Microsoft has just put live its Release Candidate for the new, (and supposedly improved) IE8. This is a pretty big deal in the web design community, as it could help to eliminate the 20% of users still using IE6 That statistic for me is quite scary, considering the amount of designers/developers who are already prepared to stop developing with IE6 in mind. Anyhow, totally eliminating IE6 is probably just wishful thinking from the lay of the land right now, but who knows for the near future hey? Back to the point at hand: In this post I’ll take a quick look at the best new features Internet Explorer 8 has to offer us.

Speedy Gonzalez!

One of the best things about the new IE8 is its speed. Im yet to sample this for myself, but I’m told it loads sites with AJAX content much much quicker than IE7, and is much closer to its superior Firefox in overall usage speed. Speed is definitely the order of the day when it comes to browsers, and I think this should be the case. No one wants to wait to open a new tab, or be restricted to using only 5 or 6 tabs at once. The way in which we consume the internet makes it essential that browsers be very versatile in this respect.

Crash Recovery

Something Firefox has had for a while now, but has been missing in all previous versions of Internet Explorer. Yes, you can now re-open IE8 with the tabs you had open prior to the crash, and if one inparticular tab crashes, you have the option to kill only that tab without loosing the rest. Joy to the world!

Private Browsing

If you’re browsing habits are questionable (you know what I mean!) then you can rest easy and browse in complete privacy. The private feature basically allows you to cover your tracks by preventing a browsing history and not storing files in the cache on your PC. There are more legitimate reasons for using ‘private’ mode though – one of these being that it prevents passwords being remembered and stored and other such information you type into web forms,  so I guess it could be a pretty handy feature. Especially if you find yourself using a computer in a library, or other shared location.

Accelerators & Web Slices

These enable you to highlight a selection of text and perform certain tasks without having to leave the page you’re on. So, for example you could grab a selection of text and translate it into another language without having to visit a translation site. Or you could click for a map of a geographic location without having to open up Google Maps in another tab. Pretty neat!

Standards Compliance

It seems that with every release of IE Microsoft claim it to be more ‘standards compliant’. As I haven’t actually got my hands on IE 8 yet, I can’t vouch for this, but this new compliance mode could be handy – for testing purposes at least. As a result of this improved standards compliance some sites will apparently now break in IE8 because us designers and developers have had to use hacks in previous versions of IE to get our sites displaying how we want them to. Fear not though as IE8 comes with a ‘compliance’ button, which lets you select different rendering modes  eg. IE6, IE7 and the browser will behave as it does in that version.

All in all…

I think this will be a step in the right direction. Although I’m yet to try IE8 out I don’t think I’ll be running out on Firefox any time soon. The number one reason being all the plugins I use on a regular basis! If you’re wanting to find out more before you download, check Microsoft’s page out. Finally I’ll leave you with what Microsoft has to say about IE8…

Windows Internet Explorer 8 provides innovative new features that make browsing faster, easier, and safer than ever.

… I’ll let you be the judge of that!

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