User Experience Changes since Beta 2

Since the release of Internet Explorer 8 beta 2, we’ve listened, watched and learned a lot about how people use the new features and our focus has been to refine them for RC1 (the Release Candidate).

This post will give you an overview of the end user changes we’ve made which we’ll discuss in detail over the coming weeks.

In IE8 we made a big push to make sure you can easily get to the sites and use the services you care about. If you’re anything like us, you visit a lot of websites and use a lot of different services or, maybe you’re not like us, and you might have a set of favorites that you stick to. Either way, IE8’s features work together to streamline the experience – it takes fewer clicks and less time.  We’ve also worked to get rid of tedious management tasks. Put a favorite on the favorites bar if you want to go there often. Use the Smart Address bar to get to any place you’ve been – favorite or not. Can you still organize the web into folders? Sure, you just don’t have to.

Let’s talk about a few of the changes we’ve made since beta 2.

Search box

Some of the first feedback we received concerned the search box’s quick pick. People really liked the visual search suggestions and it created a new usage pattern. Now people have more search providers and they switch between them. For example, I might search for a camera on and then want to check prices on Amazon. In the past, as soon as I clicked on Amazon, it took me to the site. In RC1, it now shows visual search results for Amazon.

Because of this change, you can refine the search on Amazon, switch over to Ebay or your favorite search engine.

Picture of the visual search suggestions which include images of the product suggestions and the visual suggestions which include both text suggestions and product suggestions.

Figure 1: and visual search

Here’s a link to get more search providers to try this out.

Smart Address bar

We received consistent feedback that people wanted to see more typed URLs. We also saw that the top four items selected from within the Smart Address Bar are: Open a previously typed URL, Open a history item, Delete a typed URL, and Open a Favorite. Conversely, Open feed and Open autocomplete suggestion were rarely selected.

Based on that information, we tuned the experience of the Smart Address Bar. We made feed results optional and hid them by default. We also streamlined the autocomplete suggestion so now it simply shows the Shift+Enter shortcut and not an entire section. This freed up space to show more results in the list – particularly when you click in the Address bar and press the down arrow.

The resulting feature delivers more typed URLs with less visual clutter.

picture of the smart address bar which shows more typed urls.

Figure 2: Smart Address Bar -- more typed URLs

Favorites bar

The Favorites Bar is the way to keep Web Slices, favorites, and feeds one click away. People wanted to be able to add more to the point that they’d take extra steps to manage them. The most common technique was to rename each favorite in the favorites bar so that it had a shorter name. While this allows you to have more favorites showing, it’s tedious. For those of you that would like to fit more on the favorites bar there’s now a way to customize the bar to show shorter names or even just the favorite’s icon. To try this, right click on the Favorites bar and choose Customize title widths.

picture of the favorites bar with long titles.  Not all the favorites fit on the favorites bar, some are in an overflow menu.

Figure 3: Favorites Bar with Long Titles

picture of the favorites bar with shorter titles.  The menu to customize title widths is open showing that short titles is selected.

Figure 4: Favorites Bar with Short Titles


In Beta 2 we introduced InPrivate Browsing and InPrivate Blocking, which help put you in control of data on your shared computer, and as you browse the Web. We heard that some of you wanted the ability to use these features separately, so we’ve done that. We’ve also made numerous other tweaks to the UI based on your feedback – more on that in a later post.


Some other popular features were Tab Groups, New Tab Page, Find on Page, Accelerators, SmartScreen Filter and Web Slices. As we blog more about the details of the IE Release Candidate, we’ll discuss these plus changes to support developers, security, performance and reliability.

We hope you enjoy browsing with the release candidate, and just like with Beta 2, we’d like your feedback and are looking for ways to make IE better.


Paul Cutsinger
Principal Lead Program Manager
Internet Explorer User Experience

Jess Holbrook
User Experience Researcher
Internet Explorer

Comments (38)

  1. Sterling says:

    I hated that whenever I changed search providers in IE8’s search bar, it would take me to that site’s search results, so the new change is nice! Of course now I have to click twice the search provider’s icon to go to that site’ search result but I don’t mind, I’m getting used to doing that.

    Having only icons in the Favorites Bar is nice. It allows for more shortcuts to be placed there.

