Review: IE 9 Is Microsoft's Best Browser Yet - InformationWeek

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Review: IE 9 Is Microsoft's Best Browser Yet

Internet Explorer 9 is a powerful, fast, and intuitive interface for browsing the Web and compares favorably with competing browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Internet Explorer 9 Fast, Powerful, Intuitive
Internet Explorer 9 Fast, Powerful, Intuitive
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With the release of Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft has created a powerful, fast, and intuitive interface for browsing the Web. IE 9 is easily the best browser that Microsoft has produced to date and, right now, it compares favorably with competing browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Of course the key part of that statement is "right now." In the next few weeks we'll see the release of Firefox 4 and Chrome 11. If Microsoft sticks by their two year release schedule for browsers, by the time we see IE 10, Chrome will be at version 30 and the Microsoft browser will be far behind competitors and most likely ill suited for surfing the Web of 2013.

However, right now IE 9 is an excellent upgrade, with welcome improvements that make it a solid choice for surfing today's Web.

One of the biggest changes that users will notice is the completely revamped interface, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Chrome. Compared to the often-cluttered interfaces of previous versions of IE, version 9 has a clean and intuitive look and has combined most menu items into a single Tool menu icon.

One small issue I had with the new interface was how it placed tabbed windows and the address bar in the same row. If I opened multiple tabs in the browser, this row quickly became somewhat tight.

IE 9 has changed the window that displays when opening a new tab. Now when opening a new tab, IE 9 displays a list of icons of Web sites that the user visits the most. This worked well, but when compared to browsers such as Chrome and Apple Safari, the ability to customize the new tab page in IE was very limited.

Another feature found in other browsers that has now made its way to IE is the ability to enter search terms and run searches directly from the address bar. This worked well in tests and in general is a very easy and time saving way to run searches in a browser.

A feature available only to Windows 7 users of IE 9 is Pinned Sites. Using this feature, I could add any site to the Windows 7 taskbar simply by clicking on its icon in the browser address bar and dragging it down to the taskbar. With this feature I could quickly launch a pinned site or Web application from the taskbar and also add the Web application to my Startup folder so it would launch when Windows launched. And, when a pinned site is launched, the browser window works almost like a separate application, down to its own unique icons and look based on the Web site's properties.

The notifications feature in IE 9 is also much improved and is one area where I think IE works better than competing browsers. In IE 9, a pop-up notification box displays at the bottom of the browser whenever information on downloads or site loads needs to be displayed. I found this to be informative and an unobtrusive way to handle notifications and superior to the standard browser status bar.

One big improvement in the shipping version of IE 9 is clearly performance. While previous versions of IE performed poorly in almost all benchmark tests, IE 9 is now very competitive and even a leader in some tests. IE 9, at least in the 32-bit version, uses an updated JavaScript engine that provided a huge boost. On tests using the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark, IE 9 32-bit had a slight edge over competing browsers such as Chrome and Opera. Tests run using Futuremark's Peacekeeper benchmark, which is more of an overall browser performance test, showed great improvement, though it was still well behind performance leaders Chrome and Opera.

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