IE8 in Windows 7 Beta

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IE8 in Windows 7 Beta

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The Windows 7 Beta includes a beta of  Internet Explorer 8.  I say “a beta” because IE8 in Windows 7 Beta is a pre-release candidate build of IE:  it’s IE8 Beta 2 plus end user features that are only available on Windows 7 plus many fixes based on feedback we’ve gotten from IE8 Beta 2 usage.  This post is an overview of what you’ll find new in Windows 7’s Internet Explorer, as well as some suggestions about how to get the best experience with this pre-release software. 

Tabs in the Taskbar

Tabs are a very heavily used feature and Windows 7 makes it easy to switch to any tab you want. When you move the mouse over the Internet Explorer icon, you’ll see a thumbnail image of every tab of every IE window that you have open. Just click the page you want to get back to.

The Windows 7 Taskbar.  IE is selected and the titles of two tabs are visible.

Figure 1: IE Tabs in the Taskbar

Given that users open the browser with a specific destination in mind – whether it be mail, an online newspaper or even a search, IE8, in conjunction with Windows 7, introduces the new Jump List feature which makes ‘getting where you’re going’ faster and easier. Jump lists help you get back to the most frequently visited sites in your history list even before you’ve opened the browser! These lists can be opened by dragging up (or right-clicking) on the IE icon on the taskbar. Clicking one of these will launch the IE browser and navigate to that site. Once IE has been opened, you will see the same drag-to-display functionality in the address bar. Simply putting the mouse on the text in the address bar and dragging down will open your most frequently visited sites.

The IE Jump list including sites from the browsing history.  msn, new york times...

Figure 2: IE Jump List            

If you have a touch enabled machine you can drag to open the jump list and the address bar using your finger.  In fact there are quite a few features for those of you that have a touch enabled machine. Let’s talk about those.

Touch features

The touch features are all about adapting to how touch interaction is often different than mouse interaction.

Because of the different sizes of fingers and the various ways people touch the screen, touch tends to be less accurate than mouse clicking. To respond to that we’ve made a few commonly used features easier to target. When the Favorites Center or Smart Address Bar is invoked with Touch, we put more spacing between items so it is easier to touch the link you want. We’ve also made the tab close button hit target taller.

Here’s an example of how the items in the Favorites Center are more spaced out when using touch.

Side by side view of the IE favorites menu.  On the left is the menu when used with the mouse.  On the right is the menu when used by touch.  The touch enabled menu is larger and has larger hit targets than the mouse one.

Figure 3: Spacing of items in IE for use with touch

Touch also has a much more direct feeling than a mouse. When using touch machines, users naturally use their finger to scroll the page up and down, so we support that by default. In addition, navigating back and forward can be done with a left or right flick.

Other features enabled for Touch include opening a link in a new tab, which can be done by placing the finger on the link, dragging it a few pixels in any direction and then releasing, and two-finger zoom (on multi-touch enabled machines only).

Suggestions for the Best Experience

Our data and experience signing-off on the Windows 7 beta has been positive. Many of us have been running Windows 7 as our primary machines at home and at work for a while and loving it. At the same time, we pay very close attention to feedback. We’re looking forward to the data from millions and millions of beta users.

From the preliminary data we have already, we have some suggestions for people running the beta. The general advice is to run the latest versions of add-ons - we’ve been working with several add-on developers to make sure that together we’re able to deliver the best possible experience and there have been quite a few improvements. Some specific recommendations:

  • HP Smart Web Printing

There isn’t an update for the HP Smart Web Printing Add-on available at this time. For this add-on, IE will show you the following message and ask if you’d like to disable this add-on. Choose “Disable this add-on”.

Dialog box indicating that the HP add-on needs to be updated to work correctly with IE8.

  • Skype

Use version 4.0 beta not 3.0. For older versions of the Skype add-on, IE will show the following message. Choose “Disable this add-on”.  Then get the latest Skype version 4.0 beta which works well by clicking the “Check for updates” button or by visiting http://www.skype.com/download/skype/windows/beta/ directly

Dialog box indicating that Skype needs to be updated to work correctly with IE8.

  • Windows Live Sign-in Helper

Use the latest version of Windows Live Sign-in Helper. You can get it from http://get.live.com/

  • Weather Channel Toolbar

There isn’t an update for the Weather Channel Toolbar available at this time. If you experience problems, you can disable this toolbar by right clicking and unchecking the Weather Channel Toolbar.

View of the IE chrome (address bar, toolbars and tab row).  A menu is open indicating which elements of the chrome are currently enabled.

Figure 4: Right click to disable a toolbar in IE

As we gather more real-world data about the IE8 in Windows 7 experience, we’ll keep you updated here.

For site developers

The IE8 rendering platform is the same across different OS’s. So, you can write your page once for IE8. If you’re using OS detection logic you need to make sure it works properly to account for Windows 7.

Check out the Engineering Windows 7 blog to learn more about Windows 7.  I’m looking forward to your comments.

Paul Cutsinger
Principal Lead Program Manager

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