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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chrome vs IE9

IE9 beta is available, and I finally decided to give it a spin. I wanted to actually title this post: Internet Explorer 9: the complete circle. Why? Because, it is a full circle for me, the moment I downloaded IE9. Let me explain:
  • Years ago, after getting fed up with IE, I shifted to Firefox. At that time of course, I used Internet Explorer to download Firefox and installed it. And that made Firefox my primary browser.
  • A couple of years ago, when Chrome was released, I used Firefox to download Chrome and installed it. And that made Chrome my primary browser.
  • A few hours ago, I used Chrome to download Internet Explorer 9 beta and installed it.
It remains to be seen whether IE9 will become my primary browser, but just after a few clicks in the browser, I am actually pleased so far. This post is being written side by side as I quickly take IE9 for a spin, and record my impression so far.
And wherever it is relevant, I will compare it to my current primary browser: Chrome.

Installation experience:
After downloading it, I ran the installer and was immediately presented with this screen:
First Step
I thought that it is installing some pre-requisites, which it might be downloading. After a while, it showed me this screen:
Step 2
And there, we were done – a one-click installation. It didn’t ask me anything about making this browser the default, or anything else.
I would have liked to see more info, since this was beta, about what components it is updating, since IE9 is well integrated into the OS, I was worried it might update some core OS components with beta versions.
Anyway, I like the clean setup overall. Less work for me if I don’t have to digest any information during installation.
First look, I opened the browser
The first thing that hit me when I started the browser for the first time is this screen:
starting screen
Note: this screen actually only shows the first time you run the browser, so since I didn’t capture it at that time, I had to copy this screenshot from the article that engadget ran.
I think this is brilliant. I have written before about how add-ons can really slow down Internet Explorer, and this basically makes that fact available to everyone in their face. Since IE8, Internet Explorer shows you how much time any add-on takes to load in the Manage Add-ons screen. Notice how it asks you to specify what your comfort level is for how long in total all add-ons installed on your browser should take, and it will inform you if the total add-on time goes above that.
My only crib with this is that in a couple of scans of the menu items and options, I couldn’t find where I can change that time on the bottom once I set it up in the beginning.
Moving on:
Here’s what Internet Explorer 9 looks like with only one tab open.
ie9-1
And here’s what Chrome looks like with one tab open:
chrome-1
Things to notice:
  • I noticed that the logo in Chrome is smaller than the logo in Internet Explorer. I found it weird till it turned out that the HTML that was rendered is different in Chrome than the one in Internet Explorer, and both refer to different logo files with different image sizes.
  • Another thing to notice is that the available space is a little bit more in Internet Explorer – as an effect of it combining the address bar and tabs in the same vertical space (this is however not always true, see below).
  • I opened both the windows in Private Browsing mode (or Incognito as Chrome calls it). The indications for both are wildly different. Its very clear in Internet Explorer, and reflected in the address bar. In Chrome it is indicated by the icon in the top left corner.
The vertical space in Chrome and IE9 is about the same when both are maximized though. This is because when Chrome is maximized, it moves the tabs to the vertical space besides the control box. The above screenshots are not taken in maximized mode. See below for what I mean:
image
The above is when Chrome is maximized, and the below is with Chrome in normal window state:
chrome-normal
I have my browser window maximized and normal equal number of times, so I am guessing Internet Explorer 9 wins in terms of maximizing viewable area of the browser.
Speed test:
While this is not really a speed test proper, I went and clocked the speed of 3 of the sites that I visit daily, and did so 5 times each to get average speeds for start to completely loaded on a stopwatch.
I did this after clearing cache, and in the private mode so there is nothing stored in each session. Each time, I closed the previous window and opened another one.
Here are the average site load times:
  • Reddit – Chrome 8.4s, and IE9 5.4s
  • Youtube – Chrome 2.9s, and IE9 2.5s
  • Cricinfo – Chrome 6.9d, and IE9 6.2s
While they are close (with IE being slightly faster), on reddit for some reason, Chrome was always taking much longer. I bet there are sites out there where Chrome would be much faster than IE9 too.
But IE9 is really fast, loads really fast, and feels really fast.
Minor annoyance:
The one thing that Chrome has that no other browser does is that a lot of thought had gone in its usability. The best feature of Chrome for me is that when I have a lot of tabs open and I want to close some of them quickly, I can basically click multiple times on the same spot, since Chrome doesn’t resize tabs when your mouse is on the tab bar. IE9 and other browsers do. If you don’t know what I am talking about, try doing this:
  • Open IE9/Firefox and open 20 new tabs.
  • Now select the first tab.
  • Now using your mouse, start closing the tabs. You will notice that as more space becomes available on the tab bar, the tab sizes start expanding, which moves the location of the close button from under your mouse. So to close the next tab, you have to move your mouse.
Now do the same thing in Chrome.
There are other special things:
For example, the most popular sites ‘dial’ which shows on a new tab displays an indication (in the form of a colored bar on each site box) conveying how often you use that site. This bar seems to be in the dominant color in the site’s favicon. See below:
quickdial
There are overall many improvements in terms of UI, and I like them all.
There are still some issues though in UI and usability:
  • The options and menus can do with a complete overhaul. They are the same as the earlier versions, and a nightmare for casual users.
  • Options being opened in modal dialog boxes.
There are many more things that are nice in the new browser, and I am certainly going to be exploring them (a big reason is that when I use software such as SharePoint, there are limitations when using it from Chrome). I am really hoping that this will be a good browser, and I will switch to it, completing the circle back to IE.

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