IE9: Faster, Cleaner, Smarter

Internet Explorer 9 is picking up speed, loading webpages faster and allowing you to interact with webpages faster. IE9 uses hardware-accelerated text, video and graphics, loading webpages more like an application on your own Windows PC.  If
your PC doesn’t have the required hardware, Internet Explorer automatically uses the Software Rendering option. 

Interface

Microsoft is touting Internet Explorer 9’s new interface as ‘clean,’ and clean it is.  The simplified user interface displays only the controls that are necessary for browsing, to maximize screen space. 

The new toolbar is considerably smaller and the address bar and search box have been combined into one box, called (you guessed it) One Box. Tabs are on the same toolbar row as One Box, however, there is an option to move the tabs to a separate row if you find the single toolbar results in tabs flowing off the screen.  All of your other toolbars are still available and can be activated by right-clicking on the home icon.

Notifications are also less intrusive.  Instead of an annoying popup that demands your attention before you can continue with what you were doing, IE9 displays notifications at the bottom of the browser.  There is no need to respond to the notification and less important notifications will automatically disappear. 

One of my main beefs with Internet Explorer 8 was hanging websites. Invariably, any attempt to close the hanging window would result in all instances of Internet Explorer closing.  Since I work with
multiple browsers open, with five or more tabs per window, this was painful.  A new feature in Internet Explorer 9 isolates the hung tab, allowing you to continue using the other tabs.

Navigation

One Box

The IE9 address bar now serves many functions.  Renamed to One Box, it can be used to navigate to a site, search, access your browsing history and favorites, switch between search providers, and offer search suggestions from your chosen search provider (if you have the feature enabled). 

Tabs

Internet Explorer 9’s tabs have been enhanced.  IE9 allows you to rearrange tabs and the active tab is highlighted, making it easier to see. Tear-off Tabs, a standard feature in most other browsers, allows you to drag a tab to the edge of the screen, which brings Aero Snap into play causing the tab to expand, taking up exactly half of the screen.  Drag that tab back to the original window and it will automatically resize to fit.

Pinned Sites

One of my favorite new features is the ability to pin sites to the Windows taskbar.  There’s no need to open a browser, just click the icon on the taskbar to have the site open for you.  To pin a site, simply drag the tab or the icon to the left of the address bar, to your Windows taskbar. Do a lot of research or shopping? Maybe you have a group of social networks that you check in on frequently.  They can be grouped as multiple homepages and pinned as a single site. 

Jump Lists

Pinned sites that support Jump Lists provide a quick way to get to a task without opening a browser. For example, I’ve pinned Amazon.com to my taskbar.  When I right-click the icon I get a list of options including my favorite pages on the site and a list of tasks that includes such things as check order status, manage your account and go to your shopping cart. 

Security

InPrivate Browsing

IE9 still provides InPrivate Browsing, and it still turned off by default, so it  needs to be enabled (CTRL + Shift + P) when you open your browser.  InPrivate Browsing leaves no trace of your browsing history. Unfortunately, it doesn’t prevent advertiser tracking.  New in IE9 is Tracking Protection, which prevents advertisers from tracking you.

Tracking Protection

IE9 offers enhanced security against those websites that track your browsing activity.  Not everything (including content, images, ads) you see on the websites you visit belongs to those websites.  Some of the content is provided by third-party websites, and has the ability to track your activity as you browse the web.  The new Tracking Protection feature is a flexible solution that allows you to block certain domains or to specify how your information is shared.  To enable Tracking Protection, you’ll need to subscribe to a list from a trustworthy source such as Abine, PrivacyChoice, TRUSTe and EasyList.  Alternatively, you can create your own custom list.  Tracking Protection is not enabled by default; it needs to be turned on from the Safety menu. Tracing Protection may cause some things on a webpage to not display.  In my case, I had set all of the tracking options, only to discover that Abine knocked out all of my iGoogle news feeds. When I disabled that one TPL, my news feeds reappeared.  

One additional note on Security.  IE 9 recognizes Phishing websites and either blocks the entire site or the pages that are dangerous.  Take a look at Microsoft’s Malvertising Protection.

Download Manager

The download manager in Internet explorer 9 comes complete with integrated malware protection and download reputation. Download Manager executes several security-related checks when you download; it scans for viruses, verifies that the download is from a trusted source and uses SmartScreen to display the reputation data to warn you of high risk downloads.  Additionally, the download manager allows you to view download progress, open content that you’ve downloaded or cancel a download that is in progress.  When you begin a download, you’re offered the option to ‘Run’, ‘Save’ or ‘Save and Run’. As a test, I downloaded an .exe file and selected the ‘Save’ option. Upon completion, the download manager notified me that the file I had downloaded could cause harm to my computer and gave the option to ‘Don’t run this program’, ‘Delete program’ or ‘Run anyway’.   ‘Run anyway’ was not readily available but was hidden under the ‘More Options’ button.  If you don’t care for any of the options offered, simply close the window; your download will be safely waiting for you in your download directory.

If this is your first view of IE9, you’ll want to check out Microsoft’s Test Drive to get a taste of the release candidate’s capabilities. The Test Drive has speed demos, demos of HTML5, Graphics and Browser Demos.  If you find Internet Explorer 9 isn’t for you, Microsoft tells you how to uninstall it.

Internet Explorer only runs on Vista and Windows 7, both 32-bit and 64-it, and Windows Server 2008.  If you’re still running Windows XP or an older version, you won’t be able to take the new IE9 for your own personal test drive.

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