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Trading Up: Choosing the Best Web Browser

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Don't settle with the browser that came preinstalled, such as Internet Explorer in Windows or Safari in Mac OS X. Eric Geier shows you that you have choices!
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In this article, we'll tour the three most popular web browsers and discover some lesser-known options as well. You might be attracted to a different browser based on looks, features, or functionality. Even if you insist on staying loyal to your current browser, you might find you want to upgrade to a newer version.

You'll find all modern browsers have a tabbed interface and a bookmarking or favorites feature. Most also come with pop-up or AD blocking.

However, some offer additional features, such as spell checking, private mode browsing, synchronization of browse settings with other PCs, or social networking integration.

You'll also find that the number and type of extensions or add-ons vary from browser to browser. Additionally, the OS support differs. Internet Explorer, for instance, is only available for Windows. If you also have an Apple or Linux machine, for example, you might want a browser that can install on all your computers.

Internet Explorer 9

At the time of this writing, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) 8 is the current stable release. However, we're looking at the Beta version of Internet Explorer (IE) 9, which is publically available on Microsoft's site.

Like the other popular browsers, IE 9 has been streamlined for maximum web page viewing. As Figure 1 shows, you won't see any substantial toolbars or menus by default.

The status bar on the bottom has even been hidden. You can still access your favorites, feeds, and history from the Star button in the upper right. There you'll also find the Tools button, where you can access the browser's other features and settings.

You'll still find the features from previous IE versions, such as Pop-up Blocker; InPrivate browsing, which lets you browse without leaving any history; InPrivate filtering to protect your privacy; and SmartScreen Filter to protect against phishing.

You'll also find a couple of new features. The download manager lets you view, pause, or resume downloads. No more having to restart the download when you lose the Internet connection—it automatically resumes. Site pinning to the Windows 7 taskbar or start menu enables quick access and gives youjump list shortcuts.

Two gripes I have about IE 9 is that you can't view all the passwords saved by the browser and it doesn't have an integrated spell checker. Firefox and Chrome both have these two features, which can really come in handy.

Also remember that IE can't be installed on Apple or Linux (or Windows XP) machines, given that it's a Microsoft product. Only Windows Vista SP2 and Windows 7 are supported by IE 9.

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