Developers can now get their hands on a version of Internet Explorer (IE) that contains upcoming features and expanded Web standards support.
Dubbed Internet Explorer Developer Channel, the software is "a fully functioning browser designed to give Web developers and early adopters a sneak peek at the Web platform features we're working on," announced Microsoft in a June 16 statement. Developer Channel, which is being made available to the general public, is available for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 SP1 running IE11. Also required is the full version of .NET Framework 4.0 and PowerShell 3.
Although IE11 is listed as a requirement, "IE Developer Channel can run alongside and independently of IE11," noted the company. The reason is the use of App-V Client technology to virtualize the software. "Using virtualization like this can create a small performance hit, so we don't recommend using this release of Internet Explorer Developer Channel to measure your site's performance," cautioned Microsoft in a FAQ. The company also recommended against deploying the software in enterprise settings, suggesting that it may conflict with existing App-V Clients.
While Chrome, Google's Web browser, has long surpassed Internet Explorer in worldwide usage, IE still commands a significant slice of the market. According to W3Counter's latest figures, IE represented 19.1 percent of the Web browser market in May 2014, ahead of Firefox's 17.6 percent share, but behind Chrome at 37 percent.
In practical terms, developers still have to keep IE in mind when coding for their Websites. Microsoft is giving them a hand with improved F12 developer tools.
The tools, invoked by hitting the F12 key, feature new filters that enable the Memory and UI Responsiveness profilers to do a better job of zeroing in on the causes of slow performance. Event breakpoints provide an "enhanced debugging experience" by quickly pointing users to event-driven bugs. New keyboard shortcuts and header notifications with improved visibility into errors and profiling tool activity help round out the F12 enhancements.
New WebDriver support provides an automated way of testing websites. Microsoft describes WebDriver as an emerging W3C standard akin to "a programmable remote control for developing complex user scenarios and running them in an automated fashion in your website and browser." A sample WebDriver project allows users to see the function in action.
WebGL performance has been improved, reported the company. IE's score jumped from 89 percent to 94 percent with the new software. The Developer Channel implementation of WebGL includes support for 16-bit textures, triangle fans and GLSL (OpenGL Shading Language) built-in variables for improved 3D visuals.