Microsoft's IE9 Web Browser Release Candidate: Feature Overview

IE9's release candidate is now available--here's what's new.

IE9 Release Candidate

The release candidate for Internet Explorer 9 is now available, providing users with a near-complete look at Microsoft's overhauled Web browser. IE9's release candidate isn't fundamentally different from the public beta that launched last September, but it does pack some big changes, based primarily on user feedback. Here's an overview of the IE9 release candidate's new features.

More Room to Browse

Microsoft happily joined the pixel race with Internet Explorer 9, aiming to shave off the amount of space occupied by menus and tabs. The release candidate leaves even more room to browse with a slightly smaller (and less intrusive) lip below the address bar and less dead space along the top of the screen.

Optional Row of Tabs

One of Microsoft's most striking design decisions with Internet Explorer 9 was the movement of browser tabs onto the same row as the URL and search bar. Naturally, some users hated this. Microsoft is accommodating them with an option to move tabs onto their own row. To send all tabs below the URL and search bar, right-click any tab and select “Show tabs on a separate row.”

Tabs Are Easier to Close

When Internet Explorer 9 was in beta, I griped about how you couldn't close individual tabs without clicking on them first. In the IE9 release candidate, when you hover the mouse over any tab, an "X" icon appears, allowing you to close unused tabs faster.

Multiple Pinned Pages, One Shortcut

Another key feature with Internet Explorer 9 is the ability to pin Website shortcuts to the Windows task bar. In the release candidate, IE9 lets you associate more than one Website with a single pinned shortcut, opening each in a separate tab. I just wish the process was more intuitive. As it stands, you have to pin one tab to the task bar, then open the shortcut, then manually enter other URLs through the “Internet Options” menu. Why not let users drag and drop multiple Websites into a single pinned shortcut?

Copy-Paste Hotkey

If you frequently copy and paste URLs or search terms, the Internet Explorer 9 release candidate adds a keyboard shortcut that's supposed to speed up the process. Pressing Shift-Ctrl-L now takes whatever you have in the clipboard and opens it in the browser. The problem is that only someone with abnormally long fingers can reach the “L” key while also holding left Control and Shift, limiting the convenience of this feature.

ActiveX Filtering

ActiveX controls allow for rich experiences, such as video and animations, on some Websites, but they can also introduce security, stability and privacy issues. ActiveX Filtering, accessible through the “safety” tab in Internet Explorer 9's main menu, lets you disable ActiveX controls by default and only allow sites to run the plug-ins on a case-by-case basis.

Tracking Protection

There's been a lot of uproar lately about Internet privacy, and Microsoft is jumping on the privacy protection bandwagon with Tracking Protection in Internet Explorer 9. The feature lets you sign up with several tracking protection lists, which prevent Websites from following your behavior. For comparison, Firefox 4's "Do Not Track" feature tells all Websites that you don't want to be followed, leaving compliance up to them. Chrome's "Keep My Opt-Outs" extension activates do-not-follow cookies from the Network Advertising Initiative and keeps them active even if you clear all your browser cookies.

Faster, in General

The Internet Explorer 9 release candidate boasts better performance than the IE9 beta, according to Microsoft's IE blog. It should consume less memory and battery life, and supposedly performs better on basic tasks such as "find on page."