Microsoft goes public with IE 8 Beta 2

Microsoft has released a beta version of Internet Explorer 8 to the public.

This major new version of the Web browser ' available for download at www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/beta ' highlights a broad array of enhancements for both usability and security.

Among the enhancements that will appeal immediately to many users are features called Web slices and accelerators.

Web slices allow you to grab an applet or section of a Web site ' whether it be sports scores or stock quotes ' and add just that item, rather than the whole site, to your Favorites bar. When information in the slice is updated ' say, your team scores a run ' the icon in the Favorites bar will be highlighted. For this feature to work, however, it must be implemented by the developer of the Web site.

Accelerators offer a different route to quick results. Select text on a Web page and click on the new Accelerators icon. Then select the tool you want to use from the drop-down, customizable list, and you're off an running. Select an address, for example, then click on the 'Map with Live Maps' accelerator and Live Maps will take care of the rest.

IE 8 will also allow users to quickly reacquire recently closed tabs.

And the browser features automatic crash recovery and tab isolation. With tab isolation, if a Web site causes problems, chances are any crash will be limited to just that tab in IE 8. If the crash affects more than just that tab, IE 8 will reload all tabs and return the browser to the state it was in just prior to the crash.

IE 8 will also introduce some major enhancements to security, including most notably InPrivate Browsing. With InPrivate Browsing, users can open a Web site in a mode that will prevent any information ' including browsing history, temporary Internet files, cookies or passwords ' from being stored on the computer.

However, the new version of Internet Explorer could also present some challenges for Web site developers.

Many of the features ' including both Web slices and InPrivate Browsing ' could require adjustments by Web site developers in order to be fully functional. And even existing Web sites might not display properly in IE 8, in part because IE 8 more closely adheres to World Wide Web Consortium Web standards.

Microsoft has added a 'compatibility mode' to deal with the situation. If you encounter a Web page that does not appear to be displaying properly, you can toggle into compatibility mode, which fixes things right up. It's not clear why this isn't automatic, but apparently Web developers can insert code in their sites to force IE 8 into compatibility mode.

According to a Microsoft spokesperson, no date has yet been set for actual release of Internet Explorer 8.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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