Internet Explorer 8 review

The final version of Internet Explorer 8 has finally landed. Has Microsoft done enough to reel the browser defectors back in?

Accelerators

One of the heavily promoted new features is Accelerators' shortcuts that let you transfer that information into another web page or service quickly and easily. If that sounds complicated it's not it's just a case of highlighting text and a small icon pops up by the corner of the selected text. You can then click on the icon to bring up the list of accelerators. (If you have more than one of any category, you have to go into Manage Add-ons and select the one you want as the default for it to appear in the list).

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Again, this isn't really new. It's just Firefox's Context search plug-in in by another name. It is useful though highlight a post code and you can send it straight to the default Live Maps, or Google Maps if you choose to add it manually, which is a real timesaver.

A slice of web

Another major new feature is web slices. These enable you to place a shortcut in your menu bar from where you can get an automatically updating snap shot of that page.

Each site can make a web slice available via a plugin and these are available from Microsoft's dedicated add-on' page at www.ieaddons.com. While in the UK this takes you to a British version of the page, add-ons for UK specific sites are thin on the ground.

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From our testing, even those that are there are not quite in full working order. Of the first two we tried the Ebay slice did not appear on our shortcut bar and the MSN Headlines one appeared, but showed an error when clicked. The Digg.com slice did work, though.

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However, once it was there we found ourselves slightly underwhelmed. A web slice is essentially no more than a visual RSS feed, so while it's nice to have, it doesn't feel particularly revolutionary.

Visual search

Next on the list is visual search again a site by site plug-in that brings in more text and images when conducting searches from the integrated tool bar. It works quite nicely with Wikipedia, but falls firmly into the nice-to-have but not essential category.

Also present on the taskbar is the Suggested items' toolbar, which brings up a list of similar sites to the one you're currently browsing, but we can't really see any great need for this aside from if you've got some time to kill and can't think of anywhere to go online.

In Private

The inPrivate browsing mode, available from the Safety toolbar, is another me-too feature already available in Google Chrome, which gives users an anonymous browsing experience already nicknamed porn-mode'.

However, companies might not appreciate the thought of employees using this feature at work, whether for viewing inappropriate content or for wanting to protect data and it can be stopped from being enabled by enabling Parental Controls.

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