The new Internet Explorer

Tech Talk with Devaka

I’ve been using the Firefox browser for many years and the chances of me switching to a different browser is slim to none. This is the major problem that all new entrants to the browser market have to face, whether it’s a new version of an existing browser or a new one altogether.

In essence, all browsers have gotten so good at delivering the basics that you find little reason to change. The frills are what set each browser apart, but getting unique offerings in one means giving up features in another. Windows came out with its newest release of Internet Explorer version 8.0 (IE8). However thrilling IE8’s new offerings may be, I don’t see myself giving up on Firefox or Chrome anytime soon. Still, Microsoft should be applauded for trying.

Most notable feature in this version of IE are tools called “Accelerators,” which are designed to better mirror how people use the Web these days. Accelerators help you share content and blend services from various sites. With a mapping Accelerator, you simply right-click on an address to launch an online map from Microsoft, Yahoo or Google. With a dictionary Accelerator, you right-click on a word to get the definition from Dictionary.com, Urban Dictionary or Microsoft’s search engine.

There are Accelerators for email, news stories, currency conversions,eBay auctions, searching through Facebook friends, and more.

This feature I think is very useful saving a lot of time by not having to constantly copy and paste text from online stories into Gmail when you want to email the tidbits to friends. you simply highlight a few paragraphs and right-click on the Gmail Accelerator. Those paragraphs and a link to the full story automatically get added to the message.

IE8 also offers “Web Slices” to quickly alert users to updates on their eBay auctions, stock quotes, sports scores and other frequently viewed services. They appear on your favorites bar just like other bookmarks, but instead of static pages or text headlines, you get the latest photos and other goodies as well.

The new Microsoft browser also makes it easier to switch between search engines from the search box. It offers a “private” mode during which IE8 doesn’t store the addresses of sites you visit or keep the small advertising data files called “cookies.”

Both Firefox and Chrome let me quickly find information with an “Awesome Bar” that offers suggestions as you type, based not only on previously visited Web addresses but also the Web page’s title, bookmarks and the descriptive tags you’ve added. Microsoft’s new address bar is an improvement from previous versions but doesn’t go as far. I don’t think I’m ready to give up this feature yet !

One other notable IE8 feature is grouped tabs. Say you’re on the home page of a news site and want to read a story without losing your place. You can right-click and open that story in a new tab next to your current one showing the home page. That was possible before, but now related tabs are given a common color, so tabs opened from that news site might be assigned green, while ones from Facebook might get yellow.

IE is still the dominant browser, but Microsoft has been gradually losing share to Firefox and other rivals as they innovate. As a result, Microsoft has had to come up with new ideas as well, and it shows with IE8.
Users of the previous Microsoft browser, IE7, might consider an upgrade. Some sites won’t work with the new version, but it has an IE7 mode available for you to temporarily switch back.

However, unless you’re unhappy with the browser you’re already using, there’s no compelling reason to abandon it. My two cents.

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