Internet Explorer 10 puts Microsoft back in the game

A few months ago I posted an article entitled ‘Stop using Internet Explorer‘. I still stand by most of the points I made in that article, however since writing it IE 10 has been launched, something which has changed my stance on Microsoft’s browser.

Last Sunday, I went to the Gadget Show Live at the NEC in Birmingham. For this I owe thanks to British Gas, as they provided me with tickets to the sold out event. I will be posting more on the event soon.

When at the NEC, as a blogger I was invited to use Microsoft’s bloggers lounge, where I was made to feel very welcome by a friendly team of Microsoft employees. During my time there, I was given a (very impressive) demonstration of Surface by Robert Epstein, Senior Product Manager for Windows at Microsoft UK, who also demonstrated Internet Explorer 10.IE 10 LogoI didn’t think that the new IE would impress me, but it did. I was told how even Microsoft realised that IE was a little behind other browsers, and that when designing 10, they decided to completely start again. IE 10 isn’t just an update, it is a completely new browser.

Internet Explorer was one of the first browsers ever released, and was designed for a very different web to the one we use today. Internet Explorer 6 was initially released in 2001, and IE 7 in 2006. Firefox launched in 2004, and Chrome in 2008. That means that when IE 6 went live, neither Firefox or Chrome existed; probably why so many people (including myself) used it.

It is easy to point out how bad IE 6 is compared to other browsers. Today, it isn’t considered a very good browser, however when it was launched in 2001, it was, and that’s because compared to the competition at the time it really was.

Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft started again with Internet Explorer 10. They scrapped all that had gone before and built a completely new browser. Some aspects of the interface are the same, but that’s it really – oh, and you use it to access the web! 🙂

I have now installed IE 10 on my Windows 7 desktop, and was blown away by how fast it is. From warm, Internet Explorer 10 (on Windows 7) opens faster than Firefox and Opera. The difference is marginal, however IE does come out on top – just. IE 10 and Chrome 26 seem to take the same amount of time.

Internet Explorer is the fastest browser on Windows 8. IE 10 is available on both the start screen (or ’tile’) version of Windows 8, and the Desktop version; however the two browser interfaces are very different. The Desktop version offers an interface similar to that seen on the Windows 7 version, whilst the start screen version has a clean, minimalistic interface, with the focus primarily on content.

Improvements

Design improvements and faster boot time are not the only areas Microsoft have improved. For starters, the overall speed of browsing is much faster, giving an experience similar to that which you can experience using Chrome: responsive, fast and slick. IE 10 is currently the fastest Windows 8 compatible browser.

Microsoft IE at the Gadget Show

The Internet Explorer section of Microsoft’s stand at the Gadget Show Live

In terms of compatibility, Microsoft have fixed most of IE 9’s issues, IE 10 now handles HTML5 much better than its predecessors. Having tested the blog, I can confirm that it now appears correctly in Internet Explorer. So you can now visit Technology Bloggers and see things how they should look correctly using Internet Explorer, just make sure you are using 10!

The new browser is fully touch compatible, and is even multi-touch compatible. Microsoft have created several websites, (and helped upgrade others) which are touch compatible, and designed to register multiple points of contact at once.

One website which is now touch compatible is games site Atari. Many of the games require more than one point of contact at a time, and having tried some of them myself, IE appears to handle it very well.

Another new feature which capitalises on the touch capabilities is flip ahead. To quote Microsoft:

“Flip ahead allows you to explore favorite websites like you would a magazine. By implementing flip ahead, you enable your users to flip through a news article or an online catalog, regardless of their actual location on the page. Visitors no longer need to click a Next button to go to the next page.”

I was shown a demonstration of how it works on MSN news, and it looks very promising; just find some empty space, drag your finger from right to left, and you load (or flip to) the next article. I feel that flip ahead has real potential for blogs and news sites, hence why we are currently working with Microsoft to make Technology Bloggers flip ahead compatible.

UPDATE: Technology Bloggers is now flip ahead compatible! You can flip forwards and backwards between articles. Currently it only works for posts, however we may look at implementing it on (date/category/tag) archives in the future.

Issues

Okay, IE 10 is much better than previous versions, but it isn’t 100% problem free. The major issues surrounding the new browser involve bugs. Lots of software experiences the issue of bugs, however IE seems to have a reputation for them!

