Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Have a Confession to Make

This morning, I installed IE9 beta of my own free will and interest (i.e., I didn't install it because some webpage/application required it).
AZ must be freezing over

I know, I know!

Please, put the stones down.  Thank you.

Inspiration.  After all, if you're going to get mad at anyone, get mad at Sebastian Anthony of DownloadSquad.  His IE9 review really piqued my interest, and, after trying IE9 out for myself, I am, as he posits, "salivating" for Web apps to "become so tightly integrated to the parent OS they will simply become apps."

Chrome OS, anyone?

My Review.  In my taking IE9 for a spin, I decided to jot down some personal observations.  This will focus on the end-user experience.  If you want more behind-the-curtains details, see Sebastian's post above or just Google IE9.  Here are my thoughts, in random order:

(First, let me note a few surprises.  When I went to download the beta, I tried Chrome, Firefox, and IE8; all failed.  I ended up downloading it from my wife's iMac . . .  I tried again later on my HP laptop, and it was then available for download.  Who knows?  Also, downloading the beta to my wife's computer was a snap, while transferring it from her computer to a flash drive felt like an eternity.  Anyway.)

1. New Chrome-ish omnibox.

a) Look and feel.  

i) Size.  This statement might blow your mind:  I prefer IE9's omnibox/tab combination to Chrome's.  Why?  because it takes up a ton less space.  In Chrome, while I can make my omnibox thinner, this just enables me to see more extensions . . .  I have only two extensions visible (GVoice and a digital clock) in Chrome, so I'm disappointed by the omnibox largess.  On the other hand, I feel like the toolbar looks cluttered when I display more extensions.  Gripe for IE9:  Why all the empty space up top?  It could be about 1/2 Chrome's total toolbar if it would get rid of the useless, empty space.

On Sebastian's post, he he shows Firefox 4, Chrome, and IE9, side-by-side, and it looks like IE9 offers more viewing space.  Cool, except for I find this comparison illusory.  When the browsers are maximized (which is my preference), IE9 and Chrome have the same viewing space (see the "gripe" above).

IE9 and Chrome have the same viewing space, when maximized
ii) Background.  Chrome was, I think, the first browser to gray-out non-domain info in URLs.  I think, for the most part, IE9 does it better (see above).  Moreover, as Sebastian says, the address bar dims when I'm not mousing over it.  I LOVE IT.  The Web is the focus.  (As Chrome established two years ago.)

b) Auto-complete and search.  Like Chrome, IE9 does much better on URL auto-complete than IE8.  I also love the combination of the search and address bars.  I think FF's mistaken to keep them separate in FF4.  Unfortunately, I felt very wrong-footed, while searching, a couple times.  IE9 often seemed to take me to the "I'm feeling lucky result" of an entry.  E.g., searching for "as you type" directed me to . . .  It also seems like when I type a partial URL, such as, it simply searches Google for it.  Chrome takes me straight to the website.

c) Annoying bottom-bar gone.  You remember how Chrome was the first browser (that I know of) to eliminate that obnoxious, omnipresent bottom-bar?  I'm pretty sure IE9 does as well - very much appreciated.

Is Google sniping IE9?
2. Google Docs and Blogger.  For the moment, Google Docs document and Blogger's post editors both seem unavailable.  This really hurts IE9 for me, and I'm sure the defect will dissapear soon enough.

3. Menu overload.  As I did with IE8 and other Microsoft products before it, I felt like gagging over IE9's seemingly endless and confusing options and menus.  Chrome's still a very fresh breath of air, here.

Agh, menu overload!
4. Page loads.  I give the IE9 developers sane property because I felt like IE9 was a million times faster than IE8 and even approaching Chrome's current dev build.  Even Gmail was quite snappy.  Impressive, most impressive.

5. Page load indicator.  I'm puzzled by the page load indicator because it often seems to disappear, long before a page finishes loading.

