Guy’s Ezine 162 – IE 8 Review
My first impression was that IE 8 is just like Internet Explorer 7. Yet, when I delved into the Tools and Options there were more items on just about every menu. Consequently, IE8 was not so much a slog of learning a new system, more the joy of playing with a new toy. These new features are non-intrusive, fun and some are even useful.
New Features in Internet Explorer 8
- Accelerator(s) – Little Blue Arrows
- Web Slices – Little Green Squares
- Safety Menu – SmartScreen Filter
- Installing IE 8 is Easy
- IE 10 in Windows 8
- Update: IE 11 in Windows 'Blue'
Imagine this situation, you are reading a webpage about Timbuktu, after a while you become curious to know just where in the world to find this place. With IE 8, no problem, just highlight the word ‘Timbuktu’, (by blocking with the mouse); now a fat blue arrow in a little box will appear magically. When you click on this little blue box, up pops a list of ‘Accelerators’, one of the default options will be ‘Map’. Click and the link takes you to a map of Timbuktu in Mali, Africa.
The usefulness of such gismos depends on the text you select, and which Accelerators you Add-on to your IE 8 browser. Other default options are connect to your Blog, or your E-mail if you have a Hotmail account. The whole idea behind Accelerators is to make it fractionally quicker to find what you are looking for. Also, rather like changing your search provider from Google to Yahoo!, so you can customize your Accelerators.
From a developers point of view these Accelerators used to be called ‘Smart Tags’. To digress, for some unfathomable reason I thought Accelerators were simply applets that populated the predictive list which you get as you start typing text in the search box. Wrong. After reviewing IE 8’s Accelerators for a while, they now remind me of Vista’s Gadgets.
The concept of Web Slices is simple enough, you create a link on the browser bar, which alerts you when the content of the tagged page changes. If you think of an RSS feed, but for html pages, then you have an idea of how Web Slices could assist in subscribing to sites that have interesting updates.
So, what are the killer reasons to tag a Web Slice in your IE 8 Favorites? One use would be to check on bidding for items on eBay. Another example would be keeping up-to-date with sports scores.
The main problem in assessing Web Slices in the spring of 2009 is finding websites which have added html code with the class="hslice" to their pages. Naturally, the surfer must also play their part and browse with not IE 7 or Mozilla, but IE 8. Pages that support Web Slices give two clues that the webmaster has done their bit and added html code; firstly, on the toolbar you see the orange RSS symbol change to green, see screen shots above right. Secondly, you get a green marquee around the section of the page which features updates.
My first difficulty with IE 8’s new Compatibility View is knowing when it’s on, and when it’s off. The color change in that strange green icon is very slight when you toggle it.
Microsoft provide a list of sites that it recommends for Compatibility View. The idea is that we the users can choose to download an install a list of sites which automatically trigger the Compatibility View of IE 8. So far Microsoft has a list of 2,500 sites which are compatible with IE 8, these have no need of any extra rendering and consequently, DON’T display the broken web page icon. Thus if the site does not display properly click on the green icon. Cynics say that this will cause more people to switch to Mozilla. Guy says it depends on whether you like Accelerators and Webslice, and whether Mozilla implements them any time soon.
Confession: when I came across a site that wasn’t displaying properly in IE 8, I forgot all about the compatibility button. Consequently, I just assumed there was something wrong with that particular page and surfed elsewhere. I only discovered my (and their) mistake when I visited the site two days later and remembered this review of IE 8; I pressed the Compatibility View button on my toolbar and the page displayed correctly.
I suppose the name ‘Phishing Filter’ could have been misunderstood in IE 7, thus the new name SmartScreen Filter would help describe its purpose, furthermore, Microsoft love widgets whose name begins with ‘Smart’, thus IE 8 has a new buzzword: SmartScreen Filter. This clever code warns us about phishing sites, and also means that the name of the true website domain is displayed bold in the browser bar, thus making it easier to spot imposters. To tell the truth this new display of the domain name in bold with greyed out file name is a little disconcerting, and I am struggling to like this new presentation of the URL.
Other Safety Menu Items – InPrivate Browsing
InPrivate browsing is handy for covering your tracks when visiting sites you don’t wish other computer users to know. Officially, this is handy when shopping for presents. I will leave other uses to your imagination, let me just say that InPrivate browsing is disabled when parental controls are set.
Sundry Other Newish Features
Microsoft themselves introduce IE8 with the catch phrase, ‘Faster, easier, safer and more private’. Smart search now suggests sites based on your history and favorites, as well as the words you type. I see this new feature but I have not once used it. Maybe I’m a Luddite, or maybe it’s not as useful as the hype leads us to believe.
New technology always spawns purposes nobody had previously thought of, thus we could be in for interesting new gismos. Another truism is that the old Pareto principle holds good, each person only uses 20% of the features of any gadget, thus I realize that features which excite me maybe of only limited interest to you.
It seemed ironic that in IE 7 finding words on the current page was harder than finding words on the entire internet. Thanks to a new dialog box this anomaly is no more, and now in IE 8 it’s just as straightforward to find items on the current page as with an internet search.
Understanding all the new features in IE 8 requires effort and concentration, however installing IE 8 is the proverbial piece of cake. The transition from IE 7 to IE 8 certainly exceeded my expectations, particularly when setup remembered all my old IE 7 customizations. I was also impressed by having the opportunity to change settings during install if I wished.
About the only mistake that you could make when installing IE 8 is if you visit Microsoft’s site, but fail to realize there is a different version of IE for each operating system. The only gripe from my old friend ‘Barking Eddie’ is was that you have to reboot after the IE 8 Setup completes.
Review of IE 8
In summary, there are lots of differences between IE 7 and 8 but these new features are non-intrusive, fun and some are even useful. Installation is easy and setup retains all your old settings. Once you have the new version of Internet Explorer look out for interesting sites which support web slices.
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Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT)
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:
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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 will and Guy’s advice forApril Fools 2012