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.

Google Chrome Browser Set to Overtake Firefox

A recent study of online browsing habits in the UK revealed that Google Chrome is now the browser of choice for more than 23% of British internet users. More surprising still was the fact that it is now more popular than Mozilla’s Firefox and is even gaining ground on the current and ever-present browser bruiser, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Currently Internet Explorer has a whopping 45% of the market share in the UK but that figure is down from the year before and the use of IE seems to be constantly declining.

This loss of popularity for the ubiquitous Internet Explorer is even more depressing for Microsoft when you weigh up the fact that the browser comes pre-installed on nearly all UK computers at the moment. Google Chrome’s figures and market share are all the more impressive when you consider that it was only released three years ago.

Commenting on the UK figures Google put Chrome’s increasing popularity down to two things – firstly that they had promoted it with a blitz of advertising across the billboards and televisions of the United Kingdom (Chrome was the only time they have ever put an advert on British television); and secondly that they believed it was the best browser in terms of security and speed.

The Googles Chrome LogoLars Bak, Google’s chief designer on the Chrome browser commented recently that their aim when designing and building Chrome had been to make it the fastest browser possible whilst maintaining maximum security within a minimal design. Bak argued that once people have started using Chrome they will never want to go back to any of the other browsers:

“If a user tries a webpage using Chrome and suddenly it feels really fast and snappy, it’s naturally going to be really hard to go back wards (to a previously used browser).”

Certainly the numbers for the uptake of Google Chrome are astonishing. At the current rate Google Chrome’s success in the UK will be replicated worldwide very shortly. It is already in third place with a market share of 21% across the globe and is expected to overtake Firefox in the next year or so. Similarly it is predicted that it will be challenging IE within two or three years.

Google are banking on Chrome becoming so popular that it will offer a similar kind of ‘Halo Effect’ as the iPod did with Mac computers, and lead them to purchase the new Google Chromebook laptops. The Chromebook will be cloud based, with the Chrome browser being central to a different kind of operating system. Instead of taking up memory storage, data will be cloud based so as to make the Chromebooks as fast and clutter free as possible.

4 Free Tools To Get More Out of the Web

The Internet is an awesome and mighty force. It is an creative engine that powers great progress and imagination, but it’s can also become a distracting dead weight that plugs up your work flow.

Due to the nature of my job, I very often need to be on a computer writing, researching, or communicating. I’m always a click away from the infinite reaches of the internet. It’s easy for a quick tangent to become a lengthy absorption, eating up precious time that was intended for work.

Luckily there are new tools created almost everyday to help us tame the vast power of the web and make our time online work on our behalf.  Here’s just a few of my favourites time-saving productivity tools:

Chrome Nanny/LeechBlock

How did you get here?

You sit down at your desk planning to get some serious work done. Three hours later, and you can’t remember how you ended up watching YouTube videos of cats wrestling with ferrets. That’s a big chunk of day that will you never ever get back…

Chrome Nanny (Google Chrome) and LeechBlock (Firefox) both solve the same problem: They keep you from wasting time!

These simple browser extensions allow you place fully customizable limits on what websites you have access to during any given time of the day. Do spend too much time reading the latest gadget reviews? Are you sacrificing your most productive hours of the day to news sites and celebrity gossip?

Chrome Nanny or LeechBlock will block out your favorite sites for certain hours of the day or even certain days of the week. I block all my favorites Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and after 9 pm.

And if that feels too restrictive, you can merely place a cap on how much time per hour or day you are allowed on a certain site.

Although I love Twitter, personally I find it can become an endless time-suck, a virtual black hole for productivity. I set Chrome Nanny to only allow me to be on Twitter for two minutes each hour. That gives me just enough time to update my status or share a link, but not enough to get close to the event horizon.

This can save massive amounts of time, so just try it!

Read It Later

Often times I’ll come across a great looking article, but it looks a LONG read. Longer than I have time to spend at the moment. What do I now? Having too many tabs open makes me start to feel overwhelmed. If I e-mail myself a link, that clutters up my inbox and adds to the stress of sorting through my e-mail.

It’s time to use Read It Later.

Saving the page to Read It Later quickly stores the page to my Read It Later list (which I conveniently export as an RSS feed). Later on when I’m on Google Reader and have more time, it will show up in my reading list with the other blog feeds I follow. Easy as pie.

It’s a very simple free way to keep track of articles online. Read It Later works in almost any browser and is especially convenient when using mobile devices.

And it does exactly what its name says. I like that.

Readability

Have you ever started to read an awesome article and then suddenly a wave of unnecessarily large ads start invading the screen, dancing across the page and completely ruining the reading experience?

Or perhaps you find a very thoughtful and intelligent blogger with amazing ideas, but unfortunately her blog design hails from 1999 and is loaded with distractingly ugly GIFs matched only by the blocky, unreadable fonts?

Let me introduce you to Readability.

This savvy tool scours your current page and strips away all the unnecessary fluff and add-ons bringing you an incredibly smooth and simple reading experience. If you like, you change the background colour, make the text larger or small, and adjust the margins all to your liking.

Because it exterminates the ads, you probably shouldn’t use it on your favorite sites (like Technology Bloggers!) but for especially reader-unfriendly pages it’s a must have. We could use more clean, user-oriented experiences like this one!

Remember The Milk

A To-Do list is quite handy, unless of course you happened to have left it at home by accident. Or maybe you keep track of your tasks by an ever-multiplying collection of sticky notes plastered all over your desk?

Although I imagine many people have switched to using digital To-Do lists, not many tools out there offer the flexibility and ease of use as Remember the Milk.

Maybe you are at the store and you remember something that you need to do? With RTM you can update your list from a Smart Phone. If you don’t have a Smart Phone, RTM has a handy feature that allows you to send a text through Twitter’s personal message function to add that urgent task to the list.

You can keep your list with you all over the place. A little browser extension can keep a little track next to your e-mail count. Or, you can install the corresponding Gmail extension that lets you manage your To-Do list right in your inbox.

If you are a forgetful person, you can request e-mail or text reminders for time sensitive tasks. It’s truly never been easier to organize all those pesky assignments.

Those are the free tools that I use to maximize my web time, but I’m sure I overlooked some great ones.

What tools do you use?