Is it worth switching to IE8?

I procrastinated for nearly two weeks before installing Microsoft's new web browser.

I'd been happy using rival products like Firefox and Chrome at work and Flock at home, and habits are hard to break, even though version eight of Internet Explorer, or IE8, has several promising features.



In essence, all browsers have become so good at delivering the basics that I find little reason to change. The frills are what sets each browser apart, but getting unique offerings in one means giving up features in another. However thrilling IE8's new offerings may be, I'm not ready to give up Flock, Firefox or Chrome just yet.



Still, Microsoft should be applauded for trying.



Most notable in Microsoft's free, Windows-only browser are tools called Accelerators, which are designed to better mirror how people use the web these days. Accelerators help you share content and blend services from various sites.

You can install Accelerators written by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook or any developer that wants to participate - no one needs permission from Microsoft.



With a mapping Accelerator, I simply right-click on an address to launch an online map from Microsoft, Yahoo or Google. With a dictionary Accelerator, I right-click on a word to get the definition from Dictionary.com, Urban Dictionary or Microsoft's search engine.



There are Accelerators for email, news stories, currency conversions, eBay auctions, searching through Facebook friends and more. This week I counted more than 110 available through Microsoft's "Add-ons Gallery."



I can save a lot of time by not having to constantly copy and paste text from online stories into Gmail when I want to email the tidbits to friends. I simply highlight a few paragraphs and right-click on the Gmail Accelerator. Those paragraphs and a link to the full story automatically get added to the message. Accelerators are also available for email services from Microsoft and Time Warner's AOL.



IE8 also offers "Web Slices" to quickly alert users to updates on their eBay auctions, stock quotes, sports scores and other frequently viewed services. They appear on your favourites bar just like other bookmarks, but instead of static pages or text headlines, you get the latest photos and other goodies as well.



The new Microsoft browser also makes it easier to switch between search engines from the search box. And it offers a "private" mode during which IE8 doesn't store the addresses of sites you visit or keep the small advertising data files called cookies.



But to use any of that, I'd have to give up one of my favourite things about Flock: the way it helps people share content and blend services.



On Flock, a web clipboard lets me quickly drag and drop frequently used images and text, such as the web coding I regularly add to my photo site to create links. A people sidebar lets me instantly see friends' Facebook updates, even when I'm surfing other sites.



Both Firefox and Flock let me quickly find information with an "Awesome Bar" that offers suggestions as I type, based not only on previously visited web addresses but also the web page's title, bookmarks and the descriptive tags I've added. Microsoft's new address bar is an improvement from previous versions but doesn't go as far.



And Google's Chrome, which has a private browsing mode similar to IE8's, lets me enter search queries and web addresses from a single box, so I don't have to pause before typing to remind myself which one to use.



I'm not ready to give up on any of that yet.



One other notable IE8 feature is grouped tabs. Say you're on the home page of a news site and want to read a story without losing your place. You can right-click and open that story in a new tab next to your current one showing the home page. That was possible before, but now related tabs are given a common colour, so tabs opened from that news site might be assigned green, while ones from Facebook might get yellow.



IE is still the dominant browser, but Microsoft has been gradually losing share to Firefox and other rivals as they innovate. As a result, Microsoft has had to come up with new ideas as well, and it shows with IE8.



Users of the previous Microsoft browser, IE7, might consider an upgrade. Some sites won't work with the new version, but it has an IE7 mode available for you to temporarily switch back.



And other people might want to have IE8 downloaded and available just in case - such as when they want to conveniently monitor an eBay auction using a Web Slice.



But unless you're unhappy with the browser you're already using, there's no compelling reason to abandon it.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has 30 years of ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Account Manager

    £27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing cloud based I...

    Recruitment Genius: Front End Web Developer - Magento

    £28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

    SThree: IT Recruitment Consultant

    £22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?