Software Development investigate

A look at Internet Explorer 10 on Windows RT

The new version of Internet Explorer comes in two varieties: a well-known desktop version and the new Windows RT version.

Until now, I've concentrated on features of the Windows Surface RT that ease the transition from desktop Windows 7 to the new Windows 8. These include Office; the desktop; programs like Internet Explorer, NotePad, and Paint; and the Ease of Access features. Now that I've had the Surface for over a month, it's time to look at the new Windows 8 apps that I use regularly. Let's start with the new Start screen browser.

Internet Explorer 10

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

IE10 is fast, standards compliant, and the only browser I need. It exists in two versions: one on the Start screen and one on the desktop. The desktop version is very familiar if you've used IE9, but the Start screen IE10 has become my preferred browser. I use it on my Surface and my Windows 8 desktop PC, and I like the fast and simplified UI.

The first thing you notice is the lack of any chrome. The screen is filled with the web page, with no space taken up by UI elements.

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

Swiping from the top or bottom of the screen, or positioning the mouse and right-clicking will display a tab bar at the top and an address input field at the bottom.

At the top, you can create, switch to, or close tabs. You may also create inPrivate tabs, which prevent your browsing history, temporary internet files, form data, cookies, and user names and passwords from being retained by the browser.

At the bottom, you can go back or forward, touch/click/type an address, pin the current page to the Start screen, find text on a page, or view the page in the desktop version (which I've only had to do for one or two pages that use Flash video).

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

Selecting the current web page address by clicking or touching brings up a horizontally scrolling set of tiles representing your pinned sites and those viewed frequently.

If you position the mouse over the tiles, a scroll bar will appear, or you can use the mouse scroll wheel. Clicking or touching a tile will send you to that page. If you type into the address field, a list of search results will appear, and your address bar will dynamically change with likely addresses as you type.

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

The address input field also doubles as your Search input field. Simply type in what you are looking for and you'll be taken to a Bing list of search results.

(Screenshot by Tony McSherry/TechRepublic)

IE10 supports the usual touch UI for web pages, such as zoom pinch, scroll, swipe back and forward, and touch to follow a link. Depending on the web page design, you can often double tap to expand a column to full screen.

While the desktop IE10 has the usual multi-tabbed complexity of Internet Options, the Start screen browser has a limited set of options located under the Settings Charm.

You may delete your browser history, set or clear permissions for sites to use your physical location, zoom the page, turn on flip ahead, and set text encoding and direction.

IE10 on my i7-based desktop computer is much faster in JavaScript benchmarks and HTML 5 graphic capabilities than the Surface RT, but in practice, there's little apparent difference in web browsing speed and page display times. Video and audio play well on both.

Flash

While IE10 may support HTML 5 adequately, the Start screen IE10 does not support Flash on either Windows 8 or Windows RT. The Windows 8 desktop version does support Flash, but on Windows RT, the desktop IE10 only supports white-listed Flash sites, which are provided by Microsoft during Windows updates.

However, if you are familiar with Regedit, or want to use some of the scripts available on the web, you can add other websites — simply put "Flash in Windows RT" into your favourite search engine.

I verified the registry change solution to allow me to use sites that were first reporting that I did not have Flash installed, which then after the change, showed me running version 11.3.378. I also had no trouble running Flash games at the Flashgames247 site. It's nice to have the Flash capability, but it's becoming less and less needed, as HTML 5 supports both MP3 audio and H.264 video natively, and with Javascript, provides a comparable programming platform.

Security

The Start screen IE10 is a no-plug-in browser. It runs in enhanced protection mode and avoids the common exploits of Java and Flash by simply not having them. The UEFI Secure Boot of Windows 8 computers also ensures that start-up malware won't survive a reboot. The Surface RT will only accept apps from the Windows Store, which are effectively sandboxed, and apps running on the desktop are restricted to Microsoft only applications.

I did notice a recent discovery by a hacker that would allow other applications to run — assuming that they had been recompiled for ARM. However, this does require local admin rights and a debugger to change the Windows kernel, and any alteration won't survive a reboot, so it's still far from jailbroken. In any case, the Start screen IE10 browser is probably as secure as we can get at the moment.

About

Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.

