Internet Explorer 9 Review

A couple days ago, Microsoft officially announced the launch of Internet Explorer 9 (beta) and the capability for anyone to download it. This has been a long-awaited event, especially for web developers and designers who have been forced to work with Internet Explorer in its not-so-wonderful previous versions. Even the very idea of IE9 has caused designers and developers everywhere to get butterflies in their stomachs. Whether those are good or bad butterflies depends on the individual. In this review, we'll find out just how cringe-worthy (or praise-worthy) this version if IE actually is.

Internet Explorer: The Backwards Browser

Before we get started, we must impress that IE9 is still in it's beginning stages - it's now in "open beta", meaning it supposedly runs well enough to go public, but some issues are still being ironed out... which is understandable, as the last few versions of IE have been woefully lacking in website compatibility, supporting new web technologies, and current website standards and trends. In particular, IE6 has been and still is a veritable nightmare for developers and designers everywhere. If just some of the fixes and support that IE9 promises actually happens, designers and developers would be much happier... or at least we might hear a collective "FINALLY!".

Indeed, web professionals everywhere have been wresting with the IE "backwards browser" for far too long. With the availability of other browser alternatives, such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera, IE has been losing a lot of ground in the past few years. The IE "joke" has even spread into pop culture, where even the people that don't know why it's so bad make fun of it. Heck, even some of our older friends and parents (who don't know what a browser even is) find themselves using Firefox or Chrome, despite the fact that IE comes with Windows.

IE9 does not work with XP

That leads us to our next subject. IE9 will only work with Windows Vista and Windows 7. In other words, Windows XP will not support Internet Explorer 9, or at least most of its features. This is fine by us, as XP is now a fairly antiquated browser. Don't get us wrong, XP was a better operating system than Vista - but now that Windows 7 has been out for a while and Vista has had considerable amounts of much needed updates, XP is becoming less and less of a viable option. For those of you still running Windows XP with Internet Explorer 6, please throw your computers out the window. Thank you. Moving on...

A Brand New Look...

Internet Explorer 9 has a brand new design. It's much simpler and more streamlined. Check it out:

Internet Explorer 9 User Interface

The address bar shown above also doubles as a search bar, which helps to clear up some much-need real estate for tabs. Another new and interesting feature of IE9 is its ability to let individual tabs be pinned to the Windows taskbar, much like folders and programs. If you're not familiar with this feature in Windows 7, the ability to do this might be lost on you. While this is a nifty new feature, we don't see much use for it since most people use their "favorites" for this - which offers much more room than a stationary taskbar.

What is IE9 like for web developers and designers?

Things like HTML5 and CSS3 are much improved, seeing as how IE has had very little if not zero support or compatibility for these things in the past. There are a few issues, errors, and problems to contend with when it comes to these things, but for the most part it's comparable to other modern and up-to-date browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. The main things web designers care for and worry about (such as transparent PNGs, CSS rounded corners, box drop shadows, and font replacers such as Cufon) all work just fine. Granted, some of these items require simple workarounds to get them to work properly. Fortunately, most of these issues will be taken care of as soon as JavaScript utilities (such as Cufon) can update their coding. Of course, a lot of the work (most of it) has to be done by the IE9 developers while its still in beta.

There are still quite a few little quirks and issues that we are seeing that are arising from even some of the simplest CSS3 implementations, such as CSS text-shadows, border images, transform rotate, etc, etc. Most of the new HTML5 features, however, are handled quite nicely. This is in no small part due to the fact that a major purpose of IE9 from the beginning was to support HTML5 and pioneer a brand new era in browsers. Unfortunately, in our eyes at least, Google Chrome beat them to it.

So, What's the Verdict?

Obviously we can only complain about so much when it comes to the beta release of Internet Explorer 9. As it stands, IE9 definitely has its share of kinks to work out. Despite its problems and beta status, it is hands-down the best update to Internet Explorer in years (maybe ever). Make no mistake, this is definitely one huge step forward for the browser. Unfortunately, all it does is bring it in line with a lot of the other modern browsers out there. In other words, it's bringing the browser to where it should be.

Bottom Line: As much as we love (or hate) that Internet Explorer is now an actual, merit-based contender in the so-called browser wars, we can't give it points for finally getting to the point it should have been at a year or two ago. In other words, great job - but so what?
 

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