One of the bugs IE is facing media scrutiny for is issue of the Windows 7 version of the browser being incompatible with many hybrid graphics cards. Another reported bug seems to link installing IE to disabling the Aero interface on Windows 7. I haven’t experienced either problem myself, however if you search for the issues, there are quite a few people claiming to have problems.

When I started using the browser I felt that there wasn’t much room for tabs – on Windows 7. Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera all have a separate area for your tabs, however IE tries to squash them in next to the URL bar. You can increase the room available to tabs, but you loose URL box space. It is possible to put the tabs on a separate row, but doesn’t come as default; just right click on the headers and from the menu select ‘Show tabs on a separate row’. I would personally prefer tabs to be on a separate row by default.

Conclusions

Don’t touch any version of Internet Explorer that is below 10. On Windows 7, IE 10 seems very promising, and you should seriously consider it as a browser, it seems fast, safe and sleek. I am still using Firefox, however were I using a Windows 8 powered Surface, I think I would be using Internet Explore; but I don’t have a Surface, so I can’t be sure.

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Internet Explorer 10 is a completely new browser, that has put Microsoft right back in the browser war.

Where will it go from here, will IE start to steal back dissident users?

Watch this space.

Stop using Internet Explorer

This post was going to be entitled “Why you should stop using Internet Explorer” however I didn’t think that was a strong enough title, so I changed it to the direct instruction you see above this text: Stop using Internet Explorer.

You have a choice. You can use Google, Bing, Yahoo! or Ask. You can buy Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS or Ubuntu. You can go with Apple, Samsung, Sony or RIM.

Although Google dominate the search market, there are still many other search engines out there. Microsoft dominate the computer market, but you can still choose from a [reasonable] selection of other, popular operating systems. You could argue that Samsung now dominate the global smartphone market, but there are still many other companies you can go to to get a smartphone.

You also have a choice as to what browser you use. The internet is arguably now the main function for any computer, so surely you should devote some time then to choosing which browser is right for you?

If you have tried more than three different browsers before, for a considerable length of time and have after weighing up all the pros and cons of each, have chosen your favourite, well done you. If you haven’t, read on.

If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), stop. Okay, well you can finish reading the article, but then stop using it. A simple instruction, which could do wonders for your internet experience.

Reasons To Not Use IE

There are many reasons not to use IE. Here is a list of what I think are the strongest arguments against the heavy, slow and outdated browser.

Lack of Security

IE seems to constantly be in the news for its security issues. Much of the malware out there on the internet is only made possible by bugs and holes in Internet Explorer! Need proof? Check out this section of IE’s Wikipedia page.

Speed!

In recent years Microsoft have been really working on making Internet Explorer faster, and IE 9 is much faster than IE 6 or 7 were; granted. That said, it is still much slower than the competition. For example, loading Technology Bloggers from cold (hard refresh) in Firefox, Chrome and Safari took 3 seconds, Opera took 4, while Internet Explorer took 7 seconds.

Lack of Features

Without a doubt, for features, add-ons and extensions, Firefox and Chrome are miles out in front. Safari and Opera also have a reasonable number of things you can add to your browser to customise/improve it, but Internet Explorer has only really started to embrace such features since IE 8. Apart from toolbars, Flash, Adobe Reader etc. IE 6 didn’t really do add-ons.

Inconsistency

Social buttons badly rendered by IE

How IE rendered the same code (our social buttons) on three separate page loads – neither is correct.

Take a look at the three images to the right.

Each of the images is a different variation of the social buttons on our sidebar that IE rendered. The screen size remained the same, and the loads were seconds apart.

IE managed to render three completely different versions of the same code. How does that work?

In the first image it didn’t even attempt to load the social buttons before declaring it was finished. It took a better shot in the second image, whilst in the third image it didn’t bother loading Twitter and threw Google+ to the bottom. Why?

Upon loading the blog in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, I saw the exact same result. Each browser displayed them as they are meant to be displayed, every time – Internet Expolorer didn’t.

Lack of Compatibility with Modern Code

Code is advancing all the time, and a good browser will keep up to date with changes, and make sure it is able to interpret and display modern CSS, HTML, PHP etc.

When the blog snows at Christmas, IE doesn’t show that, IE also doesn’t like the ‘modern’ code which makes our search box work, or the code we use to add shadows to text.

