Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2: resources for developers and HTML integrators

With the release of IE8 Beta 2 you are likely to start getting more questions and more (power) end users trying this release out. In this post I’ll point out some of the new features of IE8 and then give you the most important pointers for compatibility and development.

IE8 Beta 2 Download link.
IE Blog with the upgrade information on beta 2.


First things first, before checking out the new features of the browser it’s important that your visitors have a good experience browsing your site. Check out my previous post on IE8 compatibility for starters, and in addition to that there is extra information hereunder.

With Beta 2 there is an update to the compatibility settings, here is an overview of the available choices. You can set your compatibility using the header “X-UA-Compatible”, either in the web server as a HTTP header or on the page as a meta tag.

Compatibility Mode Value Render Behavior
IE=5 “Quirks” mode
IE=7 ”Standards” mode
IE=EmulateIE7 “Quirks” mode if the page does not contain a DOCType, IE7 Strict mode otherwise
IE=8 Internet Explorer 8 Standards mode
IE=edge Use latest standards that Internet Explorer 8 and any future versions of the browser support. (Not recommended for production sites)

Also important to note is that your META tag in the page will override the compatibility HTTP header if this one is also used.

Using DOCTYPE for compatibility
Another way of setting the desired layout of your site is using the DOCTYPE. However, setting the above mentioned X-UA-Compatible META tag will override any DOCTYPE setting.


Developer Tools

Developer tools are shipped with the browser, these allow you to debug Javascript, HTML and CSS (view styles, trace, edit styles), change the rendering engine so that you can easily test your layout mode, use a Javascript profiler and even save your edits in CSS and HTML.

To call up the Developer Tools window, press F12 or click the image  icon.

For example, I can trace CSS styles:


Using the Layout tool I can visually see the distance between the selected object and the parent, the padding, border and margins.


New features

IE8 introduces a lot of new features in different domains, be it in standards support, CSS 2.1 (and some CSS3), privacy, security, performance improvements in JScript, W3C HTML5 local store, etc. I’m pointing out a few of them:

Web Slices

Web Slices allow a user to subscribe to a specific section of a page. For example there is one I like to use which shows me the updated statuses of my Facebook friends.

Developing Web Slices: web slices are implemented using some specific CSS classes that do nothing in other browsers. You can now even have controls inside the WebSlice like Silverlight or Flash. To see some samples, check out a lab on MSDN code gallery:


Just that you know, these were called Activities in IE8 beta 1 and have now been renamed to Accelerators.
Accelerators are great for enabling users to execute an a certain action right from out on the page. For example, translating a sentence, mapping an address, blogging a quote, all from a contextual menu that is displayed when you select some text or a link. They’re implemented using the OpenService Format.

Non-administrator ActiveX installation
This might be of most interest at enterprise level, IE8 lets you install ActiveX controls without Administator privileges, on a per-user basis. IE8 also lets the user allow specific ActiveX controls to be enabled only on individual sites, preventing that a control would run on any other than the chosen site.

Mutable DOM prototypes
This is a great feature that allows you to rewrite any DOM method so that for example a certain built-in method returns the same result as in another browser. This is something I was looking for since some time!

So now, go out and install IE8 Beta 2 (I know you’ve been waiting for it), test your site, add compat if needed and then start using all the new goodies.