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Geek Reviews: First Look at Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2

It’s been a long time since Microsoft released the first beta of Internet Explorer 8, which left me wondering what they had up their sleeve. After reading that they added a ton of new features in Beta 2 like private browsing, tab grouping and a new smart address bar, I just had to try it out and share with all of our readers.

Installation

Ok, we are off to find out what Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 has to offer.  First let’s take a look at the options during initial installation.  I am writing about this screen for screen so if you have not yet explored this new beta you’re seeing each of these screens for the first time along with me.

Installing

During the initial install it looks like I have the option to get the latest updates.  Sure, might as well.

Instal Updates

After Installation is complete time to reboot.

Ok, looks like IE wants to help me discover websites by suggesting them to me.  Normally I would not want this feature, but for this review I am turning it on.  You can always turn off the suggested sites at any time.

Discover Sites

Time to choose Express or Custom settings.  If you want more control over the setup process you will definitely want to use Custom Settings.

choose settings

Choosing Accelerator Providers

Accelerator Providers work with selected text on a webpage to perform different tasks such as looking up word definitions or get directions on a map to a street address.  If you are familiar and comfortable with Microsoft’s services go ahead and select that option.  For this installation I am selecting the option to see even more Accelerator options.  There is an option to disable the Accelerator providers, but come on test things out!  I am very excited about these new built in features.  

choose accelerator providers 

SmartScreen Filter

Because I want to try out everything in this beta including the enhanced security features I am going to turn it on. This feature will protect you from phishing attempts and other scams.

smartscreen filter

Finally, choosing to let IE be my default browser, sorry but I am still a Firefox man for now.  However, I will Import from Firefox.

default browser

After clicking finish on the previous screen I get the other browser selection screen.

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Bookmarks and Feeds Import Successful.

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Taking A Look At New Features.

Let’s start digging in!  The first thing which caught my eye is the list of Accelerators to choose from which is a very comprehensive list.  Expect to see more and more third party Accelerators as IE 8 becomes more of a standard.  I will test these out later, moving on.

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The next thing which caught my attention was a message saying that the MSN homepage may require an add-on.  It is similar to the ActiveX warning but did not explicitly say it so I was not totally sure. You’ll also notice how the domain name is highlighted in a different color than the rest of the URL.

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I do wish Microsoft would stop this from popping up on their own site!  I accept it and continue. (although you should weigh carefully before allowing ActiveX controls to run because they can be a security risk)

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One of the cool things about this Beta is the amount of features already installed without having to download Add-ons.  Many features are enabled by default such as Developer Tools.

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It looks like everyone now wants an intuitive address bar.  Firefox 3 has the so called “awesome bar”.  IE 8 comes with a Smart Address Bar which tries to guess what site you want to visit based on past history.  Only 5 history entries will be shown.  If you want to see more just click on the expand arrow near the bottom.  As I am using the Smart Address Bar, I find it more intuitive and responsive compared to “Awesome Bar”.

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Better Tabbed Browsing

IE 8 offers new functionality to tabbed browsing, as you’ll notice if you right-click on a tab… now you can Duplicate tabs or even re-open the last opened tab, features that required an add-on before.

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The Tab Group feature will highlight tabs that were opened from other tabs, so you can visually identify a group of tabs by where you opened them from… or also close them all at once. Very useful for doing research and opening a whole bunch of tabs from Google, you can simply close all of the tabs that you had opened while keeping your other tabs open.

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The Quick Tabs button shows a small thumbnail of each page you have open in different tabs.  This comes in handy if you have multiple tabs open and need to access a certain page quickly. This isn’t a new feature, but you’ll notice that tab groups are now highlighted in this view.

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With this version IE takes a lesson from Firefox and has included Crash Recovery.  If the browser happens to crash you can get the last session back with all the open tabs. This is a feature that previously could only be used by installing add-ons.

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Searching

The Search feature has improved a bit as well… here is a list of the different providers you can add.  Even though you have one of the providers as default you can still add as few or as many as you want.

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When searching you can choose a different provider and get results directly in the drop down box.  Here is an example of searching for a product with Amazon.

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You’ll also notice that the drop-down for the search box now shows both your history as well as suggestions from Google or whoever you are using for searching. You can even click the icons at the bottom to quickly switch between them.

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Improved Security With Private Browsing

Another cool built in improvement is two tools that allow better security and private browsing.  InPrivate can be turned on from the Tools menu.  This feature basically allows you to surf the web and none of your tracks (cookies, temp files, history, etc) will be saved.  Tired of your “significant other” harping on you about sites your visiting?  This feature is right up your alley!

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Suggested Sites

Anytime you are at a particular site you can press the Suggested Sites button to find other websites with similar content.  While trying it for this review I did have some problems finding similar sites for smaller blogs but I am assuming this will improve over time.

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Compatibility

Whenever a new browser version is released, there’s always issues for webmasters trying to make sure their websites work correctly in the new browser version. IE8 uses “Standards Mode” by default, which adheres much more strictly to web standards, but sometimes causes problems with certain websites.

If you encounter an issue viewing a website, you can click the new Compatibility View button on the address bar, which will switch to viewing the site in a more compatible mode.

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Conclusion

This version of Internet Explorer is miles ahead of any previous version of IE, enough that it’s actually able to compete in features with the default Firefox, at least.

If you are an early adopter, it’s well worth trying out… but there are a few compatibility issues still, so if you depend on IE for your work you might want to wait a short while for the final release.

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 – microsoft.com

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/29/08

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