Tue, Jun 03, 2008 - Page 16 News List

[ TECHNOLOGY ]: Explorer 8 maps new territory on the Internet

IE 8’s automatic crash recovery feature attempts to solve a major problem that most IE users are all too familiar with

Internet Explorer 8 includes features that target users of popular social networking sites such as Facebook.

PHOTO: TAIPEI TIMES

Microsoft has kept development of Internet Explorer 8 pretty quiet, but already the next major version of the most widely-used browser is available for downloading in a beta version.

While the focus of IE 7 was on security and the incorporation of a tabbed interface, version 8’s main features center on stability and usability.

In terms of stability, IE 8’s new automatic crash recovery feature is designed to solve one major problem that most IE users know all too well. Today, when an IE window or tab freezes or crashes, other browsers instances or tabs will likely become inoperable as well.

Automatic crash recovery does a better job of isolating instances of the IE browser — or separate tabs within the same browser — so that one stalled browser or tab can be terminated without affecting any other. If a crash does bring down the entire browser, automatic crash recovery will attempt to restore the browser to its previous state — including all open tabs — the next time you open it.

Greater stability is fine — but ultimately boring. Luckily, that’s not all IE 8 has going for it. The new browser’s usability features will generate the most buzz — and are likely to tempt lots of folks to give IE 8 a try.

The new Activities feature, for instance, attempts to save you a lot of time by cutting down on the number of separate sites that you have to visit to accomplish a task. In essence, the Activities feature allows you to invoke the essential services offered on separate sites without ever leaving the page you’re currently on.

Here’s how it works.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re reading a Web page and you see an address for a restaurant you’d like to visit. Today, in order to get directions to that address, you would probably go to a mapping site and type or paste the address in and then wait for the service to provide you with a map from, say, your apartment to the restaurant. The process is time-consuming and involves at least two browser windows and tabs, plus a bit of copying a pasting.

With IE 8’s Activities feature, when you select the address, a small Activities button appears next to your mouse cursor. Clicking that Activities button brings up a context-sensitive menu of possible activities, with one of the options being the ability to map the tool using your favorite mapping site.

Selecting that mapping option actually invokes the mapping site in a smaller preview window inside the current browser tab. Another Activity might pull from a review site of restaurants, allowing you to see what others have said about the restaurant without your having to visit another site.

The Activities feature was also created with a nod toward the growing popularity of social networking sites. Just as you can pull services from other sites, the Activities feature also allows you to push information to popular networking sites such as Facebook and Digg.

If you want to refer a friend to the page from which you got the address for the restaurant, for instance, you can select the Send to Facebook option on the Activities menu, and IE 8 will log you into Facebook, send the URL to Facebook, and present you with the Facebook page that allows you to add an entry.

A set of default Activities comes with the IE 8 browser, but you easily customize the service providers that appear on your Activities list.

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