    Y’all are doing a great job with IE8! I really like the Smart Address Bar, the search bar and Accelerators.

  2. gabe says:

    nice id love to have nightly builds of ie like firefox

    ie8 is a good realse from looks of things

  3. arjon says:

    The improvements are nice, however the smartaddress bar doesn’t seem to work… Since my favorites don’t show up..

  4. Tihiy says:

    Thank you.

    Now can you remove ‘install our crap’ from autocomplete bar and ‘enjoy a lot of dots’ from ‘Favorites Bar’?

  5. Catto says:

    Hey Now,

    The favorites bar is great

    Thx 4 the info,


  6. Doug says:

    "Now can you remove’enjoy a lot of dots’ from ‘Favorites Bar’?"

    +1 vote for that!  Great idea, but so many dots?  A fade to chrome would look nicer and maybe show an extra letter and a half sometimes.

  7. sean says:

    Interesting JavaScript updates in IE8 RC1.


    .availHeight: int

    .availWidth: int

    .bufferDepth: int

    .colorDepth: int

    .deviceXDPI: int

    .deviceYDPI: int

    .fontSmoothingEnabled: boolean

    .height: int

    .logicalXDPI: int

    .logicalYDPI: int

    .systemXDPI: int

    .systemYDPI: int

    .updateInterval: int

    .width: int

    I’m particularly curious about the fontSmoothingEnabled property… does this indicate if BlurryType[TM] is enabled/disabled?

    if so this could be very handy to fix widths due to odd stretching in BlurryType[TM] mode.

  8. yolanda says:

    I have a "push-to-the-point-of-near-failure" test that uses JavaScript to generate a number of random elements with random attributes to build up a large DOM.

    basically lots of calls to .createElement, .createTextNode, .setAttribute, and .appendChild. (rinse, repeat)

    There is no hardening, so it might try to add a <div> to a <select> element etc. but it gracefully try/catches these issues and moves ahead.

    anyway, I noticed that IE8 RC1 is quite slow with large DOMs…

    e.g. If I add (elements) it takes (time)

    100 = 113ms

    1,000 = 1,672ms

    30,000 = 1,402,297ms!!

    If I run the same tests in Firefox 3 I get:

    100 = 25ms

    1,000 = 365ms

    30,000 = 9,900ms

    In Chrome:

    100 = 94ms

    1,000 = 140ms

    30,000 = 29,733ms

    I realize it is a brutal test and doesn’t represent real-life scenarios but it (IMHO) points to the fact that IE’s DOM building is much, much, much slower than other browsers even to the point where performance appears to get exponentially worse.

    (I’m also aware that testing random elements doesn’t make it easy to compare numbers, but I get similar values on every run)

    any comments from Christian Stockwell?

    If you like I can run a few 1,000 iterations and post the  arithmetic mean, harmonic mean, geometric mean,  arithmetic mean, harmonic mean, geometric mean, etc.

  9. Roman says:

    JPEG screenshots look awful. Can you use PNG next time, please?

  10. twitter says:

    Its been said on this blog a million times.

    PNG is the format you should be using for screen shots!

    JPG is for photographs

    In addition, always turn off BlurryType[TM] before taking the screen shot and never publish a high res picture then shrink it inline in the HTML (*cough* Happy New Years post)

    As a final note, can you please change the settings on this blog to have the front page show a "snippet" of the full article, not the entire 3-4 vertical screens worth?  It doesn’t help readers find articles beyond the very latest post.

    One last thing.. when is RC2 due out? there has not been any comment on the date for this release to fix the issues that currently plague RC1. Is RC2 still expected within Q1?

  11. Arieta says:

    Is there a way to change the middle button scroll behavior? It was changed between Beta 2 and pre-rc1, and now I have problems on some longer sites (forums, this blog) where I have to scroll a lot.

    When you press the middle mouse button, a little scroll arrow appears, and you can drag the mouse to set how fast the screen should scroll in one direction. At the farthest setting, IE used to scroll the pages very, very fast. After the change in RC1, it can’t scroll fast – instead, it jumps to the end or the beginning of a page, instantly.

    This is VERY annoying.

