Sunday, March 22, 2009

Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer 8 was released three days ago on March 19, 2009. I installed it on my work machine as soon as it came out. Because I am a windows developer I feel a certain obligation to use Internet Explorer, although at home I have been using Google Chrome.

Overall the browser is way ahead of its predecessor. The search functionality is vastly improved. The search is now integrated, it can highlight results on the page, and it is much easier to step through the results. I also like the tab color coding feature. When opening a new tab from an existing tab, it will color code the two tabs to help with organization. Another nice usability improvement is that you can now paste a multi-line URL into the address bar, and it won't truncate the URL. Multi-line URLs happen all the time when trying to e-mail or IM long links.

However, there are several features that are still lacking and one that is seriously broken. I cannot believe that there is still not an integrated spell checker in IE8. This has been in FireFox for a long time, and made it into version 1 of Chrome. Also, I wish you could drag a tab out of the browser to make a new window. This is an incredibly important feature for users with multiple monitors, and something that Chrome supports. Finally, one of the main reasons that I use Internet Explorer is that in previous versions, it displayed web pages much better on a high resolution monitor.

At work I have a 24" Monitor with a resolution of 1920x1200. I run Windows at 120 DPI so that the text is readable. FireFox at that resolution will render the text much too small, and increasing the text size will make certain web pages ugly. Internet Explorer on the other hand takes the system DPI into account and renders the text at an appropriate size, without breaking the look of webpages. However, there is one major consequence, at 120 DPI by default Internet Explorer will scale images, which introduces blur and fugliness to web pages. Fortunately in Internet Explorer 6 and 7, there was a registry key 'UseHR' that would turn off the image scaling when set to 0, yet left the text rendering intact. Unfortunately, the 'UseHR' registry key no longer works in Internet Explorer 8. For this reason alone, unless I soon discover a workaround, I will probably have to go back to IE7.

The 'UseHR' Registry Key has been well documented by Microsoft. I can't believe that Microsoft would cripple this functionality because the world is moving to high resolution displays. Check out this Sony laptop. At an astounding 220 pixels per inch, Windows would be unusable at the default 96 DPI, one would need a microscope to read the text.

I have posted in the Microsoft discussion group about this, unfortunately there has yet to be a response.

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