Internet Explorer 11 is expected to arrive this year alongside the Windows 8.1 (previously referred to as Windows Blue) update. The jump from IE10 to IE11 is Microsoft’s quickest ever, but that doesn’t mean the new browser will be short on new features. With an early build of Windows 8.1 making the rounds on torrent sites, it’s already possible to take a look at some of the new functionality.
The Modern (you know, Metro) version of IE11 features several welcome updates. For starters, the SkyDrive-powered browser synchronization now supports your active tabs — just like Chrome and Firefox do. That makes it a snap to restart your browsing session on another Windows 8 machine when you get bumped off, say, the living room HTPC. Sign in with your Windows ID elsewhere and you can pick up where you left off.
IE11 also introduces a download manager in Modern mode. Just like on the desktop, it provides quick access to your download history and to the folder where your files are being saved. Clicking one, however, will spawn a Windows Explorer pane on the desktop since there’s not a Modern file manager in Windows 8.1 just yet.
The desktop browser hasn’t been left out, either. It’s pretty much identical to IE10 so far, but there’s one important change. IE11 on the desktop supports the same touch navigation features as its Windows 8 modern/Metro counterpart. That uniformity is welcome, and it’ll help prevent frustration for users who flip back and forth between the two interfaces.
Other changes will affect both versions. WebGL support should finally arrive in IE11, now that those security issues that were troubling Microsoft have been sorted out. It stands to reason that tab sync will work on both the desktop and Modern versions, too.
All in all, IE11 looks like another step in the right direction from Microsoft. It’s further proof that the company wants to leave those troubling memories of IE6 far behind.