Everything You Wanted to Know About IE9 But Didn't Know Where to Ask

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For more than 10 weeks, I've been shining a light on the brilliant work of many talented Web designers and developers who have embraced the challenge of producing cool, cutting-edge, and beautiful Web sites using new technologies such as HTML5, SVG, CSS3, and JavaScript 5. And I've been pointing out the ways that these sites shine most brightly in Microsoft's latest version of its browser, Internet Explorer 9. As the Beautiful Website of the Day blog reaches its end, I think the time is right to mention the best one-stop site for learning and testing out the new technologies and IE9's key new features. And that site is Microsoft's own Internet Explorer 9 Test Drive.

The Test Drive was originally aimed at developers who wanted a head start in building new sites and revising old ones to work better in IE9. It's still that; and it's a trove of informative documents, videos, applications, and links for such tech heads. It's also the home page for what are called IE9 "platform previews" -- the latest versions of the underlying IE9 code packaged into a bare-bones interface. But beyond all that, the Test Drive is just an awesome collection, suitable for anyone, of fun and impressive Web programming feats.

There are four main sections: speed demos, tests of how fast your browser can process demanding calculations and animations; HTML5 demos, interactive demonstrations of how the new standard works; graphics demos, which focus on the incredible flexibility and power of HTML5's canvas element and of the third generation of cascading style sheets; and browser demos, which show off features unique to IE9, which have to do with its integration with Windows. Each of these sections has fun and fascinating stuff, but the two most fun and fascinating are speed demos and graphics demos, both of which contain more than 20 samples.

Among my favorite speed demos is HTML5 Sudoku, which not only generates on-demand, attractively designed Sudoku grids at five levels of difficulty, but which also tests how fast your browser can process the behind-the-scenes JavaScript code for solving puzzles. (On my laptop, IE9 solved 10,000 Sudoku puzzles in less than 15 seconds.) Also fun, and perhaps the most famous of all the demos, is FishIE Tank. It turns your browser window into an aquarium that you populate with anywhere from 20 to 1,000 fish, while keeping an eye on how well your browser keeps up with the animation's demands. Another beautiful and engrossing speed demo is Galactic, which animates a flight through the galaxy, using images from NASA, to test how fast your browser lets you travel. On decent hardware, IE9 can deliver more than 40 frames (screen updates) per second, as you zip through the planets, comets, stars, and nebulae at more than 500 km/s. I was also stunned by Shakespeare's Tag Cloud, which takes the entire text of a Shakespeare play, inserts it into a scrolling form box, and then generates a kind of tag cloud from it -- that is, a visual display of the most frequently used words in the play, with the size of each word proportional to its frequency. On my machine, it took a whole 43.1 milliseconds to pull this off for Hamlet, which contains 4,548 words, 2,728 of them unique.

My choice among the graphics demos is Flickr Postcards, which is reminiscent of Rough Guides' Make the Most of Your Time on Earth, covered here in November. You begin by entering a search term, such as "sunset," hitting a button, and watching as the page gradually fills up a postcard-sized canvas with a background of thousands upon thousands of tiny Flickr thumbnails relating to your search. Of those thousands, 24 images are enlarged. Another wonderful graphics demo is Canvas Pinball, which as you might expect, is a pinball game built using the HTML5 canvas element. What's really cool is that the game looks like a hasty sketch on a notebook page, except that it really plays pinball. You use your down arrow key to pull back the plunger and release the ball, and your left and right arrow keys to operate the flippers.

I'm not even going to get into the HTML5 demos or the browser demos, although if you want to see one of the most amazing executions of a canvas-based image editor, you must check out the X-Icon Editor in the Browser Demos section. Suffice it to say, these links will easily keep you occupied for the remainder of the holiday season and beyond. Just make sure to visit with IE9 to get the most out of your experience and to see exactly how beautiful the Web is going to be in the new year.

This story, "Everything You Wanted to Know About IE9 But Didn't Know Where to Ask " was originally published by BrandPost.

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