IE9: So Far, So Mostly Good

IE9 came out officially as a beta product today, and by crackey, Microsoft has done it again – they’ve continued their surprising trend towards impressive, innovative products.  I’m not going to say it’s perfect, but it’s a great start.  I played around with it for a few hours today, and although I ended up going back to Chrome (more stable), I was left feeling like IE9 can reverse Internet Explorer’s downward market share trend.

First of all, the browser is fast.  Wicked fast.  From a pure ‘feel’ standpoint, it ‘felt’ faster than my browser of choice, Chrome.

The minimalist design is beautiful.  Microsoft has removed all traces of corporate logos or branding from the toolbar and left it a utilitarian, minimalistic bar of goodness.  Of course, this doesn’t mean it takes up any less real estate… from what I could tell, Microsoft has managed to get the space taken up by toolbars on par with Chrome and slightly better than Firefox (default settings).

I did have one gripe with the toolbar: any tabs you open are on the same plane as the address bar.  Since the address bar covers some 2/3 of the horizontal space, that leaves your tabs feeling cramped, smashed together into some kind of a browser-tab butter.

Tabs, though, are something IE9 does right.  Like Firefox 4, IE9 takes Chrome’s idea of draggable tabs that can be split off of the main browser window and implements it in a slightly different way.  Unlike Chrome, IE9 (and Firefox 4, for that matter) treats each open tab as a separate program in the Windows toolbar.  That gets kind of annoying; I greatly prefer Google’s solution, which is to group all tabs in the same browser window together as one open program.

Of course, that’s an opinion gripe from someone who routinely has two screens running, each with its own single, lonely instance of Google Chrome open (with a dozen or so tabs).

In all, IE9 is head and shoulders better than any browser Microsoft has ever released.  There’s bugs – for example, I couldn’t open the Acid3 test site.  IE would just kick me back to the Google results page, unable to load it.  Also, on a forum site I frequent, dragging the mouse over the topics would somehow cause them to shift around.  Shades of Firebug, I suppose.

I’ll be looking forward to the final release of IE9.  Microsoft, you’ve done well, and congratulations – you’re still innovative.  Don’t fall off the wagon.