IE8 Arrives

Did someone change the coffee brands at Microsoft? After taking 6 years to move from version 6 to version 7, the IE team has offered the first IE8 beta barely 18 months after IE7’s release.

Cosmetically, things don’t look all that different to IE7, but under the bonnet — where most of our nightmares originate — the IE dev team seems to have set some pretty ambitious goals.
To me, the most important stuff includes:
* fixes to long-standing rendering bugs, including most notably the double margin bug and skittish CSS floats
* support for generated content
* support for more pseudo class (i.e. :after, :before and :focus) and support for the outline property
* much improved development tools, including a built-in, souped-up version of the IE Developer Toolbar that rivals Firebug’s feature set
* a much more standardized Document Object Model (DOM), which means you won’t need to write IE-specific JavaScript to make IE8 sing and dance
* the introduction of CSS table-layout support allowing you to take some of the more robust layout qualities of tables (i.e. self-equalizing columns) and apply them directly to clean, sensible markup (Kev has written a great piece on this if you haven’t already seen it.)
On the not so positive side:
* Yes, IE8 another variable for us to contend with, inevitably complicating the development process that little bit more.
* This beta seems to render significantly differently from IE7 and the other mainstream browsers.
To be fair on the rendering issues, this is the first beta, so it would be silly to believe the rendering engine won’t change before the full release. In short, by all means test your sites in it now, but hold your fire on any IE8-specific hacks — for now at least — as they will likely be unnecessary by the time the official release candidate hits the ground.
On a similar note, it’s probably not wise to install this browser on any critical system at the moment, as it will automatically and permanently overwrite any IE6 and IE7 installs. That would be a brave course to take with a potentially unstable beta.
However, if you’re keen to have a play, Microsoft has released a version of IE8 embedded in a virtual hard disk image (VHD) that can be run via Virtual PC. Microsoft offers both of these downloads for free, allowing you to freely test the beta while keeping it safely isolated from the rest of your system.
This VHD beta will time out in July 2008, at which point you’ll need to download an updated image.
If you haven’t used a VHD before (and a few readers have asked about it), I’ll run you through the set up process below.
However, before we start, think twice about doing this if your system is lacking either reasonable grunt or good bandwidth access, as you’ll need plenty of both to first download the VHD file (a 430+MB file that decompresses to almost 1.4Gig), and then to efficiently run it under Virtual PC.
1. Download and install Virtual PC (30.4 MB).
2. Download and run the IE8 Virtual Hard Disk file here (IE8_VPC.EXE) — this will auto-extract your VHD to a folder (along with a couple of text files).
3. Launch Virtual PC and click ‘New…’ to start the New Virtual Machine Wizard.
4. Select the second option, ‘Use default settings to create a virtual machine’ and click ‘Next’.
5. Give your new virtual machine a name — ‘IE8’ seems sensible enough — and hit ‘Next’.
6. VPC settingsHit ‘Finish’. This will automatically create a new directory called ‘IE8’ (or whatever else you named it) with a new configurations file inside it called ‘IE8.vmc’.
7. A ‘Settings’ dialog box should now open automatically. ‘Select Hard Disk 1’, and switch the ‘None’ radio button to ‘Virtual hard disk file:’
8. Browse and select the VHD file you extracted earlier, then press ‘OK’.
9. VPC consoleYour Virtual PC console should now list a new Virtual Hard Disk. Select it and hit ‘Start’.
10. Voila! After a few seconds you should be have a standalone window running XP and the IE8 beta.
The first time I ran this VHD, the system needed to do some housekeeping, and asked me to restart it, but from then on it’s been hassle-free. Of course, when you’ve had enough, use the console to shut it down.
IE8 in virtual PC
So, take it for a spin and let me know what you think. It goes without saying that it’s going to be a quite a while before IE8 is a factor in our day-to-day development thoughts. However, though it wasn’t obvious at the time, looking back now it seems that it was IE7 that delivered the final killer blow to IE5.
If IE8 can help speed IE6 towards the door, we will all be happier little web monkeys. Oh, happy day!
fuente: Web Tech Blog: Technically Speaking
by Kevin Yank

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