On January 26, Microsoft made available to the public for download a near-final test build of its Internet Explorer (IE) 8 browser.
The IE 8 Release Candidate (RC) 1 is the last public build Microsoft expects to deliver before releasing the final version of the product, which will be available as a standalone download and part of Windows 7. (Microsoft will continue to make smaller private builds of the browser available to select testers in the coming weeks/months.)
Microsoft has made the IE 8 RC1 bits for 32-bit Vista, 64-bit Vista and Windows XP available on its Download Center for anyone interested in trying out the newest browser build.
The RC 1 build includes performance tweaks, compatibility enhancers and a few other fairly minor changes to the Beta 2 version of the product Microsoft made available to testers last summer. Microsoft officials are calling the IE 8 RC 1 build "platform-complete," meaning that developers and users should expect no more programming- or user-interface changes in the product from here on out.
What's changed since Beta 2?
- The compatibility list enhancements: Microsoft is going to provide users who want it with a list of 2,000 sites that will automatically be viewed by default in compatibility view without users having to press the compatibility view button. (Microsoft will update this list every two months to reflect sites that are updated to be compatible with IE 8, officials said).
- A new ClickJacking prevention option: Developers will be able to add a tage in a page header that will help detect and prevent click-jacking. According to Microsoft, IE 8 "will detect sites that insert the tag and give users a new error screen indicating that the content host has chosen not to allow their content to be framed, while giving users the option to open the content in a new window."
- Changes to the Smart Address bar: Besides matching URLs in a user's site history the bar now also better matches titles in their history and favorites.
Other changes include performance tweaks that will speed up page loading; changes to the Instant Search Box (to include a "quick pick menu" at the bottom, so users can toggle between their favorite search suggestions from different search providers); full support for CSS 2.1; and a renaming of InPrivate Blocking (part of "porn mode") to InPrivate Filtering. With IE 8 RC1, users can manually adjust the threshold between 3 and 30 in InPrivate Filtering settings. A full list of what's changed in IE 8 since the beta is here.
As Microsoft acknowledged recently, IE 8 RC1 won't work on the Windows 7 Beta; Windows 7 testers who want to try the RC need to run it in a virtual machine.