Internet Explorer 9.0 (IE9) has been officially opened to the public, although many of us have been using the beta version for months now. The final release is very different to all previous versions and, dare I say it, an improvement on the layouts used by Firefox and Chrome. Gone is the chunky control panel with multiple text menu options, favourites bar, tabs bar, title bar and icons for Africa! If you’ve gotten carried away with toolbars, you should see those gone as well.
In previous versions, where you were overwhelmed with the array of dinky icons to click, IE9 has removed almost all of them and left you with only three on the top right. The home icon, the favourites star icon and a new “cog” or “gear” icon that enables access to other functions that used to be icons on the main toolbar. Toolbars such as the menu bar, favourites bar, status bar and any add-on toolbars you had are still available as separate toolbars by right-clicking on the top of the browser but I must admit, I prefer it without them.
IE9 successfully shifts the focus away from the design of the browser to the design of the website that you’re viewing. It achieves this by reducing the size and prominance of the browser so that more of the website is visible and more dominant than the frame around it. Something that us web designers really appreciate! As you can see in the image above, the top left of the browser now has the back button, address bar and tabs all on one row. You’ll also notice that the bar that displayed the title of the web page is gone. If you’re not already using tabs, try them out, you’ll love it!
My initial tests also that the browser is much faster than it’s predecessor, IE8. I visited a web page that I’ve had problems viewing before and it displayed in no time at all using IE9. Having said that, I did notice that there was a problem with a social media plugin that meant it didn’t display correctly. This sort of thing is to be expected and will no doubt be cleared up in due course by the makers of the plugin.
IE9 Quick Feature Overview
Pin sites to your task bar
You can now access web sites that you visit a lot by pinning them to the taskbar on your Windows 7 desktop.
Find out about how to pin sites here
Search using your address bar
No need to go to Google first. Just start typing your key words into the address bar and your chosen search engine will find results for you. You’ll also see a menu pop up with icons for other search engines.
Like Firefox, IE9 now uses a download manager to keep a list of the files you download and tells you when a file might be something nasty (like a virus). You can also pause and restart downloads.
I’m amazed by how many people still don’t know tabs exist. They’re the best change in browsers in years. Think of your browser as a filing draw full of sleeves with tabs sticking up, like; Insurance, Legal, Bills, etc. The browser tabs are just like those. Each tab allows you to view another website in the same browser window.
IE9 increases the security and privacy of your information while browsing by using Tracking Protection and ActiveX Filtering:
- Tracking Protection limits the browser’s communication with websites on a Tracking Protection List to keep your information private. Tracking Protection Lists are available online.
- ActiveX is software used to create interactive features on websites, but it can also be considered a security risk. With IE9, you can block ActiveX and only use them on websites you trust.
More about security and privacy here:
- Security and Privacy features in IE9
- Using Tracking Protection and ActiveX Filtering
- SmartScreen Filter: frequently asked questions
You may notice that the status bar that appeared at the bottom of older browsers is also gone. In IE9, a notification bar will pop up only if something is important. For things like secure websites, you’ll notice the address bar goes green and the lock icon now appears in there. For more information about the security of something like a payment page, click on the lock icon.
Go here to download IE9. Make sure you get the right version for your computer! You’ll need to close everything down to install IE9, and make yourself a cup of tea as it does take a little while to get going. I had one false start when re-booting my laptop, during which, I cursed myself for being so trusting and prayed to the gods of the interweb for luck. But a quick power-down and restart and I was up and going within 5 minutes. I’m writing this article on IE9 as we speak!
IE9 Review Summary
I really like IE9. Microsoft may be able to prevent a lot of people moving to browsers like Firefox and Chrome and perhaps even get a few back. For years now, IE has been gradually losing market share to these faster, more user-friendly and just plain better browsers. Give Microsoft their due, they have done a great job on IE9. Time will tell if it’s as good as it looks!