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Internet Explorer 6 – one man's odyssey

Kieren very decently decides not to make his PC run even slower...

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If you didn't know, Internet Explorer 6 was officially released yesterday (you can get it here). So we figured we'd download it, try it out and tell you whether it's worth it.

[We're assuming you're not upgrading to Windows XP at the moment, in which case you'll get Explorer 6 anyway. You do need Win98, 2000, NT4]

So, what do you get? Well, according to Microsoft, Internet Explorer 6 will give you "a private, reliable, and flexible browsing experience". This comes down to four selling points: Tools to Protect Your Privacy, Reliability You Can Count On, Flexibility To Experience the Web the Way You Want and A New Intelligent Design.

Truth is you won't notice any difference. Hang on though - the MSN Messenger button has gone. And been replaced by a Media button. This is actually a bit annoying for this reporter at least because I've started using MSN Messenger but can't see why I'd want a Media button.

The Media button opens the side panel that you get with History or Favourites. Some people like these, most just find it annoying because it cuts a big chunk off the browser screen.

Of course, click on anything in the Media section and you'll be forced to wonder why you haven't downloaded the latest version (7) of the Media Player. So we downloaded this as well (well, might as well go the whole hog). Brief tangent: new Media Player has basically pinched and installed everything that makes all the other media players popular. It does seem incredibly memory and processor hungry though.

But back to M$' selling points: better privacy. True, ish. You've got a bit more flexibility as regards security levels, and a bit more information about the cookies you're being offered. But not enough for most people to make any kind of reasoned judgement, and not enough for them to be induced to muck around with the default settings. So no major disruption of business as usual there then.

What else? Reliability. Apparently when Explorer crashes, rather than just crashing, it will tell you why it crashed and even send the info to Redmond so they can make everyone's lives better. We haven't checked this yet because it hasn't crashed yet (incredible, we know - an entire day too). And who really cares? If it's crashed, it's crashed. (Ed's note: this is sort of a good idea, the point being that Microsoft Central can get automated reports of what's causing most crashes, and therefore is far better positioned to decide which bugs to nail first. But... When you get a popup asking if it's OK to send something entirely unintelligible to people you definitely don't trust, are you really going to click OK?)

Flexibility To Experience the Web the Way You Want. What that means is the new image Toolbar, Media button and auto image resize. The image Toolbar - which allows you to send or save an image at the click of a button (a little box appears if you hold the cursor over a pic) - will only appear if you have WinXP. You can still do it though by right-clicking. It will save you having to save images on the desktop and then save them into an email or whatever. [This, it turns out, is wrong. The image toolbar will appear on any OS but - get this - only if the image isn't a link or doesn't have any alt text.]

We've mentioned the Media button. The auto resize basically constricts any pic that doesn't fit on the page so that it does. Which is handy, although if you want to pinch a pic and do some Photoshop on it, you will now have no idea how big the file is. It may also stop people realising that they've put up a hi-res pic by mistake and so pages may start taking longer to download. But then you can't legislate for stupidity.

Also, was the Edit button always there? We can't remember. Anyway, it lets you pull the source into Notepad or Word with one click.

A New Intelligent Design. Yes, but only if you're running it with Windows XP. Otherwise you won't notice any difference in look and feel. (Ed's note 2: I didn't notice with XP either. Must try harder)

One really annoying thing - as with every Explorer upgrade - is that it insists on adding loads of Bookmarks to your browser. Maybe people like this, maybe it causes them to try out new sites and go Wow! when they realise what they've been missing all these years. But we just find it incredibly annoying - not least because we always have to check them to make sure we haven't missed out on any sites for all these years. Don't worry, it's all corporate bollocks - Disney, Warner Brothers etc.

And lastly there's Develop Web-Based Applications Quickly and Easily - but that's for developers so we'll ignore it.

So, download Explorer 6 or not? Well, if you're the kind of person that likes to be right at the forefront and then bore everyone else to death with your fascinating observations, you'll have it anyway. For the rest of us normal beings. Yes, if you have a spare hour or so. Or if you desperately want to see poptart Louise's new video.

If you’re a bit obsessed with cookies, then yes. Otherwise - well, if you're going to get WinXP at some point, don't bother. If twiddling with new things doesn't get you going and you'd rather spend an extra hour in the pub, don't bother either. (ED's note 3: what about smarttags then?) ®

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