Microsoft has officially unveiled the final beta version of Internet Explorer 8.0 (IE8) - the latest version of its web browser.
While refusing to be drawn on how quickly the browser would move from being a "feature complete" public beta, Microsoft's product development team were keen to stress that the software demonstrated today has the same features and functions as will be available in the final version of IE8.
John Curran, Microsoft's UK director for the Windows Client Group, told PC Advisor that IE8 beta 2 is a piece of software that we should "encourage tech enthusiasts" to try for themselves. He acknowledged that the "feature complete" software is not yet ready for widestream consumer adoption, however.
Indeed, during our hour-long demonstration of IE8 beta 2, the odd glitch crept in. On the whole, though, we were shown some interesting new features, including the ability to keep on browsing even if one IE8 browser window crashes. The feature is known as 'loosely-coupled IE'.
Today's demonstration used as an example a YouTube video clip continuing to play even while another IE8 web page had stopped working. An error message stating 'Internet Explorer has stopped working. Please restart your browser' was displayed - the same message you get in existing versions of the browser.
However, a new colourcoded, tabbed browsing experience means that if a page or group of pages crashes, one or all of them can be instantly reinstated, with the entire linked page group becoming active again. This will enable users to quickly get back to where they were and to follow the same links - a timesaving over having to search through the browser history to dig out recently visited pages.
In common with the latest version of Mozilla Firefox, partial web addresses and keywords can be entered into the main address bar and IE8 will work out what's required and offer suggestions of pages it believes the user may be after. These can be autocomplete entries but can also be based on files kept elsewhere on the PC, not just in the browser history.
Once a page has been brought up, address details can be highlighted and a map of the location embedded in to the current page. Curran says that this feature means IE8 users will have a more efficient browsing experience compared with performing the same task in Firefox and using Google Maps to locate an address.
Visual search will be supported in IE8 from the search bar menu on the top right. Here, users can tab through different dedicated and "vertical" search engines - such as the internal search engines in the New York Times, eBay UK and Amazon websites - and view detail information without having to click on each individual search result.