REVIEW: Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 may lag behind rival Web browsers such as Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Opera Software's Opera when it comes to some features, but IE 8 can't be beat when it comes to facilities for deploying customized versions across a company. eWEEK Labs' tests show that the free Internet Explorer Administration Kit 8, or IEAK 8, makes it easy to build highly customized versions of the Windows browser for employees.
When I tested
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8,
I found that it was a significant
improvement over previous versions, but it lagged behind competing
browsers-such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Opera
Software's Opera-in some features and capabilities.
However, there is one area in which IE 8 has a big advantage over its
competitors, especially when it comes to using browsers in corporate
environments: The Internet Explorer Administration Kit makes it simple for any
business to create highly customized installations of IE 8 and deploy them to
When it comes to building customized versions of a browser for business use,
IEAK 8 far surpasses the customization options for other browsers.
There is a Firefox extension called CCK
Wizard that allows for the creation of customized Firefox browsers, but this is
pretty basic when compared with IEAK. Companies can also leverage software
management platforms to customize and deploy browsers, but this adds cost and
Click here for a look at Internet
Explorer Administration Kit 8 in action.
IEAK 8 is free for businesses to use, though the capabilities and license
vary based on intended use. There are versions of the IEAK available for ISPs,
Websites, software providers and businesses, and the permitted level of
customization varies with each.
For this review, I used IEAK 8 Corporate Version, which provides the highest
level of customization options available.
Easy to use
In tests, I found the kit to be very easy to use, and I was able to quickly
build highly customized installations of IE 8 that I could deploy to employees.
The first thing to do when getting started with IEAK is to perform some
customization of the version of IE 8 that you have running on the system with
IEAK installed. In some instances-especially when it comes to search providers,
add-ons and Favorites-IEAK will pull information from the IE browser on the
same system. So a good first step is to make sure that the browser on that
system has all of the add-ons, search providers and Favorites that you want to
add to your custom install.
The next step is to fire up the Customization Wizard, which walks users
through the entire process of building a custom IE 8 installation.
One somewhat tedious aspect of building custom IE installations is that you
need to run the wizard for each different version of Windows that you need to
support. This means that you might need to build custom installations for
Windows XP, Vista and Windows Server 2003, and then
different versions for each of these platforms for x86 and x64. However, this
has more to do with IE itself than with IEAK.
One of the first steps in the wizard is choosing the platform the IE installation
will run on. The deployment of the custom IE 8 installation can be done through
CD-ROM, downloadable file (in .exe and .msi) or as a configuration file to be
applied to systems that already have IE 8 installed.
Running through the full Customization Wizard can be a bit time-consuming,
so I appreciated that one of the first screens let me choose which areas of the
browser were to be customized. By deselecting browser features that would be
untouched, I could greatly cut down on the number of steps in the wizard.
Another nice feature of IEAK 8 is Automatic Version Synchronization. By
using this feature, I could make sure that my networked installation of IE 8
would always stay up-to-date with the latest versions and patches.