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IE8 Testing
#1
We have just download IE8 for testing on our website, still in the beta version.

The changes Microsoft has implemented see the browser going standards crazy. In the past, this would have been good news, but coming from a world where the majority of people are using the distinctly quirky IE7, there's going to be a generous crossover period where developers just have another browser to check against.

However, IE8 sounds a lot smarter. Top new features outside of the fabled Standards mode include 'Web Slices' and 'Activities'. The former is a kind of syndicated feed widget and the latter is a form of live contextual menuing for web pages. Both need a little work before they impress me.

At first glance, the new Internet Explorer looks much the same as the previous version the interfaces are almost identical. But explore a little further and you'll spot a few changes. For example, wave goodbye to the Phishing Filter and say hello to the Safety Filter, which also protects you from sites that are known to host malware.

The Address bar features something called 'domain highlighting'. This displays the top-level domain name in a bold, black font while the rest of the URL appears in grey. Presumably, the idea is to help you figure out where you are if you've followed a link to some intentionally misleading URL. Sounds reasonable, although if you've clicked on a spam link and IE8's Safety Filter hasn't blocked the page then it may already be too late.

Elsewhere, the Manage Add-ons dialog has been revamped. There's no doubt it looks prettier, but we see no real improvements in functionality — perhaps they're being saved for a future beta.

Technical improvements include the ability to restrict ActiveX controls to one particular site, which is handy as it limits possible exploits by hackers. And the current Data Execution Prevention (DEP) option is enabled by default. This means code cannot be run in memory that's marked as non-executable, making it more difficult to attack the browser through a buffer overrun.

There are some small, incremental security gains in IE8 beta 1, then, but nothing dramatic; no killer feature that's likely to restore the faith of IE doubters. It's early days, though: the final version isn't likely to be out until the end of the year, so there's time for Microsoft to deliver.

A quick tour of the new browser

1 The IE8 right-dick menu now includes many Activities that you can apply to a page — perhaps automatically translating text or mapping an address.

2 WebSlices enables ,you to subscribe to content from within a web page: an eBay item, for instance. You can monitor any updates on your Favourites bar.

3 Improved reliability means it's far harder to make IE8 crash (no, really). And even if the worst happens, IE8 will restore your open Tabs within it restarts.

4 And let's not forget perhaps the biggest step forward of all: the much improved standards support that sees IE8 finally pass the Acid2 test. Well, almost.

The changes Microsoft has implemented see the browser going standards crazy. In the past, this would have been good news, but coming from a world where the majority of people are using the distinctly quirky IE7, there's going to be a generous crossover period where developers just have another browser to check against.

However, IE8 sounds a lot smarter. Top new features outside of the fabled Standards mode include 'Web Slices' and 'Activities'. The former is a kind of syndicated feed widget and the latter is a form of live contextual menuing for web pages. Both need a little work before they impress me.
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