Wherefore art thou?
6. Extensions and AdBlock.  To my knowledge, extensions for IE9 are -- surprise! -- basically or entirely absent.  This means essential extensions like AdBlock are unavailable.  Admittedly, I use a host file to help block ads and other nonsense, yet most people are unwilling to go that far.  Chrome appears to have struggled for serious user adoption until it rolled out extensions; boy has it exploded its extension gallery and user base since then.  I'm very doubtful IE9 will have extensions (quantity or quality) anywhere near Chrome or FF, and, if it does, I imagine they will greatly impact IE9's speed.  Then again, I imagine most future IE9 users (who are still unsure what a "browser" is) will probably fail to notice either the diminished speed or dearth of extensions.

Superbar integration - meh
7. Windows 7 Superbar integration.  Yawn.  For me, this is essentially MS's way of keeping people tied to an ever-bloated Windows OS, and I really dislike the notion.  I'm a one window type of user, and while it's great to have my favorite websites pinned, I can pin tabs and completely bypass the Superbar in Chrome (this is why I have a digital clock extension - I hide the Superbar, for more viewing space/less distraction -  Chrome's about all I need, anymore).

8. Remember last session's tabs.  Absent.  That's right, IE9 has 10 million confusing and worthless options, yet it lacks the ability to remember the tabs I had open last session, by default - I have to manually select "reopen last browsing session," whenever I want to see those tabs.  Boggles my mind.

¡Viva el gobierno de Microsoft!
9. Favorites/bookmarks.  So let me get this straight, IE9 appears to lack a bookmarks import feature, and yet it has a built-in "" favorite?  Additionally, I dislike how favorites are placed below "history" selections, when I start typing in the one box (address bar).

9. Keyboard shortcuts.  MS seems to have some of its priorities mixed up.  Again, it has a gazillion menus and random options for IE9, yet it seems to provide about a handful of keyboard shortcuts, lacking such usuals as ctrl+pg up (to navigate tabs).

10. FAYT?  Find as you type.  When I read in Sebastian's post that I could "turn search-as-you-type on and off," I almost called Google, frothing at the mouth, to demand it finally implement FAYT in Chrome.  Alas, after much searching and scouring, I conclude find-as-you-type (as in a quicker ctrl+f) is woefully absent from IE9 as well.  Bummer.

11. Hyper-link click noise.  I believe the annoying, you-just-clicked-a-link noise is finally gone!  This is perhaps the greatest evidence that MS finally realized it can stop pleasing grandma and grandpa and start focusing on the rest of us.  May it continue.

Prepare ye, prepare ye!
Conclusion.  At the end of the day, IE9 has a few things I like better than Chrome and a ton of things I'm really bothered with.  It's still in beta, yet I doubt most of my dislikes will go away before the actual release (some time in 2011 . . .).

In summary, I'm stoked to see the main browser catching up with the innovators.  I think this drives even more innovation (viva competition!) and pushes us closer and closer to a cloud reality (you know it's coming!).  If anything, I'm now even more excited for Chrome OS to debut.  I look forward to your feedback (if anyone's actually read to this point) and a world of seamless apps/OS integration.  May it come quickly.


Sebastian said...

I took my laptop to the bathroom, so that I could read your post!

By find-as-you-type, I mean how Chrome provides search suggestions as you type. So it sends your keystrokes to the search engine, even if you don't end up searching. Some people find this a privacy issue (though Google doesn't actually do anything with those keystrokes, for privacy reasons...)

The absence of 'pop up my previous set of tabs' is definitely a puzzler. That's the kind of thing that should make it into the final build, though.

It's due in January, AFAIK.

Cougar Abogado said...

Thanks for making an exception (right?) for me, it seems like many of my readers can hardly wait to sit down and drink in my unmatched appeal.

Regarding the keystroke business, I think some people may be watching that Steve Schmidt ice-cream-peddler video in excess.

You're probably right about the previous tabs. On the other hand, it is MS . . .

January, eh? I'm curious to see how many user-share points IE9 steals from IE6.

Rock Solid said...

Thanks for your commentary on IE9. I am also very glad that they are getting more up to speed with Chrome. At least then I won'd cringe so much all of the time when I am stuck using it.