Lack of Compatibility with Older Operating Systems

IE 9 doesn’t work with Windows XP, or any Mac OS or Linux system. Only Vista, 7 and 8 support IE 9. IE 10 only works with Windows 7 and Windows 8. According to StatCounter, in the last 6 months, 26.55% of all computer users used XP, whilst 7.13% used Vista and 7.46% use MacOSX – that’s 41.14% of the market that Microsoft are isolating straight away, and Windows 7 and 8 don’t even own all of the 58.86% share of the market that is left!

Advertising Campaign

Microsoft have recently undergone a quite extensive advertising campaign for IE, to try and shake off its bad reputation. They state how ‘lightning fast’ it is compared to how it used to be, which I can’t dispute. What they don’t however say is how it compares to Chrome or Opera. They also try to reassure users that it is now secure, although that is still debatable!

Which Browser to Use?

There are loads of web browsers out there, check out this handy Wikipedia comparison table to see.

Below is a map showing in 2013 so far, which internet browser is the most commonly used by country.

Top browser by country - 2013

Browser popularity by country. The colour of the country is the colour of the most used browser – see legend.

Personally I would advise using either Chrome or Firefox. If you have a relatively standard, or slow PC, then Chrome is probably best for you. It is light, simple and fast.

I still think that Firefox had more functionality than Chrome, and it is my personal favourite. If your PC is usually pretty quick and of a reasonable spec, then I would recommend Firefox.

Chrome is owned by Google – a multinational corporate giant – whilst Firefox is non-profit and open source.

Some simple ways to speed up your Windows PC

According to StatCounter in August 2012, globally, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 accounted for the operating systems on 87.85% of computers around the world. That means that the majority of people own a PC which runs on Windows, as opposed to one which runs on iOS, MacOSX, Unix or another operating system.

An issue many Windows users often find is that after a while their computer seems to slow down. If this sounds familiar, then you should find this article extremely useful, as in it I am going to give you my personal tips on how to keep your Windows PC (XP, Vista and 7) running fast. This guide applies to both laptops and desktop PCs. 🙂

What Slows Computers Down?

The trick to understanding how to make your machine run faster involves working out what slows your computer down. It would be interesting to know what most people think slows their computer down, so if you have an idea, let me know in the comments.

The first and one of the biggest culprits which slow your computer down are background processes. These are things which go on in the background whilst you are doing things. Say you are trying to open up an internet browser, lets take Firefox as an example, then when you click on Firefox, it is very possible that plugins you have installed also try to start up and do things in the background. Until recently an really good example of this was the Google toolbar, which would start up a process to talk to Google and find out if it was up to date.

There are likely to be a lot of programs trying to do things in the background, whilst you are focusing on your task. Java, Apple, Google, Adobe (Flash Player and Reader) are big culprits, always whirring away in the background. If you have anything Google installed like Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google Talk etc. then the chases are it is taking a lot more resources than it needs. Likewise anything Apple like iTunes, QuickTime etc. are also likely to be slowing your PC down.

Another big culprit is disorganised hard disk files. Every time you delete something, move something, create a new file or folder etc. you change the layout of your hard disk and the structure of your files. This can often mean that related files can be put far apart on the disk, which is not optimal, also in order to get to a file, the computer may first have to locate it via following a redirect from where it used to be – this takes time.

The final major culprit I am going to address is unnecessary visual effects. Your computer can often get really bogged down trying to display fancy effects which you don’t really need, meaning you can’t get on and do what you wanted to do.

Now we know three of the main issues, lets fix them!

Stopping Unnecessary Background Processes

A tortoise with a rocket on its backStopping bad background processes is easier than you might think. There are a few ways to go about it, the way I find the most effective is though a tool named ‘MSConfig’. This can be found on Vista and 7 by typing in msconfig into the search box on the start menu, in in Windows XP by typing msconfig into the Run command box.

MSConfig allows you to make a lot of changes to your system, but unless you know what you are doing, I would stick to just two tabs, Services and Startup. To start speeding up your PC, go to the ‘Services’ tab and click ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’, which will stop you accidental stopping anything you need. Now untick anything you don’t feel you need. An example of a service you might want to untick is ‘Google Update Service‘, whilst an example of one you probably don’t want to is your Anti-Virus software’s one.

Remember stopping a service does not stop you opening a program. Say there is an Office service which you stop, it will not run in the background, but you will still be able to run Word, Excel and Outlook.

