In case you missed the announcement, Internet Explorer 8 was released last week.

I'll be honest, I tried one of the early betas of IE8 on a VM a long time ago, but I didn't spend a lot of time with it because it always seemed like there was some more pressing matter that required my attention. As I'm fond of saying, there are typically three levels of issues that get piled on my plate: hot, hotter, and thermonuclear!

This past weekend, I upgraded 3 of my 10 active "machines" to IE8: my Vista x64 desktop, my Windows Server 2008 x64 laptop, and a Windows Server 2008 x86 VM that I am currently using as my SharePoint development environment. [I say active, because this is the number of physical and virtual machines that I keep running 24x7 in the "Jameson Datacenter" -- a.k.a. my home office. No, I still haven't gotten around to running that CAT5 cable from the second floor down to the basement so I can get these portable space heaters -- er, I mean servers -- out of the way.]

I'll wait for IE8 to be available via Windows Update before upgrading the remaining active machines -- or the countless inactive machines in my inventory (i.e. VMs that haven't been fired up in months or more, but I still keep around for demos and reference material) if and when these are ever fired up again.

The upgrade from IE7 to IE8 on each of these three machines went without the slightest glitch, and while I can't say that I'm heavily leveraging new features like Accelerators and Web Slices (yet), I must admit that I really like the fact that IE8 is much more Web standards compliant than any previous version of Internet Explorer.

As I've hinted in the past, the death of IE6 cannot come soon enough. I'm certainly not the only person to have this opinion. Here are just a few of the dozens of sites dedicated to eradicating IE6:

With IE8, I'm also digging the fact that tabs are grouped by color to indicate which tabs were opened from a particular page. I have a habit of doing an Internet search and then using CTRL+click to quickly open the top 3-5 results so I can scan them for the information I am looking for. By highlighting the tabs with various colors, it gives this scenario an improved user experience (for example, it is very easy to quickly close tabs that I no longer want open).

I've also started using some of the IE8 Developer Tools -- and I must say these are a vast improvement over the previous IE Developer Toolbar. However, it's much too early to say whether you'll be able to pry Firefox and its various add-ons out of my toolbox ;-)

[Update 2009-03-25: Yesterday I forgot to mention another vastly improved feature in IE8.

I tend to use CTRL+F frequently to find a particular string on a page (error messages, method names, etc.). When compared with Firefox, the user experience of the "Find on this page" feature in versions prior to IE8 left a little to be desired -- to put it mildly.

Prior to IE8, your could CTRL+F, start typing your search term, and then press Enter to quickly find the specified string on the page; however, if you decided that you wanted to search for something else, then a subsequent CTRL+F would only cause the Find dialog window to get focus, but you couldn't immediately start typing your new search term (because the focus would be on the Next button).

Fortunately, this has been overhauled in IE8 by eliminating the Find dialog altogether and instead integrating this feature into the main window. You can now quickly use CTRL+F repeatedly to search for different terms on a page. IE8 even has "hit highlighting" similar to Firefox.]