Internet Explorer 5.0

Microsoft has made good its promise to deliver Internet Explorer 5.0 for the Mac. The product, in its final form, was released as a 7MB download on March 27. There was a short delay before the latest release of Microsoft’s award-winning series of browsers. This was due to the intensive work the company put into its Tasman rendering engine, and the company’s desire to make IE 5.0 “the best Mac browser”. Tasman, the new rendering engine, is the core program that powers many of the features in IE 5.0. The new engine, into which Microsoft invested over a year’s research and development, supports all published Internet-content standards as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium. IE 5.0 supports HTML 4.0, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) 1.0, Document Object Model (DOM) 1.0 HTML, Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Portable Network Graphics (PNG). And, Tasman can display Web pages at up to 500 per cent magnification. The company has filled the browser with a series of features to give its users a customizable doorway to the Web. Modern Mac owners will enjoy the choice of appearances – Tangerine and Graphite are two of the nine appearances the browser supports. The Toolbar can also be adapted. Microsoft offers an optional set of tool buttons that can be easily added to those available in the standard install. IE 5.0 has other nice features – the Internet Scrapbook will save entire Web pages singly, or in collections, in an easy-to-access area. This offers a flexible, and easy-to-use means of archiving and retrieving information for research and to maintain records of e-commerce. Microsoft claims this feature has never been offered before on any browser on any platform. The forms Autofill command has been greatly improved, too. The Auction Manager feature will prove useful for the e-consumer. It looks after a user’s online bids, informing them when they have been outbid, or when an auction is about to end. So, using Sherlock, a user might find an auction site, and make a bid through Auction Manager, which would keep a track on the progress of the auction, letting you know if the bid was successful, with no need to return to the Auction site unnecessarily. One extraordinarily useful feature is IE 5.0’s text-display capability. The application will automatically display Web pages at 96dpi on the Macintosh. This is the standard display for Web sites created on Windows machines, but text can also be displayed at up to 500 per cent. This means an end to pages full of tiny, hard-to-read text, and should enhance many users’ Web-browsing experience. It also means that Webmasters will not need to rewrite pages for the Windows and Mac versions of IE 5.0, as a Mac should display Windows-built pages equally well. Microsoft has linked its browser with Alexa, a free Web-navigation service that offers information about each site visited. Accessed through the Tool Bar in a section called Related Links, Alexa suggests links relevant to the page that’s currently being browsed, showing its results in the Search window. Finally, Internet Explorer 5.0 can drag-&-drop text from the browser window into another application window. Microsoft seems proud of the fact that the browser will display a faint “ghost” image as the text is dragged across the page. Microsoft promises that an upgrade to IE 5.0 will offer full Mac OS X compatibility. One disappointing note among all the jubilation over the new browser is the non-appearance of the hotly expected Media Toolbar. Announced at Macworld Expo, San Francisco, the toolbar was to make IE 5.0’s access and playback of streaming-media technology as simple as turning on a radio. The bordered-link function proved a bone of contention in the office. When a link is clicked on, IE 5 puts a border around it, and it stops the link changing colour. If you don’t like it, turn off keyboard accessibility in the Preferences panel. Internet Explorer 5.0 requires at least 8MB free RAM, 12MB of hard-disk space, a PowerPC processor and Mac OS 7.6.1 or later to function. More memory and hard-disk space is recommended. It’s available as a free, 7MB-plus download from Microsoft’s Web site. Or it’s on next month’s Macworld CD.

OUR VERDICT

IE 5.0 has loads of useful features. The drag-&-drop text function is very handy. A big bonus is it doesn’t seem too buggy – no one here’s crashed because of it yet, and it’s a breeze to install.

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