Preparing for IE8

Even as Chrome has earned market share, developers are preparing for the arrival of Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, which went to beta 2 in August. Dev shops need to get ready for the new browser, says Robert Boedigheimer, a programmer with the Schwan Food Co., who last month gave a presentation at the VSLive! New York conference highlighting key new capabilities of IE8.

Boedigheimer urges developers to begin testing IE8 right away. They should consider taking advantage of improvements to AJAX, CSS and the Selectors API, as well as Accelerators and Web Slices. Among the issues highlighted in his presentation:

Browser Modes
The two modes are Quirks and Standards, with the latter now the default. Boedigheimer urges developers to look at their sites with the new browser. Those pressed for time should at least have their admins check their Internet Information Services systems, create a custom header that's X-UA compatible and set it to emulate IE7. "What you're saying is, I don't have to go through every page on my site," he explains.

Document Compatibility
Which mode to choose will typically be aligned with how organizations want their pages to render. "With IE8, instead of saying they'll start with Document Compatibility, what they're going to let you do is choose the rendering mode for your pages to display under," Boedigheimer says. One mode he advises against setting IE8 in is Edge, which is likely to cause compatibility problems even though it offers the best display mode.

Previously known as "activities," accelerators are contextual services to quickly access a service from any Web page. Described via an Open Service Description XML file, they create a JavaScript-based preview Window. "Accelerators are a way for me in a Web site to quickly access a service," Boedigheimer says.

Accelerators give developers a mechanism to highlight an address right on the page, go to an accelerator and specify, for example, "Please map this address on Live Maps, and kick over another tab with Live Maps mapped to that address."

Web Slices
Web Slices contain portions of a Web page. Like an RSS feed, Web Slices automatically update-though Boedigheimer says it's unlikely anyone would subscribe to more than six or seven Web Slices. To create a Web Slice, you need to add HTML annotations to your page.

The XmlHttpRequest object now has a timeout property, which lets developers limit how long a request can take against a server.

AJAX Enhancements
The Favorites, Forward and Back buttons will work in each instance of a page, and support Cross Domain Requests that are implemented via XmlHttpRequest.

CSS Improvements
New pseudo classes have been added; improvements that were added to printing include the ability to create page breaks.

Developer Tools
Now installed by default into the browser, Developer Tools support debugging of JavaScript, HTML and CSS, which developers can now edit for quick prototyping. "If you're out of RAM on the machine, [or] if you don't have Visual Studio and you need to debug some JavaScript, you can just pop this open and do some debugging," says Boedigheimer.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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