Enterprise Software

Review: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is now available. Mark Kaelin puts the Web browser through its paces and shares his review.

In years past, the release of a new Web browser was a big deal as various competitors fought for market share. However, in the past few years, the browser wars seem to have fallen into a kind of cold war, with market share among the players holding relatively steady.

This status quo has occurred despite the fact that the Web browser has become one of the most important applications for an Internet-connected world. This is why Microsoft's release of Internet Explorer 9 this week is so important to so many market players.

See what Internet Explorer 9 looks like in the TechRepublic Gallery: First Look: Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 final version.

And while Internet Explorer 9 works well and has several fine new features, it also asks users to change the way they think about Web sites. The ultimate success of IE9 may very well hinge on Microsoft's ability to convince users to accept this change in thinking as a more "beautiful" way to experience the World Wide Web.

NOTE: Internet Explorer 9 does not work with Windows XP at all.

Specifications

Operating system: Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2. IE9 is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.

What I like

Despite what you may have read from haters on Internet forums, Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is a serviceable Web browser. Microsoft has put some concentrated effort in the backend-rendering engine to take advantage of modern multicore CPUs, and other technologies, to increase display speed.

IE9 also supports a cleaner, more minimalistic look and feel that closely mirrors the cleaner look and feel of one of its major competitors — Chrome. By moving tabs for open Web pages to a line parallel to the address bar, Microsoft provides more room for the actual display of the Web page itself. I prefer much less toolbar real estate myself, so this is helpful.

What I don't like

Over the years, I have developed a huge list of bookmarked links that I carry with me from browser to browser. It is my preferred method of browser navigation. And, since it is so important to me, I like to have easy access to that list. IE9 places the icon linking to that list up in the right-hand corner in the form of a very small icon. I don't like it there. I feel like I have to hunt for my list of bookmarks. And pinning the list of bookmarks to the side of the display window takes up too much real estate to be useful. I'd like more options.

However, Microsoft has a reason for doing this — they are attempting to change user behavior when it comes to Web site links. Because IE9 is integrated so closely with the Windows 7 operating system, Microsoft would like you to look at Web sites as applications not destinations. This change of thinking is possible and encouraged because with IE9 you can pin Website links to the Windows Taskbar like you would any application.

This is one of those features that I can see some benefit to if you use your browser to access Web-based applications for productive purposes. For example, at TechRepublic we have many browser-based applications that we have to access every day, and having those handy on the Taskbar makes sense (if we weren't still stuck using XP on our workstations).

But for general users who have links to 10 World of Warcraft-related Websites, plus several for tracking their fantasy sports teams, plus several more news sites, plus links to The Onion, and who knows what else, the Taskbar is going to get crowded very quickly. An organized list of favorite bookmarks would seem to be a better choice to me.

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Special features

  • New Tab page: Select a new tab in IE9 and you get a page of suggested Website links based on your browsing history. While this is a good idea, it is also a feature that Chrome has had for some time.
  • One box search and address: The search box and the address bar are one in the same. Type a search in the box and your default search engine will return your results.
  • Pinned sites: Drag the address of a Website from the address bar to the Taskbar and you can pin it there so it is available next time.
  • Windows 7 integration: Internet Explorer 9 integrates with Windows 7 operating system with regard to features like snap and jump lists for pinned Websites on the Taskbar.
  • InPrivate Browsing: By entering into the InPrivate Browsing mode, a user can surf the Web without creating a browsing history, temporary Internet files, or form data or retaining cookie information.

Competition

Bottom line

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 is a good browser with some nice features that certainly deserve your consideration; however, it is not a revolutionary jump in browser technology that will forever change the way we interact with the Internet.

As you might expect, IE9 makes several improvements to standards established by Internet Explorer 8; however, it also makes several changes that some users may not take to right away. Getting users to change engrained behavior can be a dubious proposition.

I, for one, am not excited by some of the new features. In fact, I have found some of them annoyingly disconcerting. Only time will tell if my initial reaction is won over by the new features found in Internet Explorer 9, but I am willing to give it a try. Perhaps you should too.

User rating

What do you think of Microsoft Internet Explorer 9? Have you tried it? What, specifically, do you not like about IE9? (And don't just say it's because it's Microsoft — offer some facts to back it up.) What do you like?

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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