Internet Explorer 11 Developer Preview Hits Windows 7

Microsoft offers Website builders a peek at IE11's GPU-enhanced, HTML5-friendly and JavaScript-boosting features.


In preparation for the official launch of Windows 8.1 and IE11 later this year, Microsoft has released the Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) Developer Preview for Windows 7.

IE 11 is one of several upgrades and enhancements that are set to be included in the highly anticipated "Blue" update to the Windows 8 operating system. While features like the resurrected Start button and boot-to-desktop option have dominated the buzz surrounding Windows 8.1, IE11 stands to have an effect on more than just Windows users.

As of May, IE clung to 55.8 percent of the browser market. While other browsers like Google Chrome have been steadily chipping away at Microsoft's dominance over the years, IE remains the benchmark on which many Web developers base their Website building efforts.

And those developers may find IE11 too big to ignore when it finally arrives on Windows 7, hinted the company in an IEBlog post.

"With IE11 for Windows 7, customers receive all of the performance, security and under-the-hood changes that enable a compatible Web experience. The Developer Preview makes it easier to build exciting Web content that will eventually be available to over 700 million Windows users," blogged Internet Explorer group program managers Sandeep Singhal and Rob Mauceri.

Speed, responsiveness and efficient use of power—a boon for tablet users in particular—were among Microsoft's priorities during the browser's development. To deliver snappy, battery-extending browsing experiences, the IE team is enlisting the PC's graphical subsystem.

"IE11 introduces new capabilities to improve real-world Website performance. IE11 is the first browser to natively decode JPG images in real-time on the GPU, so pages load faster and use less memory, reducing power consumption and improving battery life. IE11 is also the first browser to render text on the GPU," the post said. WebGL support also calls for some of GPU's pixel-pushing prowess. The technology allows browsers to render complex, interactive 2D and 3D scenes.

Microsoft boasts that IE11 is the first browser to adhere to the W3C Resource Priorities standard, allowing developers to determine the order in which a Web page's elements are loaded. Other performance-enhancing features include support for SPDY network protocol and HTML5 link prefetching and pre-rendering.

In terms of video, Microsoft is finally fully committed to HTML5. "Internet Explorer 11 enables high-quality, power-efficient HTML5 video without plug-ins," wrote Singhal and Mauceri. In another battery-sparing move, IE11 can cache video data without writing it to disk.

IE's in-browser developer tools, named F12 for the key press required to invoke them, has been revamped to streamline the process of building and optimizing Web pages. New UI responsiveness and memory-profiling tools help developers track the culprits of sluggish Websites.

Developers can now debug JavaScript without refreshing the page. Microsoft claims that its JavaScript engine, Chakra, outclasses the competition in benchmarks like WebKit SunSpider. "On Windows 7, IE11 is 4% faster than IE10, and nearly 30% faster than the nearest competitive browser," stated Singhal and Mauceri.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...