12 comments
IndianaTux
IndianaTux

"IE10 is...standards compliant...." If this is true, it is a welcome change, and the first MS browser to achieve such an accomplishment (IF you consider CSS a standard, which I absolutely do). I'm highly frustrated when coding my company's website, which relies heavily on JavaScript, JQuery, and CSS. I have to find workarounds for some of the elements to display properly in IE8 (still 42% of our IE traffic) and IE9, simply because neither browser is fully CSS compliant (To my knowledge, no version of IE has ever been). I truly hope IE10 bridges this gap.

andrew232006
andrew232006

If this is true I will be shocked and amazed.

intreb
intreb

When I essentially read: "IE 10 on Windows RT is great! You just have to: Insert hack list here." No thanks, pure garbage.

trilithium
trilithium

I used IE 10 in Modern UI mode until I got Chrome (dev channel version supporting both Desktop and Modern UI modes). (I am running Windows 8 Pro.) Why I prefer Chrome: - I can see the tabs all the time - saves prodding around - I can use Pocket (formerly ReadItLater) to store my bookmarks Perhaps on a 10-inch screen it is useful to hide the tabs. But not on a 17-inch display. This is for me a major complaint about the Modern UI, that it adds extra hassle to display controls for which, on a larger screen, there is no point in hiding, as there is room, and hiding them is such a pointless drag on efficiency. I also like the fact that Chrome looks pretty much the same in Desktop and Modern UI modes. It also offers to switch to Desktop mode when there is something it cannot handle in Modern UI mode. Of course the problem is that Chrome is not available for Windows RT. If Microsoft want the Surface to sell, here are my killer apps: - Dropbox with full sync and caching of files locally - Chrome Without those, no deal. Dropbox released a mediocre Modern UI app, uncharacteristically receiving a lot of criticism, but there are rumours that Microsoft stomped on their attempts to provide 'the real deal'. Likewise Microsoft looks like it is going to stomp on any attempt to put Chrome on Windows RT (unless the EU sticks its nose in). If Microsoft forces users to stick with IE 10 and its one-shot download/upload-on-command version of SkyDrive, it will surely keep out the competition, but only because it won't make any worthwhile level of sales.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

on my WRT Surface, the "desktop" IE reports itself as (also) being IE10. Perhaps this was due to the December or January updates?

Gisabun
Gisabun

According to a report, the IE 10 for Win 7 has gone into a final beta [maybe it was RC] phase. So, expect it within the next couple of months.

TNT
TNT

At first I was confused why there were two versions of IE on my Windows 8 Pro install, but found I much prefer the experience on the Start screen version. It is nimble and gives you far more screen real estate. I only wish it were the same version of IE 10 as I have on my Xbox (or vice versa). Three versions of IE among my devices gets confusing sometimes. Thanks for the useful write-up. Hopefully more people will enjoy using it now that they know its a fast, secure experience.

Slayer_
Slayer_

MS is frighteningly lazy and/or shortsighted. They forgot that desktops have no need for battery savings and can use flash for every site. Most modern laptops have no issue either. And actually, same with tablets. Just look at android power consumption, 90% is the screen backlight, 10% is everything else. Flash burning battery was an issue for the iPhone 1 maybe. the iPhone one ran between 400 and 600mhz, the 5 runs a 1.3ghz duel core. My guess is Adobe failed to pay off Microsoft and that's why it is blocked.

tonymcs
tonymcs

IE10 on Windows RT just works and is far more secure at the present time than any other browser on a desktop, tablet or phone on any OS. This may change, but that's how it appears at the moment.. Feel free to disagree and provide some facts.

tonymcs
tonymcs

If Chrome works for you, fine, but I prefer IE and Skydrive and I also admit to not wanting a browser from an advertising company - my preference ;-) I find the functionality and integration of the MS products to be much better than Google's offerings, so I have no need for Chrome. As to visible UI, as far as I'm concerned there is never enough screen real estate and I'm using the modern UI IE10 on a 24" screen on my desktop. I know where the tabs are and when I need them, I make them appear. It's the lack of chrome that attracts me to the modern UI, whereas the lack of Chrome doesn't bother me at all ;-)

Skruis
Skruis

I specifically like the metro version because of the easier sharing functions. It's nice and easy to share sites with IE10 Metro.