Five things you'll love (or hate) about IE8

Wondering what you'll love (or hate) about IE8? I've put the beta through its paces, and I've got the goods for you. I've found some nifty new features, and one that spells annoyance. Read on for details and screenshots.

WebSlices

Think of this feature as RSS feeds on steroids. As with an RSS feed, you subscribe to changing content from a Web page. But WebSlices are graphically richer, and as you can see in the screenshot below, you can view them directly from the newly configured Favorites bar (previously called the Links bar), by clicking them. When you click one, the WebSlice drops down. You can click through to go to the Web page that houses the slice, or simply view it in the drop-down. This is a nifty feature, but only useful if Web developers place WebSlices on their pages. At the moment, there aren't many WebSlices out there. So it's hard to know whether developers will create them, and this will become a truly useful feature, or instead will join the long list of good ideas had a quick exit to the graveyard.

IE8 WebSlice

WebSlices, by the way, bear a striking resemblance to an ill-conceived feature Microsoft introduced way back in 1997 in IE4-- Active Desktop. For details, check out my blog IE8's new WebSlices feature: Welcome to 1997.

New Favorites bar

As I mentioned above, the Links bar has been renamed the Favorites bar, and been given a few new features. You can put WebSlices and RSS feeds here as well as links. Microsoft also says that you can include links to documents on your hard disk, but I haven't tried that out yet…or figured out yet how to do it. I'm not a big fan of the new Favorites bar; I always thought that the Links bar took away real estate and didn't offer many new features, and the new Favorites bar seems like more of the same.

Activities

This feature powers up the Internet Explorer right-click menu. Hover your mouse over an item, or highlight the item, and right-click and a list of actions appear, such as mapping the highlighted term, translating it, defining it, and so on. Depending on the choice you make, you may see a preview screen of your action right on the Web page, such as displaying a small map, as you see below. You can then click through to the larger map.

IE8 Activities

Crash recovery

Finally, Internet Explorer can do what Firefox has been able to do with add-ins for a very long time --- recover from crashes, and then restore the session or tab that crashed. So after IE8 crashes, or an individual tab crashes, you'll have the option of restoring it, as you can see below.

IE8 crash screen

Easier-to-identify domains

Some URLs are so long and complex that it can be tough to immediately decipher which domain you're currently visiting. In IE8, in the address bar, only the domain (for example, computerworld.com) is black; everything else is in gray. That way, you can see immediately where you are. Check it out, below.

IE8 domain name

By the way, if you're testing out IE8 for yourself, you might want to check my previous blogs about IE8, one which detailed how IE8 hosed my system, and the other about how I fixed it. Also, I'll be posting a fuller review of IE8 on Computerworld soon, so check for that soon.

If you'd like to see a head-to-head review of IE8 versus Firefox 3, read Battle of the betas: Firefox 3 beats IE.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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