Now lets move onto the ‘Startup’ tab. Here you can also remove any service you don’t want to run, but this is specifically when you start up your PC. For example, if you have Skype installed, but don’t want it to run when your computer starts, then untick the Skype service. Likewise if you don’t want Google Talk to automatically start running, untick googletalk.exe – the Google Talk service.

Reorganise Your Hard Disk

Reorganising your files is really easy, it just takes time. A disk defragmenter is what you need for this, and Windows comes with one built in for free! There are third party ones available too, some of which are good, and others not so – your choice.

Simply start Windows Disk Defragmenter via searching for it in the start menu, or open My Computer >> right-click on the hard disk you want to defragment >> click Properties >> click the Tools tab >> click click Defragment now.

It may take any amount of time from 5 minutes to 12 hours (potentially more if you have a really big and messy hard disk) and during the process, I would advise against using your computer. Typically it takes an hour or two to defragment a hard disk.

Turn Off Unneeded Visual Effects

If you are happy to loose some of the sleekness your system has then this tip could really boost your computers performance.

First you need to open the visual effects panel. In Windows 7 right-click Computer on the start menu >> click Properties >> click Advanced system settings (on the left) >> then select Settings under the Performance section. In XP right-click My Computer >> click Properties >> click the Advanced tab >> then select Settings under the Performance section.

From here you can remove visual effects you don’t really need. If you like you can remove them all, but that could really change how your PC looks. Animate windows when minimizing and maximising, Show shadows under mouse pointer and Show window contents while dragging are all effects which really slow down your PC, but you are unlikely to miss. Experiment, and see which ones you can live without.

I hope these tips work for you, and have fun with your fast(er) computer!

Got any tips yourself? Why not share them below?

Google prunes some of its branches

It is that time again at Google when it has to prune some of its various branches. Since Google co-founder Larry Page took over the reins as CEO in April last year, Google has been reducing and trimming its projects to renew and regain focus.

Google has come under investor scrutiny as it is facing increasing competition from both Apple and Facebook.

This spring cleaning is part of the various cost cutting and refocusing efforts. In the latest cleaning exercise announced a few weeks ago, Google will be pulling the plug on seven of its projects.

1. Google Knol

Google launched Knol in 2007 to help improve web content and as a challenge to Wikipedia that enabled experts to collaborate on in-depth articles. Knol will be available till April 30, 2012, to enable users to download their Knols to a file and/or migrate them to the WordPress platform. After that till October 1, 2012, Knols cannot be viewed but users will be able to download and export content. After October 2012, the Knol content will no longer be available.

2. Google Gears

Google has closed the Gears browser extension for creating offline web applications and stopped supporting new browsers in March this year. From December 1, 2011, Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline will not work across all browsers, and Gears will not be available for download from late December this year. Google announced that this is part of their effort to help incorporate offline capabilities into HTML5. Users can access Gmail, Calendar and Docs offline in Chrome.

3. Renewable Energy

Google has abandoned its ambitious plans to make renewable energy cheaper than coal. Google had started this project in 2007 as a means on driving down the price of renewable energy with a strong focus on solar power. Google announced that the head of the project, Bill Weihl (William E. Weihl) has left the company and it believes that other organizations were in a better position to take its efforts to the next level.

4. Google Wave

Google has earlier stopped further development on Google Wave. Now it has announced that as of January 31, 2012, Wave will be available as only a read-only version and users won’t be able to create new ones. This will be completed closed on April 30, 2012. Users can transfer individual waves using the existing PDF export feature.

5. Google Search Timeline

Google will be removing this feature that displays a historical graph of results for a search query. Users will now be able to restrict any search to particular time periods using the refinement tools on the left-hand side of the search page. Uses who wish to view graphs with historical trends for a web search can use Google Trends or Google Insights for data since 2004. If you need more historical data, the “Ngram Viewer” in Google Books offers the same information.

The Google Trends Product Logo

6. Google Friend Connect

Google Friend Connect, which is a social feature, will be discontinued from March, this is because Google wants people to start using the Google Plus social network instead.

7. Google Bookmarks

The feature will become unavailable from December 19, 2011. This enabled users to share bookmarks and collaborate with friends. The existing bookmark Lists will be retained and labelled to make it easier to identify. The other features of the Google Bookmarks will keep on functioning. The change won’t affect the non-English users as it was an English only feature.

This spring cleaning is only a sign that Google knows that it currently faces big competition, so it needs to make sure that it discontinues disused/inefficient services it provides.