Windows 8.1: Best Experience of Your Web with Sites and Apps together

This blog post is part of a series of guest posts we’re publishing this week from different people in groups across Microsoft who helped us build Windows 8.1. – Brandon

With the general availability of Windows 8.1, you’ll get the best experience of your sites and apps together on your favorite Windows device.

In Windows 8.1, IE11 delivers an experience that is fast, fluid and perfect for touch. IE11 puts your web sites first, delivering the best web on Windows across the full range of Windows devices and screen sizes that’s equally great for touch, mouse, and keyboard. You can have as many open tabs as you want, and side-by-side browsing with your favorite sites and Windows Store apps together.

As Group Program Manager for Internet Explorer, I am fortunate to work with the team of driven, energetic engineers who are passionate about the web. With the help of many teams in Windows and across Microsoft, we are responsible for making sure your experience of the web on Windows is the best it can be. Here are just a few of my favorite features in IE11 that take advantage of the great capabilities of Windows 8.1.

Live tiles for apps and sites

Windows 8.1 with IE 11 introduces support for live tile notifications when you pin your favorite web sites. Your pinned sites can now be alive with activity, pulling data directly from the websites so your Start screen is updated with the latest posts, scores or stocks – information from the Web right on your Start screen.

Together with the Start screen team in Windows, we designed the live tile support for sites to enable all the same tile sizes and layouts that apps enjoy. We set out to make it as easy as possible for developers to build live tile notifications using the existing RSS feeds for their sites, and we built BuildMyPinnedsite.com to help developers to create beautiful tiles and live notification support with just a few clicks.

On my Start screen I pin my favorite sites like Techmeme, Gizmodo, and deviantART for live notifications, alongside with my favorite apps like Flixster, Bing Weather, Bing Finance, and Twitter.

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My Windows 8.1 Start screen with live tiles for sites and apps

Side-by-side with sites and apps

Windows 8.1 is great for getting things done quickly with apps and site together. The IE team works closely with the rest of Windows to ensure that IE is fast and fluid when following a link into the browser from another modern app, and when launching modern apps from the browser. We designed the 50/50 split specifically with the modern IE experience in mind, to make the most common patterns of using apps and websites together automatic on Windows. No other tablet makes side by side multitasking this easy.

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Opening a site automatically side by side from Mail

Clicking a link from the Mail app or launching an article from the Reading List app IE is automatically arranged side-by-side. You can check a map while reading directions to a friend’s house. And whether you are using a small device or a large one, you can see two things at once on the web by opening multiple windows of IE side-by-side.

You can easily compare two sites at once or use two sites together by launching multiple, full-featured windows of IE11.

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Comparing two sites opened side by side in IE

One Click Calling

One of my favorite time savers is making a Skype call directly from IE, side by side with a site. IE automatically detects and highlights phone numbers on a webpage. When you see a phone number, just tap on it and begin your call right next to your webpage using a calling app like Skype or Lync. It’s incredibly useful when you are making a reservation or appointment, or want to talk to customer service right from a webpage.

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IE automatically recognizes phone numbers making a call with Skype a click away

Fast and fluid reading

Like many Windows customers, I spend a lot of time on the web reading. Since the release preview, we introduced a new Reading View in IE11, which is optimized to display text from the Web in a beautiful, full-screen view within the browser. Reading view automatically stiches together multi-page articles and adjusts for your screen size and orientation. Sitting back with your Windows 8.1 tablet and reading the web has never been as easy and enjoyable.

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Reading view in IE11 for a beautiful, fast, fluid reading experience, especially on tablets

Best for touch, mouse, and keyboard

You want touch to just work – but some sites haven’t gotten around to it. IE11 has many improvements to make touch just work– like giving always reliable feedback when you tap a link, HTML5 drag and drop support, and making common patterns like hover menus work.

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A long press to open hover menus with touch and access the command bar

Some of the feedback from the release preview was that opening the IE address bar isn’t as easy using the mouse on a non-touch laptop or PC, compared with tablets. We worked with the Windows apps team to come up with a solution that improves access to the app bar with mouse and maximizes the screen for your content. We added a “peek” for easier access to the address bar in IE by keeping a minimal 15 pixel bar at the bottom of the screen that you can always click on bring up the address bar. You’ll find the same great experience in the Mail and Calendar apps in Windows 8.1.

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Hovering your mouse over the app bar “peek” for a hint, clicking opens the address bar

Enhanced for large screens

For some people browsing on large screens like big all-in-one PCs is important. We made IE great for that too. On my desktop PC, I turn on “Always show address bar and tabs”. When I browse I make the most of my big screen. It’s easy to switch tabs, get to my favorites, and navigate with the mouse.

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Make the most of your large screen with “Always show address bar and tabs”

With IE11 and Windows 8.1 you can browse the way you want whether you are using touch, or mouse and keyboard, and whether you are on a small device or a large one.

Best stage for your sites

We optimized the IE11 browsing engine for real-world sites to download and display fast and be highly responsive to touch. Over multiple releases we’ve built IE on the underlying support in Windows for graphics hardware acceleration and fast, fluid touch input for modern devices. We’re fortunate to work side by side with experts in 3D graphics, composition, and rendering, with the deepest understanding of the Windows graphics stack and modern hardware. By building together and optimizing for Windows we can ensure great performance and battery life while enabling exciting new experiences for the web.

Developers can build next generation experiences with professional-quality web video, and hyper-fast 2D and 3D web technologies that make the most of the underlying hardware. IE11 supports real world standards and compatibility, and new developer tools enable developers to build high-performance web experiences on Windows devices.

Here are just a few examples of how the web is better for developers with IE11:

Modern Web development is easier. IE11 supports the latest standards and frameworks actively used by web developers. Brand new F12 tools in IE enable iterative, visual debugging and tuning of web sites. Modern.ie enables cross-browser testing, no matter where you choose to develop.

Hardware-accelerated 3D web graphics. Interoperable WebGL experiences run on all devices, taking advantage of GPU acceleration. IE11 scans for unsafe WebGL content and implements a software-based renderer to complement the GPU. With Windows, graphics subsystem failures are not fatal, and WebGL continues to run. With IE11, your 3D experiences can access device orientation to create new interaction opportunities for immersive web content.

The existing web continues to work – even better: IE11 is interoperable with existing sites, which just run faster and look better in IE. Of course, intranet sites and apps continue to run in IE11, which supports Compatibility View.

Enable professional-quality video experiences on the Web. IE11 enables HTML5 video without plugins. IE11 supports the latest standards for closed captioning, streaming that adapts to available network bandwidth, and rights management—so all your video content can be as good as the professionals. Power-efficient video streaming in Windows 8.1 extends battery life for web video.

Get ready for the best web on Windows

We built IE11 to make the web great on Windows 8.1 and getting to the sites you love fast and using apps and sites together. These are just a few of the ways IE11 on Windows 8.1 delivers the best web experience on any tablet.

We’re excited for you to try IE11 when you update to Windows 8.1 from the Windows Store starting tomorrow, and enjoy the absolutely best browsing experience on your Windows device!

Rob Mauceri
Group Program Manager
Internet Explorer