Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 arrives, adds new features

— 5:03 PM on August 27, 2008

Yesterday afternoon, a blogger at Microsoft-Watch put up a post asking readers whether they cared about Internet Explorer 8. That pretty much highlights the disinterest surrounding Microsoft's upcoming browser. Lack of excitement or not, though, Microsoft has just released the second IE8 beta.

You can grab IE8 beta 2 for Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. Although the download only weighs in at 13-23MB depending on the version, Microsoft has packed in a surprising number of features, including the new "standards-compliant" rendering engine that debuted in IE8 beta 1.

In the features department, Microsoft touts new privacy functionality, a search box that shows suggestions and pictures, a dynamic "Suggested Sites" bookmark for users who don't know where they want to go today, "Web Slices" that let you subscribe to content within a page, and "Accelerators," which can serve up maps, translations, or dictionary definitions when you highlight a piece of text. There are many more smaller features, some of which look like they've come straight from Firefox 3—check out the IE8 tour for all the details.

We gave Microsoft's latest browser a go, and the new rendering engine very much remains a work in progress. IE8 kept randomly collapsing the TR front page's leftmost column to an arbitrary height, sometimes hiding the entire column, other times displaying it fully. That's OK, though. Microsoft has added a button right next to the address bar so users can switch to a less-buggy "compatibility view" when they run into such problems.

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