New browsers on the horizon
We have been busy over the last few weeks testing our websites with the new versions of browsers which will soon be rolled out to replace the old stalwarts.
It may not seem that long ago that Microsoft brought out Internet Explorer 7 complete with its tabbed interface, but already IE8 is in beta test with general release expected in November. Appearance-wise, IE8 is little different from IE7 and has very little in the way of new features although my initial impression is that the new version runs some sites more smoothly than IE7. One of the most over-hyped features is likely to be the "Privacy" mode which means the browser will not keep a history or a cache of the pages you have visited. People have already dubbed this as "Porn surfing mode".
With each browser release, Internet Explorer comes closer to the web standards which other browsers adhere to, and this is to be applauded. Because Skill Zone designs to W3C web standards rather than for a specific version of Internet Explorer, all of our sites should work as well in IE8 as they did in IE7 and so far we have found no glitches. Other sites you visit may look different in the new browser and for this reason Microsoft has included an icon in the IE8 tool bar which allows you to switch to its own non-standard Quirks mode. Inexplicably, this icon seems to show up next to well-coded perfectly-displayed pages which are written to correct HTML standards and the image which Microsoft has used, (see illustration) seems to suggest that the page you are looking at is "broken" in some way and that you need to click on the icon to fix it. Already many people seem to be confused as to what the icon is telling them and I sincerely hope that that Microsoft rethinks this feature before the final version is released.
Firefox has recently released Version 3 of its excellent browser. Firefox has long had a tabbed interface, since long before Microsoft introduced tabs into IE7, and it has very good compliance with web standards. The feature of version 3 which I found most interesting was its page zoom feature which I feel makes the web more accessible to people with smaller screens or less than perfect vision. It is far more sophisticated than the text zoom feature in Explorer. It allows you to zoom a site in or out until you get it to the size that is comfortable for you. If the text is too small you can zoom it up to a size you can read. If the design is too large for your screen you can zoom the whole screen down and still have an astonishing amount of clarity. The touch which really adds to usability is that it remembers your preferences for each website, and reapplies them automatically if you visit that site again in the future.
Google also released a beta version of Chrome this month, its own browser which is based on the same nucleus of code as Apple's Safari browser. The press went wild over this, with some reporters thinking it was an alternative to Windows, but it is nothing of the sort. It is a browser, nothing more, and it still needs an operating system such as Windows to run. According to Google, the internal code is more stable, and more suited to running certain web-based applications such as Google's web-based word processor, spreadsheet and gMail, and it is this, the office applications arena, which is most likely to threaten Microsoft. Google Chrome has very good compliance with web standards and we've found no problems when using it with Skill Zone websites. It has a minimalist interface which makes good use of screen space, is fast, clean, uncluttered, and has some neat features like showing thumbnails of the pages you visit most often.
18th September 2008
This article comes from the SKILLZONE email newsletter, published monthly since January 2008, and covering topics related to technology and the internet. All articles and artwork in the SKILLZONE newsletter are orignal content. If you would like to receive the newsletter direct to your inbox each month, please SUBSCRIBE here. It is free, and you don't get added to any other mailing lists. It uses best-practice confirmed opt-in only, and you may unsubscribe at any time.