Unlike the previous release preview, when the new Internet Explorer was installed separately in an control-less window, version 10 for Windows 7 runs in the same IE9 interface, replacing only the rendering engine in the background. In this sense it’s almost like installing Chrome frame. Naturally, this approach has advantages and disadvantages; on the plus side the familiar interface and compatibility with existing plug-ins – I don’t have many, but LastPass worked with IE10 from day one. On the downside all the settings have remained unchanged, meaning you won’t find the most controversial feature of IE10, ‘Do Not Track’, listed anywhere. Backup and syncing of settings through SkyDrive is also nowhere to be found. I was expecting some upgrades at least on this front, if the interface was ignored, but maybe these will be delivered with the final release.
Even without fancy gestures, the improved rendering is reason-enough to install the new version. I noticed the change immediately on my blog, where the layout finally looks almost identical to other modern browsers – including the columns in the archive widget. Unfortunately, some sites still fail to properly recognize the improved standards support and block the new Internet Explorer just because it’s called Internet Explorer: TweetDeck doesn’t let you log in and flickr starts throwing errors if you try to use the advanced editor.
On a closer look there are some minor features added in the release preview. IE10 styles controls (scrollbars, text fields, list boxes) with the new don’t-call-it-Metro design; personally I don’t like it, because it’s simply out of place in Windows 7 and most of the time it also conflicts with the web page design. For the record, I’m not a big fan of WebKit-styled scrollbars either. While typing in text fields you get a small x on the far right you can use to quickly remove all the typed text. Speaking of scrollbars, I noticed a neat, little feature that IE10 shares with the Office 2013 preview: right-clicking on a scrollbar displays a context menu with several options for jumping inside the page (top, bottom, scroll here, etc.). It would be interesting to see if – and how – this is mirrored on touch displays, where it’s more complicated to navigate around a lengthy page. On the desktop you can always use the keyboard.
IE10 can now check the spelling in text fields – a long overdue update, since practically every other browser does that by now. But you still cannot install other languages than the default, something that should be fixed for the final release. The spelling settings have been added in the ‘Manage Add-ons’ window.
Another small feature seams to be completely original*– or at least I first spotted it in IE: new tabs with YouTube videos opened in the background don’t start automatically playing the video, but wait instead until you activate the tab – probably one of the first implementations of the Page Visibility API.
But probably the best addition to IE is enabling automatic updates, as you can see in the ‘About’ dialog. Again, it’s late to a trend started by Chrome, but better late than never. It should have a positive impact on how up-to-date IE is, especially for those users who don’t move away from the default browser. Let’s hope this decision is not limited to the pre-release versions…