While Metro apps for both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have been recently announced, users are getting a chance to actually use the Metro app for IE10 in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Providing a full-screen browsing window and touch friendly controls, the desktop experience feels like using browsers on smartphones and tablets, even on a desktop or laptop, though less intuitive when using a mouse.
In the Building Windows 8 blog on Tuesday, Rob Mauceri, group program manager for Internet Explorer, explains the changes to IE10 and how the Metro interface is different. The new additions can be broken down into these three categories.
1. Metro Styling
The first thing apparent in IE10’s Metro interface is that the browser fills your entire screen, “edge-to-edge”, and though a navigation bar appears at the bottom of the screen when you first open the app, it disappears when not needed. Without visible controls on the screen, new users will take some time to learn how to navigate.
Touch-friendly gestures such as swiping left or right work on touch-capable devices, but those with a mouse and a keyboard will find the interface less intuitive. Moving towards the left or right edges of the screen with a mouse reveals arrows equivalent to the forward and previous page commands in most browsers.
Right-clicking reveals the navigation bar on the bottom of the screen, necessary for typing in a new URL, and it displays any open tabs or windows at the top of the screen, providing the ability to switch between them. When typing a URL, “Navigation Tiles” appear that show frequently visited sites and those you’ve previously pinned to the Start screen. The tiles are filtered as you type, providing a way to click or tap a site after only a few keystrokes.
2. Connecting Sites & Apps
Since Metro is a web-like interface, Mauceri points out it that “blurs the boundaries between the web and apps”. This becomes apparent when using the Snap feature, which allows the screen to be shared by two apps. IE10 can take up the majority of the screen with a web page, while what looks like a sidebar can contain another app like Messaging or Mail.
While in IE10, the Charms that open on the right edge of the screen are supported, with Search using your default Internet search engine, Settings providing options for how the browser behaves, and Share sending “a rich link preview with image, description, and hyperlink” to apps like Mail that support it. The tiles for websites that are pinned to the Start screen can display dynamic information like notifications or messages if the website supports that feature.
3. Security & Privacy
IE10 uses the same security and privacy-related features that were included in IE9. This includes SmartScreen, XSS filtering, Application Reputation, InPrivate browsing, Tracking Protection, and hang detection and recovery. IE10 improves on InPrivate browsing by allowing it to be run on individual tabs, which prevents browsing in that browser tab from leaving behind any cached data, including history or cookies.
New to IE10 is “Enhanced Protected mode”, which is meant to better isolate website content when multiple tabs are open, preventing a malicious web page from accessing any of your other open tabs.
Change for the Better?
The drastic changes in the Metro version of IE10 were done for a very specific reason: to make web-browsing more accessible to touch-friendly devices. Users of Windows 8 on a tablet will find IE10 intuitive and easy to use. For those who haven’t browsed on a mobile device and are using a mouse and keyboard on a desktop or laptop, the IE10 Metro app will be confusing and inefficient, at least at first. Those users will find the desktop version of IE10, which is very similar to previous versions, to be a better choice.
Joseph Fieber has 25 years of experience as an IT pro, with a background in computer consulting and software training. Follow him on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter, or contact him through his website, JosephFieber.com.