Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Internet Explorer 8 Beta: New Names for Old Ideas

It has been a year and a half since IE7 was released but I was still surprised to see Internet Explorer 8 was getting ready to make its debut. Microsoft has put a lot into making IE the number one browser although they haven’t been able to monetize this advantage by sending more folks to Microsoft properties as planned.

They may have noticed that Firefox is starting to get a bigger share of the market. It could also be that Microsoft is trying to fend off concerns of the European Commission. Either way, IE8 beta is available now. I don’t recommend it but if you’re experienced enough you can try IE8 out by visiting the Microsoft IE8 Readiness Toolkit site.

The most important new feature you’ll want to know about is the “Emulate IE7”. I quickly found many sites failed to work in the default IE8 mode including most Blogspot sites like Bits from Bill. Luckily, many of the new features will continue to work in Emulation mode.Emulate IE 7 Button

The other good news is when a particular site fails, it won’t kill the browser, just that particular tab process. The browser will try to recover but unfortunately, if it fails once, it will continue to fail.Eror message letting you know IE8 is trying to recover

Let me repeat again, unless you need to write a review or you’re a serious web developers, don’t rush to download IE8 Beta. While I haven’t had serious problems, I’ve read a number of horror stories that are typical with beta software. Chances are some of these people never bothered to read the release notes to see if they had compatible machines. For me it’s been impossible to use IE8 in anything but Emulate IE7 mode. Some bugs are minor like having a Yahoo icon being displayed on my sites. Others cause the browser to hang and can’t be duplicated.Wrong icons being displayed on IE 8

Browser Chrome
Microsoft has always been an advocate for cool new names for things and they’ve put in a lot of creativity into this new version. My favorite is a new name for toolbars. A toolbar is now just a part of your “browser chrome”.

This feature isn’t a bad idea but has limited applicability. It will be good if you spend a lot of time with your browser open and you’re interested in watching a portion of a website that might change regularly. Basically, it’s like adding a favorite to your “chrome” that displays only a portion of the web page you’re interested in. Essentially it’s a new way to do what used to be called Channels and takes up space on your browser chrome. Unless you’re a stock watcher or Ebay professional you might want to find a better use for this space.
On the web side, WebSlices are easy to add. If anything the web based code of this feature would be great for mobile devices. I could definitely see accessing webslices from my phone.

Add Web Slice

You may find that just adding a slice will cause a new program to be added to your Scheduled Tasks. MSFeedSync says it’s used to update out-of-date system feeds. Oddly, while WinPatrol reports this new job, it doesn’t appear in my Control Panels Scheduled Task applet on my XP test machine.
Alert of new msfeedsync task being scheduled

This seems to be a new name for copy and paste. Well, in fairness this combines the features of copy, paste with SendTo. Most of the examples I’ve seen have already been available by just using JavaScript.
According to Microsoft:

“Activity providers enhance your ability to work with text that you select on a webpage, enabling you to map addresses, define words, and more.”
For a list of currently supported Activities check out

Developer Tools
While I may be a little critical of IE8 they have added many features I love. The new developer tool is very useful to anyone developing websites, especially folks like myself who still hand code most of our sites. This is something I’ve had on Firefox, thanks to a plug-in, but it’s very important to have this feature on IE.

I’m very pleased that Microsoft has continued to make improvements in their JavaScript engine. There’s even a new JavaScript debugger available. YAY!! I really love how Microsoft insists on calling it “JScript”. It’s reasonable because JavaScript has no connection to Java, but I can’t help thinking Microsoft just thinks Java is a dirty word.

Open Standards
Microsoft claims that IE8 will “interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can”. This will be the default mode that IE8 uses. One might think this is a ploy to pacify regulators but IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch denies this in the IE Blog.

“While we do not believe any current legal requirements would dictate which rendering mode a browser must use, this step clearly removes this question as a potential legal and regulatory issue.”

Translation: There was nothing wrong before, but we fixed it anyway so shut up.

Address Bar
Some good common sense improvements have been made to where you enter your web address or URL. IE8 will now handle URL’s that might have been fragmented. This solves a problem that happens when you try to copy and paste long URLs that may have been Emailed to you. This seems like a no-brainer but I can’t help thinking there could be security concerns. You’ll also see the a colored background in the address bar to help identify real and potentially dangerous sites. In addition, you'll see the actual domain will be a little bolder so users can see who they're really connected to.

