. For example, the address bar not only suggests relevant Web addresses and Bing search results, but also Windows Store apps, weather forecasts and stock prices – all in the same text field.
Users can swipe to navigate forward and back with browser tabs switching instantly, thanks to page pre-rendering, or hover over the screen to call up the menu. The company says IE11 offers better responsiveness through the use of GPU for touch navigation: “GPU-offloaded image decoding enhances battery life and keeps the CPU processing dynamic page content,” explained Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president of Internet Explorer division at Microsoft.
The new browser adds support for WebGL 3D graphics, with a software-based renderer to complement the GPU, and plugin-free HTML5 video.
It has been optimised for multiple screen sizes and offers a continuous browsing experience across all Windows 8 devices – which means tabs, favourites and history on a user’s Surface tablet will be automatically synced with SkyDrive, and later appear on their desktop.
IE11 can support up to 100 open tabs simultaneously. Obviously, it is compatible with Windows 8 ‘snapping’ feature, which allows using the browser alongside other applications.
There’s also an extended Favourites menu which can now organise websites into folders with customizable tile pictures.
On the development side, the browser completely reimagines the toolkit in the style of the ‘Metro’ interface, with new features including visual debugging, high DPI support, new emulation capability and HTML inspection on right click.
“IE11 and Windows 8.1 enables developers and consumers to have the best of both worlds – amazing next generation applications that are optimized for Windows devices, and first class experience of Web sites together with apps that is great across the full range of Windows PCs,” said Hachamovitch.
Users have to install Windows 8.1 Preview to try IE11. The software is currently available on Windows Store, but Microsoft has warned that only experienced users should attempt to run the beta version.
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