Intended for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Vista and Server 2008, the launch of IE 8 seems more of a formality than anything else, given that the final product isn't a leap forward from the beta. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything notable here. Despite some issues, there are some things to admire about the new browser.
After right-clicking on a tab and choosing to start a new one, I was impressed to see that IE 8 placed the new tab right next to it and not at the end of the line, no matter how many I had open. It also colour-coded them, so that I knew they were related to each other, which can actually come in handy more often than you might think. Moreover, IE 8 asked me if I wanted to use InPrivate Browsing so that my history wouldn't be recorded, and if I wanted to use an "Accelerator", which I'll get to a bit later.
If you have a group of, say, five tabs and you open a new one from the first in the row, it will open at the far right of the group rather than right next to the first tab. Naturally, it will be colour-coded with the rest of them, too. Alternatively, you can just open a new tab and then drag it over to the group to merge it with the others. All this grouping includes the ability to close all colour-coded tabs in one shot, or closing all tabs that aren't of the same colour. Of course, you can also "ungroup" tabs, so that they're not tied to each other.
Perhaps one of the best features offered here is the ability to reopen closed tabs. When opening a new tab, you do have the option of filling it with a tab you closed during your browsing session. Just right-click on any tab and choose Recently Closed Tabs to take your pick. The shortcut for this is Ctrl-Shift-T, but that's only if you want to open the last tab you closed.
It was also nice to see that one tab's problems don't cause the whole browser to crash and burn. In IE 8, the troubled tab will crash on its own, thereby offering you the option of restarting it to the point where it went down. This could be a huge relief if you're in the middle of typing a long email in a Web-based email client, or if you're inputting information.
Address Bar Search
A long overdue feature that Microsoft finally embraced, typing in a search query into the address bar initiates a search in your chosen default search engine. About time, given that this feature was already a staple of Firefox and Google Chrome. Not only could you just search anything in the address bar, those two browsers also remember your Favourites, previously-visited sites and even RSS feeds.
There isn't a whole lot that Microsoft did to expand on this functionality, aside from just implementing it. For example, it might not have been a bad idea to include a visual of the URLs listed when you start typing in an address. It's just a thought, but it might be cool to have those Web pages show up more prominently, as you might recognize what a certain page looked like more than the URL itself.
Next page: Internet Explorer 8 Review – continued