Guy’s Ezine 140 – IE8 Overview of Beta 1

Guy’s Ezine 140 – IE8 (Internet Explorer 8) Overview of Beta 1

For reasons that will become clear, I just want to plant the seed that one day soon there will be a new a version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.  Consequently, if you are a pioneer then you may be tempted to test drive IE8, and discover if that version is better than Mozilla Firefox.  I would like to thank Paul DeBrino for alerting me to IE8 beta 1.

This ezine is full of contradictions.  For example, Guy installs IE8 Beta, but recommends that you wait for a later version before you try it.  Guy acknowledges that Mozilla Firefox is at least as good as IE, but nevertheless he uses IE as his default browser.

Mozilla v IE7 – A webmaster’s view

Whenever a site does not display properly in Internet Explorer, I always troubleshoot in Mozilla – especially if it’s one of my sites.  One common problem I face is that IE caches a page, but when I upload that page a second time from my desktop to my website, it won’t refresh the html.  Mozilla on the other hand, displays the update as soon as I click on the refresh button. 

Another more general problem is that some sites have form boxes, which I just cannot seem to complete in IE, but if I switch to Mozilla I have no trouble filling in the online fields.

I also concede that Mozilla is a fraction easier to configure and to navigate than Internet Explorer 7.  Yet for general browsing, I prefer IE because it’s more forgiving of quirky html.  For example, if webmasters, like me, forget a closing html tag such as < / font > IE takes pity on me, whereas Mozilla displays the page strictly as described by the W3C standards committee; the result is the page looks like a ransom note in Mozilla, but display perfectly fine in IE.  There are other differences which are literally a matter of style; for example, IE often displays a page with a bigger margin and larger font, compared with the same page in Mozilla.  Also Mozilla is strict and won’t allow colored scrollbars, and it also seems to me that Mozilla won’t run certain video formats unless you install and add-on.  IE is happy to interpret such non-conforming html and scripts.

These browser differences lead me to theorise that many webmasters design their pages for IE, then optimise as best they can for Mozilla, this is another tiny reason that I favour IE over Mozilla.  However, my motive for mentioning these subtle browser differences is because one of the claims for IE8 is that it will be fully compliant with standards such as CSS 2.1.  As a result some existing sites won’t display properly, hence the need for webmasters to test their sites in IE8, which after all is the market leader.

IE8 Beta 1 wait – Unless you are a developer or webmaster

As of March 2008 there is only an early Beta version of IE8 to download from Microsoft’s site.  The idea is that Microsoft provides a test version so that webmasters can get experience of this new version, this is because many sites are going to need html tweaks to make their pages display correctly in IE8.  As for developers, they have a chance to experiment with add-ons and create extra features for this new version of Windows Explorer.

There really is no point of ordinary users installing IE8, only to switch on ‘Emulate IE7’, just because lots of current don’t work properly in the beta browser.  A more insidious problem is that if you get a fault you cannot be sure if it’s caused by IE8, a dodgy html / form, or most likely, a combination of the for-mentioned factors.  To let you into a secret, I switched to IE7 Emulation because sites were giving me so much trouble.  Even so, I began to find problems with JavaScript and other add-ons that I had never given trouble before.  Eventually, I reverted to IE7.

For those who disregard my advice, and cannot resist trying IE8, the best feature is the Uninstall!  Seriously, uninstall is reassuring good because it not only removes IE8, but also reverts seamlessly to IE7.  Once again a triumph for Microsoft’s Install / Uninstall technology.

Guy Recommends: Tools4ever’s UMRAUMRA The User Management Resource Administrator

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It features 100% auto provisioning, Helpdesk Delegation, Connectors to more than 130 systems/applications, Workflow Management, Self Service and many other benefits. Click on the link for more information onUMRA.

IE8 Features

Activities – Look out for little green arrows.  If you right-click on an area of the web page, then context sensitive Smart Tags provide extra information, for example maps, translations.

Web Slices – These are a cross between RSS feeds and Gadgets.  You may have seen Google’s or Vista’s gadget offerings, these web slices are the same idea but with a different name.  Current examples include, stock prices and weather forecasts.  Clearly one reason for this Beta release of IE8 is so that developers can start creating libraries of Web Slices.

Add-ons – Microsoft is pushing Silverlight for multimedia.  But for IE8 there will be a myriad of other Add-ons, for example Stumbleupon and Trailfire.

Improved Phishing Filter – Microsoft say there will be an improved Phishing Filter.  Guy just muses, ‘What is happening with phishing’.  Has it increased, but I haven’t noticed because my present filter does its job, or have the baddies given up phishing and are now moving on to other evil tactics?

CSS 2.1 compliance. (CSS 3.0?  Ajax) Acid Compatibility.  As I mentioned earlier, the drive for html compliance could present the biggest visual change when you use IE8 as it will literally reveal poor html in old websites.  A bit like up-rating the light-bulb in a dimly-lit, dusty, dingy room, only for the bright light reveals all the flaws.

IE7 Emulation – This feature is especially useful in this beta version.  If you install this IE8 beta, browsing will become a nightmare, the only way out of jail is to hit the IE7 Emulation button.  After a while you will probably think, ‘Guy was right, let’s wait for better version of IE8’.  I also want to be fair to IE8, a whole new version number 7 –> 8 means that there are likely to be good and worthwhile features, and it’s not fair to judge IE8 by an early beta version.

Conclusion of IE8 Beta 1

IE8 beta 1 is only for developers and webmasters. Beta products such as IE8 have to be treated with care, otherwise lack of features and quirky behaviour will put you off what may be an excellent final product.

Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT) IP Tracker

Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets.  IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:

For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges. 

For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker

Will and Guy’s Humour

April Fool’s Day is around the corner.  It’s always worth keeping a lookout for the latest spoofs both in the newspaper and on the T.V.  Here is a reminder of one of the best ever hoaxes from yesteryear, theSwiss Spaghetti bushes.

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