clip_image001Windows 8/8.1 has continued to improve over its life, providing both changes to existing functionality and adding some whole new stuff along the way. One recipient of both such updates is the Internet Explorer browser – Windows 8.1 saw the upgrade to IE11 (also available on Windows 7 machines too) and some subsequent tweaks appeared as part of the Windows 8.1 Update (or Windows 8.1 Update 1 as most commentators refer to it, in anticipation of future updates to follow…)

There have been some notable changes in the way the “Immersive” IE11 works – that is, the Metro Modern UI version which only really made sense if you were running on a small, touch screen since the UI wasn’t exactly optimised for giant screens and keyboards/meeces.

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The address bar in the IE11 Immersive mode is still at the bottom of the screen, along with the previews of any tabs you have open. There’s better Favourites integration and a whole bunch of other improvements which make the full-screen M**** version of IE a more palatable default choice for a lot of browsing. There’s improved Compatibility Mode, too, though quite a lot of intranet sites and the likes may still require the desktop version. If you browse to a site using the Immersive IE and it needs to do something that’s only supported in Desktop mode, then it will tell you… and you can always get to it with the spanner icon too.

You may have noticed a new icon appearing to the right of the Immersive IE address bar on some sites – a clip_image005new “Reading Mode” which aims to make browsing easier by removing graphics, ads, unnecessary navigation etc from some sites. You won’t see the Reading Mode icon on every site, though – IE analyses the page and will only show the icon if the content is deemed to be suitably structured that it can be displayed in this new way. Web site owners have the option of putting in a tag to disable this too, so if they really want to retain control of the layout then it’s straightforward to do so.

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Here’s a simple comparison – a page with navigation, inline graphics and text…

There may be several Next Page type links on the article, which Reading Mode will try to follow and show you the whole thing in one bite.

clip_image009Here’s the same blog page displayed in the new mode… Read more about it yourself, here.

The same group of Microsoft typography gurus who built the ClearType font-rendering technology which was designed to make it easier to read text on-screen, have even developed a new font called Sitka, which is said to be the first font developed with legibility being measured scientifically during its design.

If you have Sitka installed on your machine, you’re reading it now…

At first glance it looks a bit more like Times New Roman due to its seriffed style (in contrast with the more in-vogue sans serif fonts like Segoe, Calibri, Arial etc… they even make films about such fonts). Wonder what Simon Garfield, author of the excellent Just My Type, would make of it…