Lots of great browsers exist, and all of them have their advocates. This article is not really meant to be part of that debate, but just to let the plain old IE 8 user know that the IE 9 beta that is now available seems to be a major improvement.
First of all, we’ve found it to be stable, so the downside risk of using beta software seems small. Once you install it, you find three or four new features that the average user should enjoy.
The first is that the browser takes up much less space, leaving more viewable area for the Website you’re viewing. This really makes a difference on netbooks, and it will on the new wide-screen displays, too.
Second, reducing the browser real estate means you have to relearn a couple of things, but, once learned, they’re just as convenient. There’s no separate search box, for example, but what you do is type your search term into the same place you put URLs. A box drops down, you pick your search engine, and you’re off. Also, things like printing don’t have their own icon anymore. You’ll find them in the tools menu, accessed through the gear icon at the upper right.
Third, If you have multiple sites open on different tabs, you can drag a tab out of the browser and the whole page will come with it, allowing you to view two sites side by side easily. Fourth, if you are using Windows 7, you can drag a URL to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen and it will remain as an icon. If the site has a favicon, it will be the icon. If not, you’ll get something generic, but mousing over it will display the site. Regardless, this means that whenever you want to return to that website, all you have to do is click the icon on the taskbar.
Finally, although this isn’t completely new, check out the Web developer tools for IE that you get by hitting F12. They’ve been there since IE 8, but casual users may have missed them. A lot of the features require Web design or development knowledge to use effectively, but some are simple and useful. For example, by going to the Images menu and clicking “Show Image Dimensions,” all the images on the page you’re viewing will display their dimensions in pixels. This can be handy if you’re trying to decide what size image to upload to a blog, for example.
The advocates will counter that the developer tools are better in Firefox, and that’s true, although you have to combine them from several sources. But for the casual user, IE’s are a help.