Pretty much everyone in the tech industry loves to hate Internet Explorer, unless their pay cheque comes from Redmond. Most of the dislike for IE stems from version 6, the version that wouldn’t go away. It was good at first, but very quickly newer and better browsers came a long, with features such as tabbed browsing and download managers that very quickly made IE6 look dated. From this, most people who actually know what a web browser is tend to hate IE.
I figured, it’s been 3 versions since IE6. Surely it can’t have gotten worse? I thought I’d give IE9 a try and see how it went. I am putting my geek cred on the line for this test, so I hope it’s worth it.
Believe it or not, there is reason for a “good” section.
- It no longer sucks. I guess the fact that this is a “good” feature means that it’s not off to a good start, but it’s true, it definitely doesn’t suck as much as IE6 did. If it did, I would have found myself crawling back to chrome within half an hour… or I would have thrown the compute across the room.
- It integrates well with Windows 7. This is something that no other browser can do well. You can drag the icon for a particular website onto the taskbar and have the ultimate shortcut. For supported websites (such as Facebook,) that icon will even come with jump lists to go directly to places like your News Feed, Messages and Events. It also has all the tabs displayed when you hover over the icon, rather than just each individual window. Depending how many tabs/windows you have open, this can be annoying, but in most cases it works well.
- Colour coded tabs. When you open multiple links from the one page, and any link from those pages, they’re all colour coded the same colour. It’s hard to explain, but next time you use IE9 and find yourself opening heaps of tabs, take note of the colour of those tabs. Really great for tab junkies (like me.)
- It’s quite stable. No matter how fast Chrome is, it did crash more than I would have liked. The only crash I’ve had with IE is related to Flash, which won’t really be around much longer anyway.
- It has features like Incognito mode (that I don’t really have a use for) and speed dial for frequently visited websites that we see in all modern browsers (either native or through extensions,) and also has in built a nice “Accellerator” feature. You can select a portion of text and perform actions with it, such as email it to someone, perform a web search or post it on a blog. It takes a little while to get used to, but it works well.
There are a few minor annoyances that may not be noticeable to some, but is noticeable to me, and I’m sure would be noticeable to at least some other people besides me.
- Each tab is treated as a different application when it comes to changing keyboard layouts. This isn’t going to be noticeable to the majority of the world, since not that many people (at least those who only speak one language) would use two (or more) keyboard layouts. I do use 2 keyboard layouts. Normally what happens when you change keyboard layouts, that layout now affects the entire application you are using, but not other applications. With IE, when I change layout, it only affects the tab that I’m on. It could be a feature, but I can’t imagine many people wanting different keyboard layouts for different tabs… different applications I can understand (and have grown used to,) but different tabs? Please Microsoft, fix this.
- Extensions. I can’t really criticise Microsoft for the lack of extensions, they aren’t the ones who are meant to make them. That said, extensions have to be installed just like any other Windows application, using one of many installation wizards available. You also need to restart IE for most extensions to work properly. I don’t know what the development environment is like for extensions, but I feel Microsoft should definitely work on both the development side of things and the installation side of things. Maybe a centralised website with an in browser installer would be good.
- Still lacks basic features such as spell checking and bookmark syncing. These feaures are really good in Chrome.
- The popup blocker isn’t really that good. Don’t get me wrong, it does block popups, just too many popups. If I have the popup settings too relaxed, popups that I don’t want (that is, ads) still get through in many cases. If I up the settings, it literally blocks everything, even ones that I do want (such as when I click on a link.) Maybe because I’ve been using Chrome for so long I’ve permanently allowed all the websites that I ever had problems with. IE does allow you to allow popups from a domain, either temporarily or permanently, but to do so requires you to reload the page, which in some cases doesn’t always work properly.
Remember those days that you used to try and beg your parents and friends to ditch Internet Explorer because, well, let’s be honest, it sucked? That’s no longer necessary. If a friend or relative is using IE (let me clarify: version 9 at least) and they aren’t having any problems with it, let them be.
That said, many power users may not like it. Lack of extensions and advanced features I know many will not be able to live without. So far I have, and plan to, stick with IE for as long as I can as apart of this experiment, but there just may be too much that advanced users can’t live without. For those people, of course use Chrome or Firefox or whatever you want.
With the improvement in web standards that have been demonstrated with IE10 preview releases, I finally feel that IE will be a browser that is no longer deserving of the reputation that it has for such a long time received, in most cases rightfully so.