Microsoft's IE8 Release Candidate Is Live; Nearly Identical To Final Release

Microsoft has just pushed live its Release Candidate for Internet Explorer 8, the latest update to the world’s most widely used web browser. You can download it here. Unfortunately the release is only for Windows Vista, XP, and Server – if you’re trying out Windows 7 you’ll have to wait for the next OS update to try out the RC.

The new version, which comes after two public beta releases, is now considered “platform complete” – the product is “effectively complete and done” writes IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch. Unless there are major critical issues that arise, the final version of the browser should be identical. Other changes between Beta 2 and the Release Candidate include improved reliability, performance, and compatibility, as well as ‘clickjacking‘ protection.

In his blog post detailing the release, Hachamovitch writes that IE8 is focused on “how people really use the web”, explaining that while many of the people who are interested in Release Candidates and technology blogs may be interested in details and performance issues, most people are concerned with usability and an intuitive experience.

We sat down with Hachamovitch earlier this month and he showed us a number of the new features that are being incorporated into IE8 to reflect this emphasis on usability (note that these have been known about for some time, but may not be common knowledge for those who don’t follow IE’s beta schedule). Among my favorite is the ability to see a list of your recently closed tabs whenever you open a browser window, which makes it easy to reopen pages that you may have accidentally closed without having to resort to your web history. Also new are Accelerators, which let you act on snippits of text using shortcuts found under the right-click menu (for example, you could right click on an address and look it up on Live Maps).

And of course, the browser’s new “porn mode” (dubbed InPrivate), which lets users browse the web without having to worry about leaving any history or cookies behind. Apple’s Safari offers a similar feature, though I like the execution of InPrivate better – it has strong visual indicators to let you know when you’re in the private mode, while Safari just has a check mark under a menu listing.