New IE9 Offers Geolocation, Privacy Controls and More Speed

Microsoft has released the first release candidate for its coming Internet Explorer 9 web browser. IE9 is a major overhaul, bringing much needed speed improvements, better support for web standards, privacy controls and tighter integration with Windows 7.
Overall IE9 RC1 is a huge leap forward for Microsoft, embracing web standards and speeding up the browser. […]

Microsoft has released the first release candidate for its coming Internet Explorer 9 web browser. IE9 is a major overhaul, bringing much needed speed improvements, better support for web standards, privacy controls and tighter integration with Windows 7.

Overall IE9 RC1 is a huge leap forward for Microsoft, embracing web standards and speeding up the browser. When IE9 is released web developers will finally be able to stop using CSS hacks and start using HTML5 with more confidence. Of course IE8 and IE7 will still be with us for some time to come, but things are looking up.

Curious developers running Windows can download the release candidate from Microsoft. This version of IE9 expands support for semantic HTML5 elements (like <nav>, <section> and <article>), adds more CSS 3 properties and introduces support for the geolocation API.

The additional geolocation support rounds out Internet Explorer’s new HTML5 features. While IE9’s competitors have implemented some of the more experimental APIs (like Web Workers and offline cacheing), IE9 does close the feature gap considerably and is leaps and bounds beyond where IE8 left off.

When it comes to CSS 3 the new IE offers nearly full support, though it still doesn’t understand text-shadow (which is actually been around since CSS 2.1) or the new CSS 3 multi-column text layout tools. On the bright side, IE9 does render border-radius, 2D transforms and new CSS 3 selectors like :first-of-type. For a full rundown of IE9’s HTML5 and CSS 3 features, see our earlier coverage. Also, be sure to head over to the IE9 Test Drive website for some demos that show off IE9’s new standards support.

IE9’s CSS 3 support handles border-radius rules

The new IE9 release candidate adds some privacy controls similar to those Mozilla and Google have been adding to their browsers. IE9 will support the Do Not Track HTTP header [Update: Microsoft says that IE9 does not support an HTTP header at the moment, but does offer Tracking Protection Lists which can block cookies, beacons, pixels and more]. IE9 also supports cookie-based blacklists to stop advertisers from tracking your movements around the web.

If you’ve been using the beta releases of IE9, you’ll notice several changes to the look of IE9, including the ability to put tabs back in their own row, rather than next to the address bar, which is the default setting. To give your tabs a bit more breathing room, just right click on the tab bar and select the “Show tabs on a separate row” option.

Top: the default tab arrangement; Bottom: tabs in their own row

This release also adds a new security feature which allows you to turn off ActiveX for all sites and then re-enable it on a site by site basis. ActiveX, a Windows-only “enhancement” that allows webpages to install code on your PC, has long been an excellent way to load up your Windows machine with viruses and other malware. The new controls mean you can turn off ActiveX entirely and avoid malicious code being installed.

Microsoft is also touting IE9’s hardware acceleration improvements in this release. According the IEblog, the release candidate is 35 percent faster than the previous IE9 beta. Indeed, in our informal testing IE held its own with Firefox 4 and Chrome 11. Pitted against stable releases like Firefox 3.6 or Chrome 9, IE9 fares even better.

Microsoft has not yet set an official release date for IE9, though the company’s web-centric MIX conference, which starts April 12, has historically been host to major IE announcements.

See Also:

Test Your Websites With ‘OperaWatir’

You can never run too many tests, especially when it comes to making sure your website is working properly in every web browser. But with a variety of browsers to test in, making sure everything is running smoothly takes time. That’s where Watir (pronounced “water”) comes in.
Watir is a set of open source Ruby libraries […]

You can never run too many tests, especially when it comes to making sure your website is working properly in every web browser. But with a variety of browsers to test in, making sure everything is running smoothly takes time. That’s where Watir (pronounced “water”) comes in.

Watir is a set of open source Ruby libraries for automating web browsers to crawl and test your site. Watir essentially “drives” a web browser the same way your visitors would — clicking links, filling in forms, pressing buttons and so on. Because everything is automated you can test your site thoroughly and quickly.

Opera’s effort, dubbed OperaWatir, is the latest addition to the Watir test suite and joins the tools already available for Internet Explorer, Firefox and WebKit-based browsers. If you’re already using Watir for writing test suites (and you should be if you’re not) OperaWatir means that you can now test across all major browsers.

If you’ve never used Watir before, the Opera Dev Center has a nice tutorial on writing Watir tests tailored to your site. Opera’s tutorial walks you through the Ruby code necessary to automate common actions like clicking buttons, issuing keyboard commands and how to use the sleep command to handle Ajax refreshes.

The second part of Opera’s announcement is OperaDriver, the backend of OperaWatir that communicates with the Opera browser. While OperaWatir is written in Ruby, OperaDriver is written in Java, and it allows developers to create automated tests using the Java-based JUnit testing framework. If you’re not a fan of Ruby, OperaDriver can do the same things using Java.

See Also:

Chrome 10 ‘Obliterates’ Your Browsing History

Version 10 of Google’s Chrome web browser has entered the dev channel, available to those who enjoy living on the edge. This release features an update to the V8 engine that powers Chrome’s speedy JavaScript, a more refined preferences dialog and print and save options for any PDF files you view in Chrome.
If you’re already […]

Version 10 of Google’s Chrome web browser has entered the dev channel, available to those who enjoy living on the edge. This release features an update to the V8 engine that powers Chrome’s speedy JavaScript, a more refined preferences dialog and print and save options for any PDF files you view in Chrome.