New URL formatting

Favorites Bar
One more name change came to the Links toolbar. It’s now called the “Favorites bar”. The area above the web page now takes up five rows counting my Google toolbar and unlike older versions of IE it can not be customized. I guess I should be happy they haven’t added an Office 2007 style ribbon.

For those brave souls who are trying IE8, I look forward to hearing your feedback.

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Blogger Corrine said...

"The area above the web page now takes up five rows counting my Google toolbar and unlike older versions of IE it can not be customized."

FOUR ROWS (subtracting the Google toolbar)? That is crazy. I hate it that I cannot shorten the address bar in IE7. I would move it to the Command Bar like I did with Firefox.



(I just realized you hadn't removed the Scotty plaid background at Bits from Bill as it shows with IE. I don't know when it stopped with FF.)

7:36 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Bill, thanks for all the brain work and chasing info to post. Folks such as you bring back some sanity to the Internet.

1. IE8 will not allow filling in information on some web pages.
2. Copy/paste is difficult on some web pages.
3. Can't manage tool bar.
4. Much slower than IE7 in responding to populating web pages and downloading.
5. Running IE8 outside IE7 emulation mode is risky.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

QUOTE: (I just realized you hadn't removed the Scotty plaid background at Bits from Bill as it shows with IE. I don't know when it stopped with FF.)

Yes it has disappeared in FF, massive improvement though not having that awful background, makes for a far less amateurish looking site (I never really understood the relevance of the pattern anyway, looked like a garish filmstrip pattern)

2:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading about all of Microsoft's flubs with IE7 & IE8, I am sooo happy that I still use the best of all...IE6. I hate tabs, I hate toolbars, and I hate the fact that this new rotten web browser is not customizable. I'll stay with IE6 which is the default web broswer for xp service pack 3.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use a 17" monitor for building my websites. I keep my status bar disabled at all times inless I'm catching an url with a high speed program like capture wiz. I won't use firefox or i.e.7 because of the extra ribbon toolbar that costs me 30 pixels of real estate and and makes it impossible to view menus prepared for printing without having to scroll. I wish I could collapse the upper toolbars all the way up into the blue ribbon. Microsoft made a major mistake when the copied firefox high toolbars. Many professional webmasters will not use i.e.7 and we're not going to use 8 either. Microsoft needs to pull their heads out of their collective asses and get off of our realestate. Ed
Check with Vincent Flanders "Web pages that suck" He went back to 6 also.

8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have downloaded IE8 Beta, havent had any problems yet, i run in it emulate IE7 mode, dont understand why thats there, can anyone explain????? if I run it it in IE8 it comes up with 2 pages at a time, dont like that...

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried IE8 Beta, and whilst I did like some of the new ideas, I didn't like some programs not working, like Pit Stop Optimizer on the web, as soon as I uninstalled everything was ok. And yes I did try IE7 emulation, but it still did not work.

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lambadafen can use the entire screen as I do in Firefox by just hitting F11 for fullscreen mode. To get the command bar (and tab bar if you're using it) back, just hit F11 again or, if you want it only briefly, just move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen.

2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just downloaded IE8 beta and things work just fine even without emulating IE7. Have problems been fixed so quickly?

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the extra favorites bar can be hidden in ie8, you just turn it off like any other toolbar, so all you have is the address bar and the tabs, it doesnt take up that much space

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an Acer Laptop Dual Core 4mg running Windows Vista and IE7 how do you uninstall IE7 so I can install IE6? Michael

8:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Bill, just got done reading your OpenDNS and IE8 blogs... I've been using OpenDNS for a few months now and love it. As for IE, I used it for a long time cause it seemed faster then Firefox, but a friend to me about this web sight(below) that really speeds it up. Combined with OpenDNS, I now avoid IE at all costs!

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads-up Bill. Funny thing I've noticed while reading anything about new microsoft horrors like IE8 and Vista is how many times the only people posting comments who think everything is groovy are the ones who aren't professionals. HMMMM.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the hint about the F-11 button. The viewers should not have to hit F-11 in firefox or I.E.7 to view a full page so I'll stick with I.E.6 and pinching the upper bars to collapse upward.

4:16 PM  

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