A beta version of IE 9 is now available, with some nifty new features like being able to easily add sites to your taskbar.
The new version of IE has full support for HTML5, CSS3 and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), according to Microsoft, and performance that rivals or exceeds Google Chrome.
You can get the beta at BeautyoftheWeb.com.
“Internet Explorer 9 sets itself apart from previous versions by adding GPU-accelerated graphics and what Microsoft calls an "app-like" experience for websites you pin to your taskbar. The site’s branding comes through in the taskbar icon and browser navigation buttons are rendered in the site's colour scheme.
For "Pinned Sites" where developers have created Windows jumplist capabilities, you can even do specific tasks on a website through the taskbar, such as creating a new e-mail in a webmail service, changing the radio station on an internet radio site, accepting a friend invitation on a social networking site, and so on.
IE9 also does away with a lot of the "chrome" (frame/buttons) around web pages, providing a new "glass" look frame. "While [the controls] are discoverable, people see their web content first and foremost," Microsoft said in a statement.
Tear-off tabs and Windows Aero Snap tabs allow you to tear off a tab by dragging it away from the browser, and you can use Windows 7's "Aero Snap" feature to drag sites to the side of the screen to have them snap into place. For example, you could show two sites side-by-side, making it easier to compare products on two different online stores.
Microsoft says IE 9 uses "the whole PC" for improved performance, which is bascially code for using the graphics processor to shift load off the CPU.
"By using the GPU, Internet Explorer 9 unlocks the 90 percent of the PC’s power that went previously untapped by web browsers," Microsoft said (Intel won't be too happy to hear that claim being made...!)
A new download manager has a "SmartScreen Filter" built in which uses reputation data to remove unnecessary warnings for well-known files, but also to show more severe warnings when the download has a higher risk of being malicious.
Microsoft says users often ignore repetitive generic warnings that are shown for every download -- a lesson it no doubt learned with the Vista UAC. "Other browsers show the same warning whether a file is an extremely common program or a piece of malware created literally minutes ago," Microsoft said. "Internet Explorer 9 is the only browser that uses download reputation to help users make safety decisions."
An add-on performance advisor notifies you if add-ons are slowing down the browser. By default, users are notified if the total load time of all enabled add-ons takes more than 0.2 seconds, giving them an opportunity to kill add-ons that are slowing down the browser.
Microsoft also says it has built in tab isolation, automatic crash recovery and a new hang recovery feature to help ensure your info isn't lost if the browser crashes while you are putting data into a site.