The Internet Explorer 10 Experiment: Day 1

Yesterday I posted the introduction to this new experiment of mine: give Internet Explorer another chance by using Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 as my primary browser for fourteen days, documenting what I love, what I hate, and what makes me generally say "meh". These are my thoughts from day one of my experience.

Importing Bookmarks into IE Favourites

A browser really wouldn’t be a browser without some means of managing bookmarks or favourites. I’ve got a huge stockpile of them in Google Chrome—many of which I access an excess of twenty or more times a day.

Naturally, the first step in using Internet Explorer as my default browser (once it’s been set in Windows 8 as such), is to import all those wonderful little bookmarks into Internet Explorer 10’s favourite’s manager. I opened up that manager and instantly went straight to the favourite import/export manager, selected "from a browser" and selected Google Chrome as the source for my favourites.

Before I knew it, the import was done. Except…it wasn’t. Not a single bookmark actually imported from Google Chrome. I tried the import again—this time noticing that it was only importing my "Internet settings" (whatever those were). Frustrated, I tried importing my bookmarks from Firefox. They were a bit out of date, so I reimported them on Firefox before importing them into Internet Explorer.

That worked. Mostly. To save space in Chrome, my favourites on my bookmarks bar don’t get to have any titles. They’re all favicons. That’s well and dandy in Chrome—and it works well there. But my favourites without titles failed to import completely. [For everyone’s information, I checked—these did import into Firefox, so we can’t blame Mozilla for this one.] Unfortunately—those are the bookmarks I use the most.

I’m a creature of habit—I really like having my most frequently used favourites setup like that—completely free of their titles. There’s just one problem: Internet Explorer 10 won’t let you have a favourite without it having a title.

Wonky Favourite Bar Drop-Downs

In the process of verifying that my favourites had actually imported from Firefox, I click on each of my folders on the bookmarks bar. Now, I had a dual monitor setup—while the bug I’m about to you doesn’t happen on my laptop, it’s odd, amusing, and a bit annoying on my desktop. Basically, the dropdown menu for the folder actually shows up completely detached from the favourites bar—on the wrong monitor.

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Granted, this only occurs when Internet Explorer is open on my right monitor, and not my left, but—with all the multi-monitor support thrown in to Windows 8, you’d think Microsoft would notice something as silly as this.

Internet Explorer 10 is Noticeably Faster Than Chrome

Now, the first two sections of this day one review are not exactly favourable for Internet Explorer 10, but they really wouldn’t be a bother for someone just starting-out new on a machine that didn’t really have an interest in importing all their bookmarks. Browser speed, however, certainly is.

I switched to Google Chrome from Firefox because, at least on my machine at the time, Firefox 3.5 and 4 ran about as quickly as molasses pours in the harshest Alaskan winters. Firefox had come to a crawl, in terms of speed, and while Chrome’s only ad-blocking add-on at the time was little more than a good joke, I was content to live with it as long as I had my precious Web of Trust. (I realised, later, however, that DownThemAll! is not easily given-up, and I’ve continued to return to Firefox for when I’m up for downloading stuff. My connection has a tendency to fail—which is a pain in the neck when you’re dealing with large downloads.)

So then, my switching history aside, let’s talk about Internet Explorer in terms of speed.

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I must admit that, at first, I thought that I was just imagining things. After checking my room for a gas leak and any randomly growing hallucinogenic mushrooms, I came to the conclusion that the speed of Internet Explorer 10 was not a hallucination—nor was it any figment of my imagination. I have a terrible connection on which I’ve got to do all my Internety things—but Internet Explorer 10 really flies. It is noticeably faster than Chrome. Yes, I said it. It is noticeably faster than Chrome. I noticed it first here on The Verge, but it didn’t take long to realise that load times for The Verge weren’t the only load times that had drastically improved. Even sites like YouTube and Facebook loaded quicker. Sites loaded almost instantly and, to my surprise, even embedded videos loaded quicker.

Compatibility Issues

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Almost immediately, I was met with compatibility issues. This semester, I’m taking a pair of courses online through my university. Unfortunately, where I’ve yet to have even the slightest of problems with Chrome, content embedded through Box simply doesn’t show up—which makes it impossible to read my professor’s instructions for my assignments.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. "Why didn’t you just use Internet Explorer’s compatibility view?" I did. And if Internet Explorer 10 had remembered my preferences for compatibility view from the first part of my University’s website into its online learning site, I would have probably been okay—well, maybe. Even using F12 to switch to compatibility mode there didn’t quite work, as I was then directed to a different (wrong) URL when trying to load a reading assignment after enabling compatibility mode.

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I tested it on Internet Explorer 10 in the Modern UI, too, just in case. Apparently, Box uses Flash to embed their content—and Modern UI Internet Explorer 10 doesn’t seem to think that Box is a worthy source of Flash content.

