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Microsoft leaks IE9 look, reveals 'Chromifying'

Company's Russian site posts screenshot, details of UI three weeks before beta launch

August 25, 2010 12:41 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft's Russian Web site today revealed details about the new Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) user interface, touting new features such as quick-release tabs and a Chrome-like address-cum-search bar.

Although the company has issued several developer previews of IE9 since March, those builds have lacked any user interface (UI), and instead have presented the rendering and JavaScript engines in a wrapper that lacks even the most basic navigational aids, such as a Back button.

IE9 UI
IE9's user interface will look a lot like Google's Chrome if Microsoft Russia's site is accurate.

Until today, Microsoft had kept quiet about IE9's look and feel.

Microsoft Russia's press site published a screenshot of and additional information about IE9. The page has since been pulled, but as of noon today, remained available in Bing.com's cache.

ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley reported on the IE9 details earlier today.

The IE9 interface shown in the screenshot sported a Firefox-esque design to the Back/Forward buttons -- the former is larger than the latter -- dispensed with traditional menus, put tabs atop the browser window and combined the address and search bars, a move taken from Chrome's playbook.

At the far right, IE9 displays a trio of icons -- one is clearly Home -- that likely lead to more menus and the browser's bookmark manager.

The text on the page supported the hints provided by the screenshot that Microsoft will "Chromify" IE9's interface by mimicking that browser's UI.

"Your browser is not overloaded with navigation elements, and compared with other browsers leaves more space for the site," a machine translation of the promotional copy read. "Now the user sees only what is necessary for navigation."

The changes shouldn't come as a surprise. Other browser makers, notably No. 2 Mozilla, have headed in that direction, too, as they follow the lead of Google and its cleaner-composed Chrome. Mozilla's next major upgrade, Firefox 4, will feature tabs on top and will eliminate the traditional Windows menus above the browser's content area, two features popularized by Chrome.

IE9's marketing material also described a way to pin sites to the taskbar -- much like a local application -- by dragging a tab to the Windows taskbar. Those sites can then be accessed with a single click without first having to open IE9. "Anchored sites are seamlessly integrated into [the] navigation system [of] Windows 7," the copy said. "Thus, the work of such sites [is] as simple and familiar as with other Windows applications."

IE9 will also leverage the Aero UI of Vista and Windows 7 with a feature dubbed "quick release tabs." By dragging IE9's window to the side of the screen, Aero's "Snap" feature will automatically display two tabs in equally-sized, side-by-side frames.

The new browser will run only on Vista and Windows 7, not the much more popular Windows XP.

Microsoft declined to confirm the details leaked by its Russian press site or comment on its IE9 interface plans.

IE9's first beta will be available for download on Sept. 15, when Microsoft will host a launch event in San Francisco. The company has not revealed a final ship date, although some have speculated that an April 2011 release is likely. That would coincide with MIX, Microsoft's annual Web conference, slated for April 12-14, 2011, in Las Vegas.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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