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Internet Explorer 5 aims to display Web pages your way

August 17, 1998
Web posted at: 3:00 PM EDT

by Yael Li-Ron

(IDG) -- Are Web designers trying to make life difficult, or does it just seem that way? With many sites, you must struggle to read undersized fonts and/or wait endlessly for fancy elements to render on screen. Not to worry: Help is on the way. The next version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer promises to remedy these problems.

We took a look at a very early version of Internet Explorer 5 that was posted at press time on Microsoft's Web site. Many of the features discussed here were not ready for testing. A final ship date had not yet been set, but we expect a beta version to be available by the time you read this, with the final product shipping by year's end.

No more squinting

IE 5's improved support for two important standards -- Dynamic HTML and Cascading Style Sheets 2 -- will let Web designers attach "behaviors" to Web objects. When you visit a site designed with behaviors, you can change the color, positioning, and other attributes. Is the type in a particular paragraph too small to read? Enlarge the font and spare yourself some eyestrain. Your change won't affect what other users see, because the process is restricted to your PC and browser.

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A new Persistence feature will "remember" changes you make to objects on a page, such as the enlarged font. Once you modify a page and save its location to your Favorites folder, the browser will remember your configuration changes the next time you visit that page. Persistence files are larger than cookies files and can save more information about your preferences.

IE 5's enhanced support for CSS2 includes new drag-and-drop capabilities. You'll be able to go to a shopping site and drag an item to your shopping basket. The site will calculate the cost and add it to your running bill. From an FTP site, you'll drag a file to your desktop for a quick download.

In addition, some smaller changes will make IE 5 easier to use. Enhanced Save As capabilities will let you save a Web page complete with its accompanying graphics and other elements, a feature Navigator Gold users have enjoyed since version 3.

The most notable performance improvement (and the only one I could test at press time) is the new Fixed Table Layout option, which renders HTML tables almost instantaneously. Web designers use tables to create everything from lists to fancy page layouts. Currently, tables don't show up until the browser has completely calculated their layout and content. The new Fixed Layout tag will let users see the top rows of a table, even while the rest of the table is being calculated and generated.

Too early to judge

At this time, comparisons between IE 5 and Netscape's upcoming Communicator 5 are not possible. Still, both products appear to focus on some similar areas, namely improved performance plus features that let you customize your screen and browsing experience. This should be good news both for Web designers and for the users who are so often at their mercy.

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