On September 15th, Microsoft released the Windows Internet Explorer 9 beta at an event in San Francisco.
I’ve been using the beta for a while now and I can say that I’m impressed. Microsoft has made numerous improvements and it really shows through in this release.
The top features in Internet Explorer 9 are Hardware-accelerated HTML5, support for modern web standards, deep integration with Windows 7, and a new UI that emphasizes browsing over browser.
Internet Explorer 9 moves rendering of text and graphics from the CPU (processor), to the GPU (graphics card). What this means is that graphics will appear richer, text will appear clearer and crisper, and video will play smoother. I’ve included a screenshot example below to illustrate the difference between the new DirectWrite rendering engine and the GDI rendering engine that is used in older versions of Internet Explorer, as well as Internet Explorer 9’s Compatibility Mode. (The top screenshot is rendering with DirectWrite and the bottom is rendering with GDI.)
Internet Explorer 9 includes support now for HTML5, the next major revision to the HTML web standard. Features in HTML5 include direct embed support of video and audio, offline storage, enabling websites to become web applications, and drag and drop. Some of these new features work best with hardware acceleration, and Microsoft is taking hardware acceleration to a whole new level with Internet Explorer 9. Because Internet Explorer 9 uses APIs like Direct2D and DirectWrite, HTML5 websites feel less like websites and more like applications.
In the Internet Explorer 9 Product Guide that Microsoft published, they use the phrase “Your websites shine.” I completely agree with this statement. Because of the new user interface introduced with IE9, websites truly shine. IE 9 is, dare I say, one sexy browser. The browser has been simplified by combining the address box and the search box into what Microsoft calls “OneBox”, easier and clearer notifications, and hiding the unnecessary menu items. By simplifying the user interface, the focus is off of the browser and on the website.
If you’re a Windows 7 user, there is now more to love about Internet Explorer 9. With Internet Explorer 9 you can pin websites to the taskbar for easy access. Pinned websites open in their own browser windows and the browser and navigational controls integrate the site’s icon and primary color, improving the browsing experience.
Internet Explorer 9 includes Jump List support for Pinned Sites and makes it very easy to access areas of different websites that the website creator wants to expose.
Other features include tearable tabs, meaning that tabs can be moved to other windows or torn off and separated on their own, a download manager (finally!), and improved overall performance.
I am thoroughly impressed with Internet Explorer 9. The new user interface, hardware accelerated HTML5, and personal favorite, the integrated download manager. In my opinion Microsoft has done it right. Sure, other browsers have had download management and simplified user interfaces for a while now, but Internet Explorer 9 takes it up to the next level. If I was giving it a rating based on stars I’d say 5 out of 5.
If you are on the adventurous side, I highly encourage that you visit the Microsoft website and evaluate the beta today. You can find the beta by clicking here.