First look: Internet Explorer 8.0 loves add-ons, search and acceleration

Speed boosts and new navigation features make for a better browser

IE 8 also features and Add-Ons gallery

IE 8 also features and Add-Ons gallery

Accelerate you Web experience

The second big new feature, Accelerators, is a different story. This is arguably the most interesting new feature for IE 8 users. By simply highlighting a word in a Web page, a blue “Accelerator” icon will appear. Clicking the icon brings up a suite of accelerator options. Users can choose to blog or email with Windows Live, Map or translate with Live Search, or share with Windows Messenger.

Of these, the Map with Live Search is likely to be the most useful. Accelerating the word “Sydney”, for example, brings up a zoomable map of Australia on Microsoft’s Virtual Earth.

Also a plus, one assumes, is the growing stable of additional Accelerator plug-ins available from the Add-ons Gallery. These include add-ons for eBay, Facebook and Digg among others. With IE 8 submitting TechWorld stories to Digg has never been so easy.

Web Slice, Microsoft’s attempt to keep alt-tabbing between a plethora of open sites down to a minimum, is also a good new feature of IE 8. For example, to keep watch on free falling share prices on the ASX’s site, simply click the Web Splice button and choose to add it to your favourites bar.

Once there you simply mouse over the tab and it will balloon out for a quick view. Web Slice will also alert you to changes in the page by having the tab flash. Definitely useful for share price changes or Facebook and Twitter addicts.

Add-on management is another area users will notice an improvement. On initially opening IE 8.0, we noticed an automatic drop down box alerting us to the fact some add-ons installed which are not enabled.

Clicking the box opens up a logical interface listing the name, publisher, status and file date of any current add-ons. Users simply need enable or disable at their discretion. Add-ons are broken down into Toolbars and Extensions, Search Providers, Accelerators and InPrivate Filtering.

To Microsoft’s credit, this feature feels like it’s actually enabling the user and giving them the choice of what they want installed or not. Vista users, likely frustrated from the near total lack of control, will find this highly refreshing.

Subtler features also improve the user experience. For example, web addresses will grey out extraneous Web site details effectively highlighting the homepage address of the site you are currently on, enhancing navigation. Similarly, recently visited sites, history and favourites are all categorised in the Address Bar drop down box, again, enhancing navigation.

Drive directories which have been recently visited also feature in the address bar along with recently visited website addresses. Clicking these drive addresses opens the drive in Windows Explorer.

As reported by TechWorld (http://www.techworld.com.au/article/280234/microsoft_ie8_faster_than_firefox_chrome), Microsoft has been at pains to let everyone know how fast its new browser is against arch rivals Firefox and Chrome.

While hardly a scientific test, we noticed a slight speed improvement (about 25 percent) with IE 8 over Firefox when opening TechWorld. Unfortunately we weren’t able to test IE 8 against Chrome, but we’d be interested in hearing your feedback on this.

All up, first impressions are overall positive. Longer tests will be needed to see whether claimed security improvements are just that, but we’re confident features such as the Web Slice and Accelerators which actually be used. We’re still unsure about the search features, however, and reckon the MSN Toolbar will not stay on browsers for long.

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