If you’re already subscribed to the dev release channel you should be automatically updated. If you’d like to take the dev channel for a spin, Google has instructions on how to switch Chrome channels.

Of course the dev channel releases often have bugs and Chrome 10 is no exception. Commenters on the Google Chrome blog report that Google Sync no longer works with this release. If that happens to you, you might try disabling any startup flags you might have been using with previous releases, which reportedly solves the problem.

Along with the update to the JavaScript engine, this release features a number of bug fixes (particularly on the Mac platform) and some welcome refinements to the new tabbed preferences dialog. In addition to a better looking UI, the new settings page now has a search box to quickly find the preference setting you’re looking for.

Chrome 10 also features an updated message for the “clear browsing data” option on the preferences page. Instead of just deleting your browsing history and other items, you can now “obliterate the following items from the beginning of time.” We doubt that bit of linguistic whimsy will make it all the way to the stable release of Chrome 10, but it’s certainly more entertaining than the old “clear browsing data” message.

Provided Google sticks with its six week update schedule, Chrome 10 should arrive as a stable release in April 2011.

See Also:

Firefox 4 Ditches the RSS Button, Here’s how to get it Back

Firefox 4 is nearly complete. The next version of the venerable web browser introduces dozens of new features — everything from built-in bookmark syncing to hardware acceleration — but it also removes a few noteworthy features as well.
The now-departed status bar — which has been replaced by the add-ons bar — isn’t the only […]

That dark spot no one clicks? Yes, that’s the RSS button

Firefox 4 is nearly complete. The next version of the venerable web browser introduces dozens of new features — everything from built-in bookmark syncing to hardware acceleration — but it also removes a few noteworthy features as well.

The now-departed status bar — which has been replaced by the add-ons bar — isn’t the only thing that’s been relegated to dustbin in Firefox 4. The familiar RSS icon in the URL bar is gone as well.

RSS has a long, complicated history and, despite its usefulness to the web at large, it just never caught on with mainstream users. RSS may power much of the web behind the scenes, but from a user’s point of view it remains an awkward tool with a terrible user interface. As Firefox developer Leslie Orchard points out, clicking the old Firefox RSS button would give you “a plainly-styled version of what you were probably already looking at on a site.” Of course, if you knew what you were doing, you could quickly either create a live bookmark or add the RSS feed to a feed reader. But for the uninitiated, the UI was confusing enough that Orchard says “some people would think they broke the page when the button was clicked on accident.”

According to Mozilla’s user study the RSS icon was clicked by a scant 3 percent of users. The only thing more neglected is the scroll left button, which is only present on very wide websites. With no one using the button, Firefox designers decided to remove it from the increasingly cluttered URL bar.

Cue the outrage and pleading for its return.

But just because the RSS button has lost its former position in the toolbar doesn’t mean you can’t easily subscribe to RSS feeds in Firefox 4. There’s a new menu option under the Bookmarks menu that will offer to “Subscribe to this page” and you can also add a subscribe button to your toolbar if you like. Just head to the customize option under the View menu and you’ll see a new toolbar button for RSS feed. Drag that button to the toolbar and you’ve restored the RSS button.

Given that seemingly no one used to original button, removing it hardly seems a bad thing, especially when it’s easy to get it back.

See Also:

Firefox 4 Enters Home Stretch With Beta 9 Release

Mozilla has released a new beta version of Firefox 4, as the next major update for the popular web browser nears completion. Firefox 4 beta 9 is primarily a bug fix release, though there a couple of small new features.
If you’d like to take Beta 9 for spin on your desktop, head over to the […]

Firefox 4 beta 9Mozilla has released a new beta version of Firefox 4, as the next major update for the popular web browser nears completion. Firefox 4 beta 9 is primarily a bug fix release, though there a couple of small new features.

If you’d like to take Beta 9 for spin on your desktop, head over to the Mozilla beta downloads page. It’s been a very long development cycle for Firefox 4 — the final version isn’t likely to arrive until the end of February — however, the enhancements being made over versions 3.5 and 3.6 are substantial.

Fortunately for early adopters the beta releases are stable enough to use in day-to-day browsing, so it’s not like we’re waiting a long time for nothing. We can reap the rewards well before the official release date.

On the Windows platform, beta 9 now ships with the tabs-in-the-title-bar feature we covered earlier this month. Firefox 4 beta 9 also includes support for IndexedDB, which allows approved sites to store data on your computer for offline use. Other improvements include an overhaul of the bookmarks and history code, enabling faster bookmarking and improving Firefox’s startup performance.

The best news for those eagerly awaiting the final release of Firefox 4 is that beta 9 has squashed some 660 bugs. Indeed, beta 9 is among the fastest and stablest betas we’ve used, but it’s still not ready for prime time. Problems remain with the new tab-sorting interface — dubbed “Panorama” — and there are enough other small problems that it looks like we’ll see a beta 10 before Firefox 4 is official.

So far Mozilla is sticking to its “when it’s ready” slogan and has not set a final release date for Firefox 4. With the latest nightly builds already renamed to beta 10, you can expect one more beta. After that there will be at least one release candidate, which pushes the final release of Firefox 4 well into February.

See Also: