Microsoft says a release candidate version of its Internet Explorer 8 Web browser is imminent and developers ought to get ready for it.
In an interview with eWEEK, Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer for Microsoft, said, “If I had a bumper sticker in mind for this it would say: ‘Developers, start your engines.'”
Hachamovitch said Microsoft has been doing a lot of work since IE 8 Beta 2. “To me a beta is all about listening, and we’ve done that and focused a lot of work on putting the things we learned from developers into RC1 [Release Candidate 1], and that’s just around the corner,” he said. “It’s all about developers. There’s a sense of urgency about getting ready for the next release. It’s about helping developers understand how to sign off on their sites-so they’ll be ready when IE 8 RC comes out.”
Even as the release candidate of IE 8 arrives, Microsoft will still be testing the technology and listening to further feedback from developers to figure out what else needs to be done to the browser before it is made generally available as a finished product, Hachamovitch said.
Hachamovitch also said one of the unsung elements of IE 8 is the set of built-in developer tools for the platform.
“IE has got these super powerful built-in developer tools; they come with the browser, they’re there,” he said. “The developer tools in IE 8 were built for rapid iteration-in the old days that was called trial and error. So it’s easy to identify what’s in-memory.”
A Microsoft blogger identified as “Shaan” wrote in March: “The Internet Explorer 8 Developer Tools also provide the ability to experiment and iterate rapidly by letting you edit a site within IE. For example, once you’ve found a style rule or property you’re interested in, click a checkbox to enable or disable it, or click an attributes in the DOM [Document Object Model] tree to edit it in place.”
Hachamovitch said the IE developer tools also include a script profiler to make it easier for developers to identify and fix performance issues.
Developing and Debugging in IE 8
“In some ways tools are the best things developers have in the face of browsers that behave differently,” Hachamovitch said.
Moreover, “Microsoft contributed 2,500 tests to the W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] so that people can ensure that CSS 2.1 [Cascading Style Sheets] work right, and with RC1 we’re going to contribute 1,000 more. It’s like playing scales-if you can’t play the scales, you can’t play the music right,” Hachamovitch said. He said these tests are important “because browsers can behave so differently, so these CSS tests are crucial.”
The IE 8 tools also provide a visual interface to the platform. As Shaan wrote:
“In addition to simplifying the debugging process, IE 8 Developer Tools offer a new perspective on your site. Instead of just a source view, the tool provides visibility into Internet Explorer’s internal representation of the site. For example, the DOM tree in the tool is built from the tree IE builds internally to display the page, not from your source. So if script changes the tree, IE 8 shows you the updated tree.“
Ben Galbraith, one of the co-directors of the recently formed Mozilla Developer Tools Lab, said Microsoft has implemented an integrated set of developer tools inside of IE 8 that strongly resemble both the interface and capabilities of Firefox’s wildly popular “Firebug” plug-in. He said he and the co-director of the Mozilla tools lab, Dion Almaer, “couldn’t be more happy to see this happen. I haven’t taken a close enough look at it to compare it to Firebug in any detailed way, but it seems very handy indeed.”
“Interestingly, IE 8 includes a new layout engine (whereas IE7 just introduced enhancements to the existing engine). Time will tell how well this works with standards-based content and whether it’s a boon or a bane. At first glance, it certainly makes life more complicated. At PDC [the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference], one of the engineers in the IE 8 technical session teased the audience with a mention that a future version of Office and the IE 8 layout engine will share common code-which would have interesting implications for a non-Silverlight Web version of Office.“