That issue aside, I did a bit of searching and found a way to force compatibility mode on the website through the hidden tools menu. Unfortunately, even after applying the compatibility mode to the entire website, it was still borked. Now, I’m willing to chalk that up to crumby coding on the part of the university. I would say that my campus’ website looks and acts like it was coded by monkeys, but that’s rather unfair to monkey website developers—they’d likely do a better job.

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My other big compatibility issue was actually here on The Verge. In attempting to edit yesterday’s post to include a link to this one, I was met with the unfortunate state of The Verge’s WSYWIG editor for forum posts. There basically isn’t one (see the screenshot above). I don’t need to get rambly here: it’s broken.

Close Tab Lag

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Now this may seem a bit nitpicky, but it really bugs me. When closing the last open tab on Internet Explorer 10 in desktop mode, the other tabs temporarily expand-out to fill that space before resizing themselves appropriately. This has resulted in me closing tabs I didn’t want to on more than one occasion. It’s a little thing, seeing as CTRL+SHIFT+T still works in Internet Explorer, but it’s still annoying.

Update: I've been informed that what I perceived as close tab lag is actually a feature in Internet Explorer 10 that allows users to quickly close tabs without moving the pointer. I hadn't actually thought of it as something that could be convenient, but I'll try to get used to it.

Technically Impressive, Desktop UI Desperately Needs Work

There’s no doubt that Internet Explorer is impressive on a technical level. It’s fast and it’s fluid. What it isn’t, however, is overly user friendly. This came as a real shock to me. Windows 8 made some impressive leaps forward in terms of UI cleanliness and intuitiveness, but Internet Explorer 10’s apparent need to cling on to the way things were done in the old days is a big of a drag. It’s all the little things that are missing.

The lack of being able to search by providers by using a search prefix like in Chrome’s omnibox drives me nuts. I’ve gotten so used to typing "yt fish fingers and custard" for a YouTube video on Fish Fingers and Custard and "rt The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" for the Rotten Tomatoes page for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for example, that Internet Explorer’s system of switching search providers is just awkward.

I Don’t Know if It’s More Accurate, But It’s Definitely More Legible

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I would just like to take a moment to congratulate Internet Explorer 10 for easily being the most legible when it comes to text rendering. Google Chrome’s text has gotten harder and harder to read as it has undergone updates, and Firefox’s text is only marginally better. Now, I don’t know if what Internet Explorer is doing with the text is actually accurate in how it’s being rendered in websites--chances are it isn't even close--but it sure is a lot easier to read.

What the Heck is with WOT?

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I’ve tried and I’ve tried to get WOT to share its space with my favourites bar, but it just won’t. It insists on having its own space—which makes it a huge waste of space, despite its usefulness. This isn’t a problem that’s exactly Microsoft’s fault, I suppose, but it is part of the Internet Explorer 10 experience.

Aero’s Live Thumbnails for Internet Explorer Annoy Me

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Now, maybe I should be happy that a bazillion live thumbnails appear when I mouse-over Internet Explorer, but I’m not. It’s distracting. (Yeah, yeah. I realise this is just whining.) There’s probably a way to turn it off, but I haven’t found it just yet.

Favourites Sync Works Flawlessly

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One of the great features of Google Chrome was bookmark sync. I could just install Chrome on whatever machine (or login temporarily on other machines) and get all my bookmarks in a flash. Thankfully, the favourites sync integrated into Windows 8 works flawlessly, and without any effort on my part, I was greeted by my favourites on Internet Explorer on my laptop when I started to give it a go there.

Final Thoughts for Day One

While the overall tone of today’s report is rather negative, I can say for sure that Internet Explorer has made some massive leaps forward in terms of speed, usability, and general usefulness. Internet Explorer seems to finally be a browser worthy of more than merely downloading other browsers. I think much of my frustration with Internet Explorer 10 probably stems from just how not used to it I am. I’ve had time to adjust to how Chrome works—and have changed my Internet habits accordingly. I can’t wait to see how this experiment changes my Internet usage habits—if it does—or if it ultimately will just send me running back to the browser to which I’ve grown accustom. Stay tuned—I’ve got thirteen more days of this experiment still to go.

What Should I Focus on for Tomorrow?

I've focused pretty heavily on some of the basic and most noticeable aspects of everyday use in Internet Explorer 10. What are other aspects of browser usage at which I should take a closer look?

Also in This Series

The Internet Explorer 10 Experiment: Day 0

The Internet Explorer 10 Experiment: Day 2

The Internet Explorer 10 Experiment: Day 3

The Internet Explorer 10 Experiment: Days 4 & 5

The Internet Explorer 10 Experiment: Days 6 & 7