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Internet Explorer 8

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer 8 promises an assortment of new features designed to help make Web browsing with IE safer, easier, and more compatible with Internet standards. On the surface, IE 8 seems much like IE 7, but Microsoft has made a number of changes under the hood. You may have seen some of these new features already, however, in IE's no-longer-upstart competitor, Mozilla Firefox 3.

If you accidentally close a browser window in IE 8, you can opt to restore it when you reopen the program (just as you can in Firefox). IE 8 uses color coding to group related tabs together. If you open a link from pcworld.com in a new tab, for example, it opens adjacent to the original tab, and the tabs themselves will have a matching color. You can move tabs from one group to another, but if you have three unrelated pages open, you cannot create a group out of them.

The new tab isolation feature is designed to prevent a buggy Web site from causing the entire Web browsing program to crash. Instead, only the tab displaying the problematic page will close, so you can continue browsing.

IE 8 can use multiple search engines, and you can add other search engines to the mix. Also, IE 8 gives you search suggestions as you type. For example, I can type in 'PC World' into the search field, and IE 8 will give me Live Search suggestions such as 'pc world magazine' or 'pc world reviews'. In addition, IE 8 lets you switch between search engines on the fly by clicking an icon at the bottom of the search field's drop-down menu.

Microsoft touts IE 8 as its most secure browser to date, and Microsoft has indeed added a good number of security features to the mix, ranging from phishing detection to private browsing, plus a new feature to prevent clickjacking, an emerging data theft threat.

InPrivate Filtering--called InPrivate Blocking in earlier IE 8 builds--prevents sites from collecting information about other Web sites you visit. This feature existed in IE 8 Beta 2, but you could use it only while using the InPrivate Browsing feature. Now you can use it at any time.

The browser's phishing filter--called SmartScreen--improves on its predecessor's filter with such features as more-thorough scrutiny of a Web page's address (to protect you from sites named something like paypal.iamascammer.com) and a full-window warning when you stumble upon a suspected phishing site. SmartScreen relies largely on a database of known phishing sites, so new and unknown phishing sites may slip through the cracks.

Finally, IE 8 includes a feature designed to prevent clickjacking, a method in which Web developers insert a snippet of HTML code into their Web page code to steal information from Web page visitors. When you use IE 8 to view such a page, IE 8 can identify an attempted clickjacking and will warn you of the attempt.

Creating a site that looks identical in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari can be a challenge. IE 8 offers better support for W3 Web standards--a set of guidelines developed to ensure that a Web page appears the same in all browsers. The downside is that IE 8 will break some pages designed for earlier IE versions.

To counteract this problem, Microsoft has added a compatibility mode: Click a button in the toolbar, and IE 8 will display a page in the same way that IE 7 does. In my testing, I found that most pages worked fine with the standard (new) mode, and that most errors were minor cosmetic ones. Unfortunately, the small Compatibility Mode toggle button may not be obvious to most users.

Though it probably won't convince many Firefox users to jump ship, Internet Explorer 8 may be worth considering for people who have not yet solidified their browser loyalties.

Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

--Nick Mediati

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Internet Explorer 8

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