6 Internet Explorer 9 Beta Pros and Cons

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1. Crowded user interface

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To be sure, there is much more screen real estate devoted to displaying a Web page. But this is simply the way IE9 looks under its default setting. Wait until you activate the Favorites bar and Command bar, both of which will take up space below the URL address/tabs bar. In addition, the status bar takes up additional space running along the bottom.

The problem is the combined URL address/tabs bar. Both functions share the same bar. If you keep more than a couple of tabs open at once (which most of us do), the tabs start to narrow and things can become cramped quickly.

Additionally, when you have either the Favorites or Command bar turned on, the graphical design of an active, selected tab doesn't look like it's directly connected to the Web page you're viewing.

2. Wonky color coding

We found the color labeling of tabs to be enigmatic. When we had multiple tabs open, they would sometimes become colored differently, such as light blue, green, violet or yellow, along with shifting gradients of these hues. Even when the pages were fully loaded, these colors remained. What do they represent? Their purpose is not obviously presented, and we shouldn't have to look this information up.

3. The new "dialer" page

IE9 includes a "dialer" page, an idea popularized with Opera. Every blank tab you open shows thumbnails of the 10 sites IE9 deems you tend to visit most. Clicking a thumbnail opens a new tab connecting you to that site.

However, like the color coding system applied to tabs, the additional graphical information shown in this feature is ill-defined. Each thumbnail has a bar below it, and this bar's length is based on the site's supposed status ("very active," "active," and "less active"). Huh? We'll assume this reflects the amount of memory, CPU cycles, or karma points each page uses, but this isn't clearly stated.

Worse, the color of the bar below a thumbnail is meaningless -- it is pulled from one of the colors used for the Web site's favicon and, otherwise, does not appear to convey any important technical information.

4. The new download manager

Although it's clearly an improvement over what's found in previous versions of IE, this new manager doesn't seem to track some file types downloaded with it (particularly, image files).

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5. No improvement in editing bookmarks

Putting it bluntly, editing your list of Favorites (i.e. bookmarks) still stinks in IE9 beta. No improvement has been implemented for the way your Favorites list is managed (i.e. renaming, deleting, moving, etc.) in IE9 beta. To be fair, none of the other major browsers present managing your bookmarks in a good way.

We're hoping this is one area that the IE9 developers will address before the browser's final release.

6. No XP for you!

Like all the other cool new toys that Microsoft will soon be releasing (such as Windows Live Essentials 2011), IE9 will not be available for Windows XP.

So for you XP hold-outs, IE8 will be the last browser you ever get from Microsoft.

Howard Wen reports on technology news, trends and products as a frequent contributor to Network World and Computerworld.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

This story, "6 Internet Explorer 9 Beta Pros and Cons" was originally published by Network World.

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