Latest IE 9 Platform Preview available, boosts performance, tops W3C tests

Last week at their Professional Developers Conference (PDC) - which we wrote about last week - Microsoft announced the latest Platform Preview version of Internet Explorer 9. The new version allows developers to continue testing their websites against IE 9’s new rendering engine, so that when it comes out of beta everything looks as good as possible. The previous 5 Platform Previews were downloaded over 2.5 million times according to Microsoft, on top of 10 million downloads of the IE 9 Beta.

Platform Preview 6 brings a variety of performance improvements in the browser, better standards support, and encorporates developer feedback. The main drive here, judging by the updated Test Drive samples, is improved hardware acceleration in SVG and Canvas rendering. This release also betters the previous Platform Previews, the IE 9 Beta and Firefox 4’s pre-release in terms of SunSpider JavaScript benchmarks; it still trails Chrome 7, Opera 10.6 and the Chrome 8 Nightly build. CSS support has been improved with 2D rotation transforms as well as improved custom font rendering.

Additional improvements relate to the Developer Tools in IE 9. Much like Chrome’s “Inspector” and the Firefox extension “Firebug”, the Developer Tools are useful for debugging frontend development problems. They now include a JavaScript formatter, so even when production code has been minified, you still stand a chance of being able to understand it with better formatting to help you debug it.

Interestingly, Microsoft have started pushing developers not to use browser detection in their webpages. According to the teams that are helping large corporations move from IE 6 to more recent browsers, this detection feature is more often than not breaking systems that are using IE 9 because the developers have only taken into account IE 7 and 8 when building their code. Instead, Microsoft are pushing the considerably more favourable “feature detection” technique when you need it.

Meanwhile, the latest Platform Preview has come out “most compliant” with the current W3C HTML 5 browser tests, according to The Register. While the tests, specs, nor browser are yet entirely complete, things are looking good for standards support in IE 9.

If you would like to give feedback on the Platform Preview, you can do so at Microsoft Connect, or you can download it right away. The Beta is still available if you’re after something a little more stable.

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