    If I only want to scroll half a page, I can’t do it fast with the middle button anymore. I have to use the scrollbar on the side of the screen. I’d prefer the middle button method, since its faster, and I don’t have to navigate out of a webpage to do it.

  12. charlie says:

    @Arieta – I too can confirm this behavior in IE8 RC1. You can’t control the pan at all… its either top or bottom, nothing in between – very frustrating.

    The exponential panning is/was a much better user experience than the current broken IE8 RC1 behavior.

    On my laptop in particular this feature is very hard to control with the touchpad.

  13. Jeff says:

    *Searching Favorites*

    In an old thread about favorites a number of people suggested adding a feature ability to search favorites.  It would be a great feature for the user scenarios: A) Re-organizing favorites and B) simply finding where you placed a particular favorite.

    As an experiment on Win7 I tried to substitute for this feature ability by searching &userprofile%favorites from explorer.  Unfortunately this doesn’t find anything except folder names.  So it appears this feature request is still not answered by any current technology.

    *Favorites Weeding*

    This may be better a plugin idea but would be fun if built into IE.  Have a way to "weed out" dead favorites.  Granted a web server could be down on a particular day so one pass may not prove a favorite to be "dead".  Have a "weed favorites" item or button to click, it could grade favorites on availability and give an available score (e.g. 9/10, 0/39).  From this list one could remove dead weight.  If a favorite now redirects when it didn’t before may yield a list of favorites one might want to peruse.  Different HTTP error codes may be another arrangement category during "weeding" operations.

  14. Ted Howard says:

    Thank you for changing the search box provider buttons to quick-switch instead of search! That’s awesome.

    Can we have the Favorites Bar be multi-instanced or more than one row tall? Since displays are getting wider and not taller, can I put the Favorites Bar on the right or left side of the screen and trim the text down to only favicon?

    Overall, I love seeing the new level of transparency in the design process by Microsoft – from the Entity Framework team’s API design to this UX design post. Keep surprising and impressing the tech world!

  15. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @charlie, @Arieta: The "overscrolling" problem with the middle mouse button is a known issue in the release candidate. We’re looking at it.

  16. 8675309 says:

    its nice to see that you added back the custom search provider site to ie 8(win. 7)

  17. Max says:

    Well done! Now it’s even better. Yet, it still use a lot of memory. Also "improved In-Private" seems to work too good. In earlier release of RC1 it was working good on all websites, but now, when I work with a website thet requires authorization, it doesent save login information. Every time I open a new window, it asks me to login again and again…

    Also new RC1 crashes more often than previous release.

    Also, after installing new RC1 on my Vista Ultimate 64-bit, the sidebar started to crash always.

  18. Arieta says:

    EricLaw: so it is not intended behavior? That’s good to know! I hope it will get fixed.

    Even better, you could make it an optional feature. I can imagine it being useful, being able to scroll to the top/bottom instantly (that’s why I was worried, that it may be intentionally changed to that). Some may prefer it working that way, but I know that I don’t.

  19. You have done an awesome job. The javascript debugger in RC1 is phenomenal. Please get rid of the modal dialog for Cntrl+L though. Please please please. It is terrible. Why do you have that? Focus the address bar! There’s still time! You can do it! It will make all the difference in the world. I mean it.

  20. Dan says:

    Bjorn, use ALT+D instead.  Soon it will be in muscle memory and CTRL+L will be forgotten.

  21. Basara says:

    I hope IE8 can remember last save location for each file type.

    I use IE8 on Windows 7.It only remember one save location for all file types.

    Now each time when I download a picture from internet after I just downloaded a zip,I have to choose the save location again to save the picture to my preferred folder for picture storage.

  22. Mark Sowul says:

    Search box still has a huge annoyance when you type something in and try to switch providers – the toolbar with the providers is at the bottom, so once the suggestions start populating, that toolbar moves, and one usually ends up clicking one of the suggested results rather than an alternative provider.  The toobar should be at the top so that it doesn’t become a shell game.

  23. jezze says:

    The chevron button to view the other favorite bar website is really old and not a good user experience when it comes to viewing other website. Could you just add push up and push down button to scroll group of favorite website a found in new  Windows 7 taskbar when it’s full which show push up and push down button to scroll to other icons.

