[Cross-posted from the Canadian Developer Blog which I also blog on]

If you build software solutions for a living, manage professional development teams or lead a software development company, there are a number of things that you are probably thinking about consistently on a day to day basis. 

Two of these items likely include:

  • Productivity; either your own or your team’s
  • Driving Innovation; finding new and compelling ways to reach your customers

If you build solutions that involve the end user making use of a web browser, you likely find both of the above items extremely challenging.  THis is particularly true given the very competitive market for web browsers out there.  There are a number of high-quality, high market share browsers out there today (including Internet Explorer and Firefox among others) that provide a great deal of functionality.  In many cases your web solution must support the majority of those browsers, which increases the complexities in creating compelling web solutions. The good news is that with IE8 some of the pressure on productivity and innovation can be alleviated.

There are a number of new capabilities within IE8 that may surprise you in not only how they support you but enhance your business and work.  If you have used the Beta 1 release of Internet Explorer 8 you likely saw a few of these items, while as others are found in the new Beta 2 release which you may not have seen.

Productivity Features

One of the most talked about features is web standards compliance.  This is a big deal for a number of reasons.  If you are web application developer/provider, you are likely acutely aware of the pain caused by targeting multiple browser platforms.  While admittedly Microsoft’s past experience with web standards on Internet Explorer has been spotty, IE8 changes the game in this respect.  The development team for IE8 made standards-based browsing a priority when building this browser.  Why is this important?  Well, if you are able to target code to published standards, this eliminates the need for some of the special exception testing of your code under Internet Explorer.  If you code to standards, it will work in IE8.  Some of the standards supported in IE8 are found in the list below:

Another productivity feature that was built into IE8 are the developer tools.  There is a developer toolbar built into IE8 natively that allows you to debug and analyze many of the components of your web application directly from the browser.  This includes ability to debug HTML, JavaScript and CSS, complete with debugging facilities such as breakpoints and variable value views as well as the ability to edit in realtime and view the changes in your browser.  These developer tools are a veritable boon for web developers as it allows them to debug client-side data and the like more quickly than with traditional development tools (such as Visual Studio or Expression Studio) alone.

Figure 1:  A view of the IE8 developer tools

Other productivity gains that Internet Explorer provides include:

  • AJAX Navigation Enhancements:  allows developers to manipulate the history functionality by using the windows.location.hash event so as to eliminate issues with the back button (thus reducing the amount of code required to check for data integrity issues)
  • DOM Storage:  allows developers to create a separate DOM storage area for each domain
  • Enhanced Presence/Connectivity Functionality:  IE8 supports the HTML 5 draft standard for determining whether the browser is connected to the network, thus eliminating or reducing the amount of effort to custom build this functionality

Driving Innovation

There are a number of features in IE8 that allow you to take your web solution to the next level.  One such feature is called Web Slices.  A Web Slice is an extension of your web solution that sits on the Favourites bar on IE8.  It allows you to push a dynamic “slice” of content to the browser without the user having to navigate to the site.  This allows you to create “at your fingertips” miniature applications relevant to your application  (such as product trackers and dashboard/KPI metrics) and provides users with a compelling reason to use your application.

Figure 2:  An example of a Web Slice tracking products on eBay

Another example of how IE8 allows you to build very innovative and different solutions is the use of Accelerators on IE8.  Accelerators are features on the browser that enhance the experience of your users by providing useful utilities that can be used with your application at the user’s fingertips.  A great example of this would be the ability to get a map of an address as a hover button with no extra coding required on your part.  This allows you to create truly compelling mashups for your web solution without the need to dramatically increase the coding required on the part of your development team.

Figure 3:  Using the Microsoft Live Maps Accelerator

Finally (although not the last new innovative feature of IE8), there is the InPrivate feature within IE8.  This feature allows users to define which websites the browser should not keep information on (such as history, cookies and temporary files).  This is a very compelling feature for applications that handle sensitive or private data.  By using IE8, you can give your customers and users further assurances that the data stored by the browser for that session will be completely removed and not accessible once the user has finished using the application.

So as you can see, Internet Explorer 8 represents more than a “typical browser release”.  There’s a lot under the covers in IE8 for not only your users but also for your development and business marketing teams.  We truly believe that IE8 changes the game for web solutions providers such as yourselves and can help you grow your business by allowing you to harness the power of the various new features in IE8 today.

While other browsers such as Firefox are garnering a great deal of attention for being great browsers (and with good reason), IE8 has stepped up to this challenge and brought a world-class browser to the user. 

Useful Resource Links for Developing Applications for IE8

-Paul

Technorati Tags:  IE8, Internet Explorer 8, Web Development