Internet Explorer 8 is fast becoming the go-to browser

Mar 25, 2009 By Eric Benderoff

I generally don't care about Web browsers. I care about getting where I want to go on the Internet quickly and without hassle.

I have no brand loyalty on this issue, just a preference for efficiency. There are people who rave about one over another - I'm not that guy.

I use and when I'm on a Mac. But on a PC, I use Firefox for one reason: It is faster than Internet Explorer 6 and 7.

Well, that has changed. Microsoft has just released the final version of , one that is very fast and offers new features.

If you've moved away from IE or find your current browser too slow, you should check out the new version, which can be downloaded free at Microsoft.com starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. It won't take long, and the upgrade may make you think you're on a new computer.

OK, that might be a stretch, but you will be happier.

Let me illustrate how much faster IE 8 is running on my computer.

The Chicago Tribune's site took 11.4 seconds to open with and 7 seconds with Firefox. With IE 8, the site loaded up in 4.1 seconds.

The New York Times: 3.9 (IE 7), 5 (Firefox), 2.7 (IE 8).

Gmail: 4.1 (IE 7), 4 (Firefox), 3.2 (IE 8) But speed isn't the only reason to upgrade.

IE 8 has improved tabbed browsing, my favorite feature.

Tabbed browsing allows for multiple open windows - tabs - across one browser page. You can move from tab to tab to access what you have open. I generally keep open my e-mail, blogging software, a Web-based radio station and a few other items.

On Firefox, to open a new tab, you click on file and then "open new tab." (Or Ctrl+T if you like .) This is not onerous.

But IE 8 has made it faster - keeping an open tab available next to the other tabs. Just click on that open tab when you want a new Web page.

Even better, that open tab includes a list of your most recent browsing history. So if you closed a site several hours ago that you'd like to revisit, a link is offered.

If you have many tabs open and can't find the one you want easily, click on the "quick tags" icon to see a snapshot of every open Web page. It looks like a mosaic, but if you click on any of those pages, that tab opens.

A new feature that clearly borrows from RSS feeds - the tool that brings news headlines or blog updates directly to your browser - is called "Web slices."

I set up a slice for ESPN.com. It sits in my favorites bar, and I can click on the "E" icon to open the site. Or, using the Web slice, I can click on the arrow next to the "E" and pull down a list of headlines. This "slice" of the page is a mix of links to stories, blogs and video clips.

Only a handful of the millions of Web sites have slices right now, but expect more.

Microsoft keeps a list at ieaddons.com.

Then there are the "accelerators," a handy set of features that makes finding and sharing information more useful.

For example, if I want to meet a friend for lunch at a new spot, I might go to the restaurant's Web site, highlight the address, copy it and then paste into an e-mail.

With IE 8, once I highlight the address, I right click and an accelerator box opens with a link to my e-mail account. I then e-mail that address from the restaurant's page to my friend.

Another accelerator option opens a map for driving directions.

There are other nice features, including "In Private" browsing - dubbed "Vegas mode" because what's surfed here stays here _ a visual search tool (great for comparison shopping) and a host of security features to protect your computer from the Web's seamier side.

One security-related note: The browser will not allow you to open a site it believes has malware that could damage your computer.

"We feel, hands down, this is the most secure browser" available, Amy Barzdukas, a senior director for Windows Live, told me during a demonstration.

Is IE 8 my new favorite browser? It's too soon to say, but as I used it in its first week, I didn't miss Firefox.

___

(Eric Benderoff writes about technology for the Chicago Tribune.)
___

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at www.chicagotribune.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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User comments : 8

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gopher65
2 / 5 (2) Mar 25, 2009
I've been using FF for a while and I like it, but I have to say that FF3 is one of the buggier programs that I've used in quite some time:(. It's been so consistently buggy since release that on several occasions I've thought about moving back to FF2.

I tested out IE8 and found that it was superior to FF3 in some respects, and inferior in others. And it is just as far from being bug-free as FF3 is, unfortunately.

Still, this is Microsoft's best browser release since they creamed Netscape and began resting on their laurels thinking that they'd won the browser wars for all time. Heh. Right.
JayVenter
5 / 5 (2) Mar 26, 2009
how come all these tests for loading times exclude Chrome ?
bmewz
5 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2009
Trying to install IE* is like all of MS, a challenge. It says I need an update, but installing the update says my current files are newer. So, I can't install IE8 or it's "required" update. I can't imagine what it's like to use if it's this problematic to install. I'll stick to FF.
Hockey68
3 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2009
Put your money where your mouth is: if you care only about speed, then use Chrome, which is by far the fastest browser. It tends to be, in my opinion, far more user-friendly than any other browser as well. The new tab splash page is extremely useful and the url/search bar is much more functional than any other browser's.
Sirussinder
5 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2009
Sorry Micro$oft can toot their horn all they want, but the farther people move away from M$ to more open source software the better.
lowbatteries
5 / 5 (2) Mar 26, 2009
As a web developer, I would say IE8 is a huge leap forward compared to IE6 and IE7. It's still a ways behind any other browser, but if all those IE6/7 users would upgrade to IE8, my job would be so much easier - and the web as a whole would be faster and be able to do more.
AndyTheAstronomer
5 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2009
Opening a new tab in Firefox is much easier than either of the suggested methods. Just double-click on the grey background to the right of the last opened tab.

What is important is not how fast a browser loads a page, but how compliant the browser is with internationally-ratified standards. Microsoft have a long and dishonourable history of disregarding such standards and trying to establish their own, generally inferior, ones. If IE8 is not 100% compliant with W3C standards then nobody should use it, because by doing so they are encouraging MS's bullying. Is IE8 100% compliant? I doubt it.
mrunion
not rated yet Mar 29, 2009
Here! Here! on standards. Microsoft -- FOLLOW the standards or quit making the stuff! You are the eternal thorn in the web developers' side.

I'll stick with free and open-source, thank you.