    Right now when adding a new website in favorite bar it adds the website in the front which is a bad thing for some user. How do i customize favorite bar to add new website at the end.

  24. Sotcr says:

    Nice work with the Smart Address bar, but still, there’s something than I think, could be improved.

    When I’m looking for the page I want, I just pass over searching, but when I get to the "History", what I see, are Names, Titles, and what I realy want to see is the URL, something like this:

  25. em says:

    Could you please improve InPrivate filtering?

    Why IE does not remember my InPrivate filtering settings, I have to enable it with browser start again. It ignores that I want to have this feature enabled forever.

  26. Klimax says:

    At em:

    Then it would become useless.It needs to collect list of trackers(not part of download,it is build duiring the browsing and stored for use in InPrivate),so it is truly InPrivate.If you need only to clear temps or coockies there are other options in IE to achieve that.

  27. says:

    Remove the bloody advertisement from the Dumb Address Bar!

  28. says:

    Remove the annoying Windows Desktop search advertisement. Geeze what sort of crap are you guys coming up with?

  29. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @TTW: If you click on the "Get better search results" link, the tip will go away in a few days.  Of course, then you’ll miss out on the more powerful address bar features.

  30. em says:

    to Klimax: you do not understand me. I do want to block ads with InPrivate filtering. So when I enable InPrivate filtering then I would expect that it’s going to be enabled with every IE start untill I disable it again.

    I do not want to click on InPrivate filtering icon whenever I start IE, it’s very annoying.

    BTW. I think that data for InPrivate filtering are collected even when filtering is enabled.

  31. Chris says:

    Would it be possible to have an ‘icons only’ option for the tabs in IE 8? I rarely need to see the page title in each tab, and would prefer to be able to collapse them to the icons only, to save space and the need to scroll the tabs left to right if they overflow.

    Also, I agree with Mark Sowul, who mentioned the annoyance of the search provider list at the bottom. If I search using Live, and get 7 suggestions, but then click the Google icon, and get 9, the search providers list keeps moving about. Would it be possible to place this at the top, or limit the search suggestions displayed to be the same amount?

  32. Jesant13 says:

    Excellent job guys. I do agree with em though that InPrivate Filtering should remain on until you turn it off yourself. It is kind of annoying to have to keep turning it on. I’d love to see a fix for that in the final version, but otherwise I probably wouldn’t use it.

  33. JoBrad says:

    Great job, guys. I used to be on IE7 with IE7Pro, and this new build is really great stuff.

    It’d be really awesome if you would allow even more customization of the favorite bar title widths. Even if it was just the registry setting (which is DefaultItemWidth, I believe?). Right now it’s 0, 1, or 2. If it was a pixel setting instead, then a more advanced user could easily tweak this.

    I also would like to second the search favorites feature. Super Drag and Drop would be an amazing feature as well, but I’ll continue to use 3rd party plug-ins (like IE7 Pro) to do this if you guys don’t. Thanks!

  34. Sotcr says:

    Well, in Windows 7 the quick launch and the aplications were merged. Why don’t do the same with the Favorites and the tabs of IE?

  35. Don Reba says:

    Although I like IE8 on the whole, it has its faults, and the thing that I find most frustrating is the inability to open a series of links in new tabs in succession. The active tab freezes for a considerable duration of time while each new one opens.

  36. greg says:

    Let the user save screen snapshots in PNG or Jpeg with PNG the default.  Jpeg, especially if you use the default settings and codec used by MS paint, will be too noisy.

    PNG works much better than jpeg for web pages, is lossless, and compresses quite well.  A nice to have would be for the PNG codec to attempt to optimize the PNG similar to what optipng or pngcrush does.  

    Microsoft needs work making better use and better performace from its file handling utilities/codecs especially in image file handling and media file handling.  We’ve been stuck with an incremental change above what windows 98 had (over 10 years ago).  We get a) poor jpeg performance (no built in ability to set quality settings), b) png support for unoptimized files, c) audio support for wav and mp3 and d) video support for wmv, mpeg1, mjpeg avi’s and little else.  This is where the mac consistently beats windows.

  37. Sotcr says:

    With the new feature of aero snap, when we have tabs we cant compare them, so, maybe dragging a tab to the desktop will open a new explorer window, and now, we can compare them 😉

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