Having just installed the beta for IE9 this morning I thought I’d share my initial reactions to the new interface.

I should probably say at this stage that I’m quite an avid Firefox user and have been since around version 1.5.

So here we go the long awaited (really?) UI facelift to Microsoft’s browser

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As you can see they have put quite a lot of effort in to keeping things clean and simple, gone are most of the icons and options. Left behind are some minimalist “white-out” icons and some context sensitive buttons at the end of the address/search bar.

While undoubtedly this approach does look good, I’m not sure how practical it will turn out to be. There are two objections I have to this new layout. First is that there seems to be no way of  increasing the space given over to tabs. They live to the right of the address bar and that’s it. There is no apparent way of moving the tabs onto their own row to give more “capacity”. I can see this being quite a problem for internet power users who normally have dozens (if not hundreds) of tabs open at a time.

The second is the criminal waste of space at the top of the window. The area above the tab/address bar that is given over to chrome. I know in most applications you still have a “dead” area here but in IE9 it just feels bigger… (also what’s with the cut off “back” button?!

On the other hand this is my Firefox window for comparison:

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The top bar is quite cluttered with all the “file, edit, etc…” but this should vanish in Firefox 4 with its consolidated menu system (or I could use a plugin). The space next to that is my dedicated search bar (which then acts as a “jump point” to the search terms in what ever page I’m looking at. Then comes the address bar, and lastly the range of tabs. To me this feels like a much more sensible use of the available space with minimal wasted chrome. (Yes I know that at the bottom of the window I still have the status bar so I’m actually displaying less on the web page but I use the icons down there)

In summary then, I think the IE9 interface is more modern and slick looking while Firefox 3 is looking a bit dated, but i think Firefox is more practical (and customisable) and buy the time Firefox 4 comes out it should look as smooth as IE9.

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