HTML5 + CSS3 Support.
This has been one of the most troubling headaches with IE7 and IE8. HTML5 and CSS3 introduce web designers to a slew of amazing new features. Firefox and Chrome, as of today, are roughly 90% compatible with all HTML5/CSS3 features which has pretty much given designers the go-ahead to start learning and incorporating them. The problem? Internet Explorer. IE8 and IE7 are standing at roughly 25% and 11% compatible, respectively. It’s still unsure just how compatible IE9 will be and how soon we can expect it to be on par with the other browsers. This lack of support has put designers in a permanent crossroad. Do you go ahead and incorporate advanced features knowing they won’t show up in IE, or do you avoid them all together and wait until there is across the board compatibility? While most feel it is best to wait, others think that by incorporating HTML5/CSS3 features you create an incentive for the user to upgrade to a different browser (Firebox or Chrome, mainly). This thinking makes sense but looses ground when you take other factors into consideration. Can they switch browsers (public or corporate computers)? Do they even know what switching browsers means? It’s a hard fought battle and a lot of hassle just to give Microsoft the finger.
Extended web-font support.
One of the largest obstacles for web designers is the limited number of “web safe fonts” which are available when building a website. Web safe fonts are fonts which are almost guaranteed to work correctly on any user’s computer (you know the usual players: Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman, etc). Designers have had to limit their designs to including these fonts or resort to other techniques to incorporate non-safe fonts. These techniques include things like using graphics of text rather than actual text or using a flash replacement plug-in. Now, however, modern browsers are able to ensure all users see non-safe fonts by using a simple styling process which uploads a font file to the server and automatically displays text in that font on the user’s computer. Designers have come to know it as the @font-face technique, which is a part of CSS3. There are ways to include this to work on Internet Explorer browsers but with limited reliability. IE9 is expected to fully support this feature, which will make it simple to use virtually any font as part of your design.
Focus on browsing.
Google mastered this when they created Google Chrome. One of the original principles they focused on was maximizing the actual viewing area of the browser so that users could view more of the website they were visiting. This has been a serious fail point with IE in the past (and to a certain extent, Firefox). Sometimes designers see other people using IE on their computer and their first thought is, “Okay, well, they must not be all that tech savvy. You can’t hold it against them, everyone is bad with some things.” But then they see that their IE application is bogged down with unnecessary toolbars which clog up half of the application window and just want to gag. Firefox is also a culprit. Google Chrome got rid of the problem all together. Kudos to them and IE9. This will be the trend of the future. Figuring out how to eliminate as much of the application space as possible and maximize on the browsing space.
Slick and minimalistic application.
This goes along with the focus on browsing. It’s nice to finally see an IE release that is up to par as far as beautification goes. Chrome is gorgeous. Firefox is okay after a few drinks. IE6, 7, and 8 look like grandpa’s feet. But Microsoft finally put time into making a release that is pleasing to the eye and can compete with minimalistic designs of the other guys. The design of IE9 is good for a few different reasons: the translucent application bar, the new age buttons, and the use of shadowing and glowing really help to create an application to be proud of.
Improved developer tools.
Firefox and Chrome have add-ons specifically built for web developers. These allow debugging and development to flow much smoother by making document changes live in a browser window. IE 8 has a built in developer tool which is sub-par compared to the other browsers. There are also a few 3rd party tools which you can install — but how inconvenient is that?
Speed, speed, speed. The fastest always wins the race, and the slowest always gets booed. IE9 taps into your computers graphics processor as a way to speed up performance when it comes to streaming audio and video, and some suggest that IE9 is even faster than anything else out there.
Windows 7 integration.
Now this is interesting. It seems Microsoft wants to market IE9 as the “Windows 7 browser.” It makes perfect sense that they are finally figuring out that they own the browser AND the operating system it runs on. Why not incorporate features that Firefox and Chrome just can’t do? A perfect low jab to those mean big brothers. For starters, you can pin websites in IE9 right on your windows task bar – so Facebook and Gmail are nothing but a single click away. It has been heard through the grapevine that the IE9 downloads manager will have some sort of sophisticated integration with your folders, but there has been no official word on that. It’s definitely a smart move for Microsoft. They are realizing they are behind in the polls and need to use whatever weapons they can to stay ahead. If that means integration between browser and OS then by all means go for it.
This one is last for a reason. SVG is one of the most versatile, exciting, and incredible features of web design. For those unfamiliar, SVG is essentially a technique used to create two-dimensional shapes and figures on a website — without the actual use of images but rather with a few lines of code. To this point, SVG has been incomplete and unsupported with prior releases of Internet Explorer. All of that is about to change as soon as IE9 launches.
IE9 is expected to be released in mid-2011.
Those who are interested in testing out the new browser can download the beta version of Internet Explorer 9 for free at ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/
About the Author
Review of the new version of Internet Explorer 9 beta.wmv
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