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Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 9 beta

New browser offers features first seen in Windows 7

Microsoft has unveiled the beta version of its latest web browser, Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). IE9 is available to download from Microsoft from 7.30pm this evening.

The software company has worked with 70 top websites and global brands, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Amazon, Twitter and eBay, to ensure these sites can show off the capabilities of IE9.

Research by Microsoft revealed web users only use 12 of the features in the browser regularly. This prompted the software company to develop a user interface that is less cluttered than previous versions of the browser. In-keeping with the look of Microsoft's recent OS, Windows 7, the browser is framed in 'glass' so web users see a page's content first and foremost.

Open any website in the browser and a large version of the website's icon will be displayed in the top left-hand corner of the browser window, along with large back and forward buttons.

"The new browser delivers a fast, clean, trusted and interoperable online experience," Microsoft said.

The URL-bar is similar to the Awesome bar in Mozilla's Firefox, allowing users to type the address of the website they want to visit as well as offering search suggestions as words or phrase are typed. This function is turned-off by default, simply press the link displayed when you start to type, will turn it on. Users will be offered visual search results as well as standard results.

The browser also offers buttons for compatibility mode, which was first introduced in Internet Explorer 8, and allows websites not coded for the browser to be viewed properly as well as the Favourites button and Control, which offers access to personalisation and privacy menus.

IE9 also makes use of a number of functions first introduced in Windows 7. Users can pin sites to the taskbar, ensuring they don't have to open the browser window to navigate to the website. A number of pinned sites also offer Jump lists, that depending on the site, offer different function such as skipping backwards and forwards through tracks (on music streaming sites) or accepting a friend request on social networking sites, when hovering over the site's icon on the task bar.

Users of the new web browser also have the ability to tear off a tab, by dragging it away from the browser, and using Windows Aero Snap to view two sites side-by-side. Microsoft says this function is ideal for web users that want to compare products from different websites or even watch a video while reading email. To tear off a tab and snap it, simply click a tab and drags it to the edge of the screen.

These functions are backwards compatible with machines running Windows Vista SP2, but unfortunately not those using the older Windows XP.

See also: Internet Explorer 9 UI vs Chrome, Firefox

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