One of the potentially confusing aspects of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is the fact that it has two web browsers built in – the Internet Explorer we know and love has been updated to IE10 on the desktop, and a new IE10 browser has been added into the Metro UI. For the most part, there’s little to tell between them (browsing a page is pretty much browsing a page, after all), though in common with all Metro applications, the new variant launches full screen and has controls in a different place to the desktop IE10. It may feel a bit snappier and is certainly easier to use when interactive via touch.
For more info on what’s new in Metro IE10 and the reasons why, check out Steven Sinofsky’s recent blog post. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley replayed some of what the blog says, and added a bit of commentary too.
One of the more notable differences between the two browsers (apart from the user interface) is that the Metro version does not allow any plugins – so no Java, no ActiveX, no Flash, no Silverlight. There are very good reasons for this, centred around the way the technology which underpins all Metro apps (known as WinRT) manages applications’ performance so as to prevent them stomping all over each other and the system, to stop them doing things that would adversely affect the power consumption of the machine (see more here, and here) and to generally be good, cohabiting citizens. None of that is possible whilst the browser could run arbitrary code like Flash or through pretty much any other plugin.
So what this means to the end user is, it’s possible that you’ll open up a site and it won’t operate as expected –
[no more buttery biscuit base for Metro IE]
… and no amount of attempting to install the Flash/Silverlight/etc player will work.
Never fear. Avid ToW reader and serial contributor David Overton has suggested a quick solution. If you find yourself in Metro IE and unable to properly view a page, just open the Navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, click (or tap) on the spanner icon for Page Tools, then select View on the desktop to switch to the desktop version of IE, with the same URL being shown.
Now you can view your addin-happy sites using the traditional IE.
Power users apply here
Another tip courtesy of David concerns the bottom left of the screen. If you move your mouse directly to the lower left corner, you’d see a preview of the Start menu (clicking on or tapping on which jumps to the Start screen, a trick available from any application), but David also points out that if you right-click, you’ll see a power-user menu with shortcuts to a bunch of applications that are pretty well hidden within the new Metro UI.
An even more power-usery way of getting to the same menu would be to press WindowsKey+X at any time. You can even start a Command Prompt with Admin privileges, in fewer clicks or keystrokes than in Windows 7.