Beta 1 of Internet Explorer 9 [IE9] has been released and with comes a bold (if incomplete) new interface. You can read all about it and download it via the “Beauty of the Web” site and there is a good review over on Engadget. I was using IE9 as my default browser for about 2 days until I missed my Google Chrome spellcheck & extensions too much and switched back. I love the improvements in IE9 beta1 and it’s great for your everyday user but for a power user like me I need the power of Chrome.
One thing I do still use it for is web apps. By that, I mean websites that take the place of traditionally installed software (e.g. GMail, Skydrive, Facebook etc.). With IE9 you can pin a website to your Windows 7 taskbar or Start Menu and you get cool jump-list functionality and a dedicated browser window for your app. Again, I don’t want to re-write what others have said so here is Paul Thurrott’s feature focus. To get this working on a basic level took me about 10 mins for a website I help out with. To get fancier things like notifications overlays or different categories is a bit more in depth but should be no issue for a proper web developer (see how over on MSDN).
As much as I like the “Pinned Sites” feature, I already have 8 real apps pinned to my Windows 7 taskbar. I didn’t really want to take up more space. I could pin them to the Start Menu instead but that seemed like unnecessary clutter. I still wanted access to the pinned sites just without pinning them!
The way I got around this is by creating a new toolbar on the taskbar called “Web Apps”. This way I keep all the glory of a websites Jump List without having it take up permanent real estate on my taskbar. If I want to add a new website to my toolbar, I can just drag the URL from IE9’s address bar over to the toolbar. Another bonus is this also works for Vista, where pinning items is impossible. The reason this works is because all shortcuts created from the URL are saved with the new “*.website” extension instead of the classic shortcut’s “*.lnk” extension
If you don’t know how to create your own toolbar, follow these instructions.
- Right-click the taskbar
- Choose “Toolbar > New Toolbar…”
- Navigate to your user area (e.g. C:UsersName).
- Click the “New Folder” button and create a folder called Web Apps or similar.
- Open the folder
- Click the “Select Folder” button
This gives you an empty toolbar that you can fill up with all your favourite sites.
While doing a few checks for this article I noticed an article from Ed Bott on ZDNet where he goes into some more power user features of pinning sites. He mentioned that pinning a site to the Start Menu allows you to use the Start Menu search bar to launch your web apps. To combine that power with my method was simple. Create your toolbar folder in “C:Users%USERNAME%AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsWeb Apps”. This allows the website links to be indexed by Windows Search but also lets you easily drag a shortcut to the toolbar without invoking a UAC prompt.
One little glitch I did notice is when you drag and drop a URL to the toolbar you need to click back on the Internet Explorer window to activate the “pinning”. I not sure if that’s a Win7 or IE9 issue or both.
I’m looking forward to future IE9 betas and the improvements they could bring (e.g. revamped UI for toolbars & “Internet Options” and hopefully an inline spellchecker). It’s definitely a great baseline for internet newbies as well as corporations thanks to it’s security and management policies. I’m happy to let it live side-by-side with Chrome and can’t wait to see if Firefox can keep up in the wars!
p.s. I’d recommend the IE Blog for all the news on Internet Explorer’s development