Enterprise Software

10 things to love (and hate) about IE 8

Speed, stability, and crash recovery

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MSCE, MVP

Note: This gallery is also available as an entry in our 10 Things blog and as a PDF download.

Microsoft recently released Beta 2 of Internet Explorer 8 to the public. Although it's still a beta, this version is said to be feature-complete. Many folks have downloaded it, and reviews, as usual, are mixed.If you want to try it out for yourself, you can download it from Microsoft. You can run it on XP and on both the 32- and 64-bit editions of Vista, Server 2003, and Server 2008. There are different downloads for each OS, so be sure you get the appropriate one.

In my opinion, Microsoft did a good -- but not perfect -- job with this one. Here are some of the characteristics of the new browser that I love, and a few others I don't like so much.

#1: Faster is better. In the computer world, we never seem to get past the need for speed. We want faster connections, faster hardware, faster software. IE 8 is noticeably faster than IE 7 on most Web sites. Pages "pop" in a way that I never saw in its predecessor (but did see in Firefox). Pages with JavaScript or AJAX load much faster, thanks to the improved script engine. This increased performance is likely to be one of the features that's most noticeable -- and most useful -- to users.

#2: Like a rock. Stability is at least as important as speed. IE 7 never was stable. On occasion, usually at least a couple of times per day, it would just stop responding for no apparent reason. Try to click a link, try the back button, even try to close the browser normally, and you got nothing. When that happened, I would have to open Task Manager and kill it there. This happened on both XP and Vista machines, and many others told me that it happened to them, too. I knew plenty of users who went back to IE 6 for that reason, but I wasn't willing to give up my tabs.

I've been using IE 8 many hours a day now for over a week and not once has it crashed. If a site or add-on does cause a crash in IE 8, it's designed so that only that one tab goes down instead of taking the entire browser down with it. And that brings us to the next thing I love.

#3: Crash recovery. Yes, I know Firefox already had it. That's one of the reasons my loyalty has been divided between IE 7 and Firefox ever since I installed the former. Now IE has it, too: the ability to recover your last browsing session in case the browser does crash, or even if you just accidentally close it yourself.

I don't know how many times I've cursed IE 7 when I was in the middle of some complex research and had half a dozen tabs open that I had come to through all sorts of routes, and the browser decided to go down -- taking all my tabs. Sometimes it was my own fault; I was doing 10 things at once, had three or four separate browser windows open, and closed the wrong one. What a pain it was to try to find those pages again. Now you just open a new tab and click the Reopen Last Browsing Session Link, as shown here.

The new page also has links for every tab you've closed during the session, so you can get them back if you close only one tab accidentally. This feature will save many users much grief (or keep them from having to switch to Firefox, as I did, when doing anything important or complicated on the Web).

By Deb Shinder

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...