Some of the features of Internet Explorer 8.0 Release Candidate 1, Microsoft's next-generation web browser now available to the public, are similar to functionality that's already included in Mozilla Firefox 3.0.

Microsoft's updated browser, Internet Explorer 8.0, promises an assortment of new features designed to help make web browsing with IE safer, easier, and more compatible with internet standards.

We looked at the first release candidate of the new browser, Internet Explorer 8.0 Release Candidate 1 (RC1). On the surface, IE 8 seems to be a lot like IE 7, but Microsoft has made a number of changes under the hood. You may have seen some of these new features already, however, in IE's no-longer-upstart competitor, Mozilla Firefox 3.0.

See also: Mozilla Firefox 3.0 review

See also: Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 review

Internet Explorer 8.0: tabbed browsing

If you accidentally close a browser window in IE 8, you can opt to restore it when you reopen the program (just as you can in Firefox). Internet Explorer 8.0 will use color coding to group related tabs together. If you open a link from pcadvisor.co.uk in a new tab, for example, it will open adjacent to the original tab, and the tabs themselves will have a matching colour. You can move tabs from one group to another, but if you have three unrelated pages open, you cannot create a group out of them.

Perhaps the most novel addition in IE 8 is what Microsoft calls tab isolation. The feature is designed to prevent a buggy website from causing the entire web browsing program to crash. Instead, only the Internet Explorer 8.0 tab displaying the problematic page will close, so you can continue browsing.

Of course, IE 8 RC1 retains some of the features introduced in the first beta, including WebSlices and accelerators.

See also: Google Chrome review

NEXT PAGE: searching and security

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Some of the features of Internet Explorer 8.0 Release Candidate 1, Microsoft's next-generation web browser now available to the public, are similar to functionality that's already included in Mozilla Firefox 3.0.

Internet Explorer 8.0: searching

IE 8 can use multiple search engines besides Windows Live Search, and you can add other search engines to the mix. Also, Internet Explorer 8.0 will give you search suggestions as you type. For example, we can type in 'PC Advisor' into the search field, and IE 8 RC1 will give us Live Search suggestions such as 'pc advisor magazine' or 'pc advisor reviews'.

In addition, IE 8 lets you switch between search engines on the fly by clicking an icon at the bottom of the search field's drop-down menu. IE 8 can search Yahoo and Ask.com, and you can install add-ins that give IE 8 the capability to search Wikipedia, Amazon, and the New York Times, among other sites.

See also: Mozilla Firefox 3.0 review

See also: Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 review

Internet Explorer 8.0 search

Internet Explorer 8.0 search

Internet Explorer 8.0: improved security

Microsoft touts IE 8 as its most secure browser to date, and Microsoft has indeed added a good number of security features to the mix, ranging from phishing detection to private browsing, plus a new feature to prevent clickjacking, an emerging data theft threat.

Internet Explorer 8.0 RC1 includes two security features under the 'InPrivate' label: InPrivate Browsing and InPrivate Filtering. Both existed in earlier prerelease versions of IE 8, but IE 8 RC1 lets you use the two features separately, whereas before each relied on the other.

If you enable Internet Explorer 8.0's InPrivate Browsing feature, the browser will not save any sensitive data - passwords, log-in info, history, and the like. Afterward it will be as if your browsing session had never happened. This feature is very similar to Private Browsing in Apple's Safari browser, except that an icon in IE's address bar makes InPrivate Browsing's active status more obvious.

InPrivate Filtering - called InPrivate Blocking in earlier IE 8 builds - prevents sites from being able to collect information about other websites you visit. This feature existed in IE 8 Beta 2, but you could use it only while using InPrivate Browsing. In RC1, you can use InPrivate Browsing at any time.

The browser's phishing filter - called SmartScreen - improves on its predecessor's filter with such features as more-thorough scrutiny of a web page's address (to protect you from sites named something like paypal.iamascammer.com) and a full-window warning when you stumble upon a suspected phishing site. SmartScreen relies largely on a database of known phishing sites, so new, unknown phishing sites may slip through the cracks.

Internet Explorer 8.0 displays sites' domains in a darker text colour, so you can more readily see whether you're visiting a genuine ebay.com page, say, or a page simulating an eBay page on some site you've never heard of. Microsoft could still put a little more emphasis on the domain name (using a different colour background, for example), but the highlighting is a welcome addition.

Finally, IE 8 RC1 includes a feature designed to prevent clickjacking, a method in which web developers insert a snippet of HTML code into their web page code to steal information from web page visitors. When you use Internet Explorer 8.0 to view such a page, IE 8 can identify an attempted clickjacking and will warn you of the attempt.

See also: Google Chrome review

NEXT PAGE: web compatibility

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Some of the features of Internet Explorer 8.0 Release Candidate 1, Microsoft's next-generation web browser now available to the public, are similar to functionality that's already included in Mozilla Firefox 3.0.

Internet Explorer 8.0: web compatibility

Creating a site that looks identical in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari can be a challenge. IE 8 Beta 2 offers better support for W3 Web standards - a set of guidelines developed to ensure that a web page appears the same in all browsers. The downside is that Internet Explorer 8.0 will break some pages designed for earlier Internet Explorer versions.

To counteract this problem, Microsoft has added a compatibility mode: click a button in the toolbar, and IE 8 will display a page in the same way that IE 7 does. In our testing, we found that most pages worked fine with the standard (new) mode, and that most errors were minor cosmetic ones. Unfortunately, the Compatibility Mode toggle button may not be obvious to most users, because it's pretty small; a text label would have helped.

See also: Mozilla Firefox 3.0 review

See also: Internet Explorer 8.0 Beta 2 review

See also: Google Chrome review

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NEXT PAGE: our expert verdict

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Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.0: Specs

  • Computer with a 233MHz processor or higher (Pentium processor recommended)
  • Windows XP/Vista/Server 2003/Server 2008
  • 512MB RAM
  • Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher-resolution monitor with 256 colours
  • modem or internet connection
  • Microsoft Mouse, Microsoft IntelliMouse, or compatible pointing device
  • Computer with a 233MHz processor or higher (Pentium processor recommended)
  • Windows XP/Vista/Server 2003/Server 2008
  • 512MB RAM
  • Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher-resolution monitor with 256 colours
  • modem or internet connection
  • Microsoft Mouse, Microsoft IntelliMouse, or compatible pointing device

OUR VERDICT

Although it probably won't convince many Firefox users to jump ship, Internet Explorer 8.0 Release Candidate 1 shows promise, and may be worth considering for people who have not yet solidified their browser loyalties. (Keep an eye out for our report on the final release of IE 8.)

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