First look: Internet Explorer 8.0 loves add-ons, search and acceleration

Speed boosts and new navigation features make for a better browser

IE 8 also features and Add-Ons gallery

IE 8 also features and Add-Ons gallery

Amid increasing pressure from competing products from the likes of Google, Mozilla and Apple, Microsoft has released the biggest upgrade to its flagship Web browser in two years with Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8). TechWorld takes the most popular browser on the Internet for a spin and the result is a more extensible and powerful Web experience.

From the get go, it’s obvious with the Australian release of Internet Explorer (IE 8), Microsoft is attempting a much closer tie-in with its local Ninemsn business by integrating the two in the form of “Windows Internet Explorer 8 for Ninemsn”.

Upon commencing the IE 8 download users are also encouraged to download Microsoft’s Ninemsn Toolbar which allows access to the Ninemsn Home Page, Live Search and Silverlight, Microsoft’s rich Internet application platform.

If users opt to install the toolbar they’re presented with a pretty dour affair with its default pitch black and grey (no chrome, naturally). Users can change this via the settings box which pops up immediately after installation; however, none of the other colours are particularly appealing.

The toolbar itself is logically designed with Live Search dominating the left hand side. At the centre, Ninemsn content can be accessed via buttons labeled News, Celebrity, Sports, Video Break, Hot Deals and e-mail via the Hotmail tab.

On the right side a handy five-day weather forecast can be accessed with one click on the weather icon button. Settings and Help also reside here and a “Flip to Search” icon allows you to narrow down Live searches by Web, video, images, maps, Ninemsn and businesses.

Upon completion of the installation – roughly a 20 minute process depending on the system and connectivity speed – IE 8 prompts you to enable the two key new features of the release – Search suggestions and Accelerator previews. Both are aimed at helping users find and view information on the web more efficiently.

Opting for the Search function results in a search box being installed into the Taskbar and an enabling of a search function in IE 8’s Address bar. In practice these features are of mixed use.

For one, the Taskbar search box gives you the choice of searching either your desktop or the Web. A Web search of “Google” results in a Google page of search results whereas “Google” is the search term. Also, a search for “Paris Hilton” results in a Google results page. IE’s Address Bar search functions in a similar way to the Web search option.

It could be us, but why is the new search feature not using Windows Live as its search engine? Are there anti-trust issues at play or is the search feature preferring Microsoft’s arch-rival? We should state that both Window’s Live Search and Google Search add-ons were active in this trial, but with both search engine add-ons disabled, the same search results occurred.

Users will likely find that the Desktop search application is more useful. An entry of “ie” is enough to bring up Internet Explorer, and “cal” will bring up the Window’s calculator. Still, it seems that it’s nothing that isn’t already available to Vista users with the Start Menu search feature.

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