Mar 25, 2011

IE9: Did Microsoft Make a Decent Browser?

I gave up on Internet Explorer around IE5. As a programmer it was so non-compliant it made my life hell. In protest I started using Firefox and could never go back. First of all the Firebug add-on for FF was to die for. Then along came Chrome, and initially I thought  "who needs another browser?" Then I tried it and that idea of just typing searches in the address bar got me addicted.  I couldn't use a browser that didn't allow that. If you've never used it, that probably sounds silly but let me tell you I do a  lot of searching and anything . The clean, uncluttered interface had a lot going for it. Then Chrome 10.x came out and things went to hell. Chrome started crashing constantly.

Hatin' on Microsoft No More

imageTime for a change, I downloaded IE9 (You need Vista (ugh) or Windows 7). Now, I like bashing on Microsoft as much as the next gadfly, but this browser seems pretty nice and it supports searching right in the address bar. I didn't like the fact that site tabs end up on the same row as the address box but a quick right-click on some blank space in the header area, like shown in the image, fixed that. 

When I'm first using a new browser I like all the features on and then I selectively turn them off. Usually I won't use the address and command bar but I do want the favorites and status bar. These options are available from the same context menu.

imageI also like the refresh and close buttons on the left so right-clicking in the actual address bar gets you the ability to change that.  There are a number of other new features available from the tools menu, which in homage to Chrome is available from a little gear icon in the right corner.

The only significant problem I've had is I started with the 64 bit version but flash support is currently limited to an old beta, so I just downloaded the 32 bit version. It runs fine on my 64 bit operating system. I also downloaded Firefox 4 and gave that a spin and liked it too, but Firefox making a decent browser just isn't a blog worthy event! IE9 isn't worth upgrading to Win7 from XP, (stability and security are though), but if you're already on Vista or Win7, I suggest giving it a try. Especially if like me you like Chrome and it starts behaving badly.

Built in Developer Tools Too!

Most exciting for me (hey I'm a geek) was the built-in developer tools! Hit F12 and you get a very intuitive set of tools for examing HTML, CSS, Javascript etc. There is a JavaScript debugger and setting breakpoints, watching variables etc had everything I needed and worked intuitively (if you're used to  Firebug you shouldn't have a problem).  It took me about 10 seconds to load a JavaScript file, set a breakpoint, and take a look at some local variables. The tools windows does have a tendency to get lost especially when you're on a breakpoint and you bring up another app (like your IDE). Just remember the debugger has it's own window so you can always bring it back to the front with the taskbar.

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About Me

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Tod Gentille (@todgentille) is now a Curriculum Director for Pluralsight. He's been programming professionally since well before you were born and was a software consultant for most of his career. He's also a father, husband, drummer, and windsurfer. He wants to be a guitar player but he just hasn't got the chops for it.