IE5 offers better searches, built-in radio
March 17, 1999
by Paul Heltzel
(IDG) -- On the Internet, wait 10 minutes and your browser will change.
With each beta release of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5, we've seen new features (and sometimes deletions). But with the final release coming on Thursday, the winds are mercifully still. The software gets a small makeover since the final beta we reviewed (see "Internet Explorer 5: Search and Explore" link below) but nothing earth-shattering.
Most notably, a new Related Links feature suggest sites that are relevant to the one you're currently viewing. The feature works much like the What's Related feature in Communicator 4.5. While Navigator displays the list from a pop-up menu on the toolbar, IE5 opens a pane down the left side of your browser (as it does when you click the Search, History, or Favorites buttons).
Microsoft also revamped the AutoSearch feature since the last beta. Formerly you typed a few words in the Address box and the browser went off to a search engine. The results displayed in the main browser window. Consistent with other new IE 5 features, AutoSearch now loads the results in a left-hand pane, and loads the most likely candidate in the main window. (You can change this configuration to suit you in the Internet Options menu, including making it go back to the way it used to work).
HotMail, coming through
You can now send and receive messages from a Web-based e-mail account using the Outlook Express client. However, Microsoft's Hotmail is your only choice, at least for the moment. And it's not working correctly in the software I examined, although Microsoft expects to fix this by launch.
Speaking of e-mail, Microsoft decided to remove the Junk Mail filter from Outlook Express (introduced in the previous beta), after a controversy over the tool's zeal in deleting legitimate messages.
You turn me on, I'm a radio
The integration of the Windows media player into the browser means you can now open audio files from a toolbar in IE5. Selecting the Radio toolbar from the Tools menu lets you play streaming audio without opening a separate client, and you can adjust the volume or bookmark an audio file. The media player uses a RealAudio codec and reads Microsoft's Advanced Streaming Format, but don't uninstall your RealPlayer just yet. The Media Player doesn't read G2 RealAudio files, so say hello to incompatibility.
One odd thing about the Radio toolbar: It's not persistent. You have to select it to appear from the View, Toolbars menu each time you want to use it. If you open several windows during one session, as I often do, it can take a bit of clicking to figure out which window is playing your audio. It's a fine feature, and saves you the trouble of opening another program, but you may want to make the bar stay put by adding that option in the Internet Options menu.
Serve and volley
Of course, Netscape isn't taking the new features lying down. The software maker recently added a handful of improvements to its Navigator 4.5 browser (bringing it to version 4.51), including an upgrade of the AOL Instant Messenger real-time chat client, stability enhancements, stock-quote lookup from the location field, and security fixes. (See "New Communicator Gets Chatty" link below) Expect a beta release of Communicator 5 by midyear.
None of the new features in IE5 change our opinion about whether you should upgrade. If you're got Communicator 4.5 or Opera 3.5, you're already running a great browser. But if you're using older versions of IE, America Online, or Communicator, or you're starting from scratch, IE5 is the browser to beat.
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