Internet Explorer 8 user interface is not fat.

After posting the screenshot of the new Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 toolbar yesterday, I’ve heard a lot of people complain about how wide (vertically) the toolbars have become. Understandably that was a concern to many users because a browser should devote as many pixels as it could for the content and not itself.

The assumption comes from IE8 having twice as many toolbars as IE7 did, and thus it was perfectly reasonable to come to the conclusion it took up twice as much screen real-estate. Because I had posted a resized image of the interface, it was difficult to prove if that was indeed the case.

In response, I made this original-size side-by-side comparison of the two browser interfaces.

Internet Explorer 8 toolbar vs Internet Explorer 7

(Left) Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 toolbar. (Right) Internet Explorer 7 toolbar with links menu enabled.

Internet Explorer 8 toolbar vs Internet Explorer 7

(Left) Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 toolbar. (Right) Internet Explorer 7 toolbar without links menu enabled.

As you can see, the IE8 interface is barely any larger than the IE7 interface. The exact different is only 8 pixels. The tabs too are identical at 33px high. By removing the border above the tabs and joining together the two toolbars, it really looks much more spaced out at the cost of barely anything. In my opinion, it’s well worth the difference.

Update: A few people have pointed out because IE7 doesn’t enable the links menu by default, it was not an accurate representation of the IE7 interface. I’ve now added another comparison with the links menu disabled. The difference now becomes 30 pixels. However I should add I don’t think this is fair comparison and I’m also pretty sure the links menu in IE8 can too be disabled.

Speaking of which, I took the quick opportunity to also make a comparison with Firefox 2. Granted it’s a bit of an apple vs. oranges comparison, the difference is a staggering 20 pixels.

Internet Explorer 8 toolbar vs Firefox 2

(Left) Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 toolbar. (Right) Firefox 2 toolbar with bookmarks menu enabled.

73 insightful thoughts

  1. Is that new toolbar necessary? Can it be turned off? I would be very annoyed if I had to have that on my screen. I use IE7 most of the time, so I’m familiar with it.

  2. That oughta shut ’em up. πŸ˜› I still see room for improvement, though. The height of the bookmarks/links bar could be reduced by a few pixels, the space provided above and below is more than necessary.

  3. Hi Long. Is that FF customised to use small icons? Might be worthwhile throwing in a 2nd comparison if thats not the case – since youve got me curious πŸ˜‰


  4. This is a fair IE7 to IE8 comparison. My question is whether or not the new Links toolbar can be turned off as can be done now. I don’t care for the Links toolbar now and I don’t want it later. The current Links toolbar has got to be a good 15+ pixels, and the new one is apparently 23+. I think that’s what people may be complaining about.

  5. @AW:
    So he can draw views from the raging firefox psychos who will eventually come to defend their browser. Flame wars are how people get high visiblity.
    That or he was just curious.

  6. Guess what? I don’t use the menu bar on IE7, since it’s completely unnecessary for daily use. That makes IE8’s bar a hell of a lot fatter than IE7’s.

    Still not as fat as Firefox though.

    I really hope you can turn that bar off, and relocate the favorites buttons on the tab bar, like in IE7. What would make it even better was if the ‘add favorites’ button was inside the ‘favorites’ menu. When I add a page to my favorites, I still click the favorites star first, before realizing that I should have clicked the button next to it.

  7. @Chustar: That’s a very good theory, but I was just curious. Besides, I use Firefox full-time too so it concerns me as well.

  8. I wonder what’s the use of the menu bar in IE7… I nerver used it and I can perfectly live with the very good Favorites pane. A welcome change in IE7 was its clean and unintrusive interface. I really, really hope that the ugly additional toolbar can be switched off.

  9. Your comparison does IE8 vs IE7 with the links toolbar turned on. What people are really ranting about is rather IE8 vs IE7 with no other toolbars aside from the navigation and the tabs. For it’s own sake, there better be an option to revert to the old style. I’ve never added a favorite to any toolbar, and nor has anyone I’ve ever known. I find the extra click perfectly acceptable and preferable, considering the space that you don’t waste.

    Plus, do we really need to have the extra large explanation in the form of the string “Favorites” in order to remember that the star icon stands for Favorites? Haven’t we been brainwashed into knowing that since some very old version of IE?

  10. @David: For what do you need the old style menus? I also never understand why people enable this thing in the new Windows Explorer in Vista.

  11. if there was an option to place the favorites on the same row as tabs (like before) and remove links fine.

    better if the default was like ie7.

    No one wants the custom links (at least not the majority).

    No one wants the favorites taking unnecessary screen estate.


  12. i forgot to add that most people have at least one toolbar – google, yahoo, ask, or even windows live.

    in fact there is a new beta silverlight msn toolbar in the works right

    people DO NEED a toolbar. people DO NOT NEED custom links.

    a toolbar takes enough real estate as it is.

    why does anyone think adding an additional non-essential row is sensible?

  13. @wojtekmaj: The difference in font rendering is the result of my Photoshopping.

  14. I’ve gotten used to the pop-out when needed side pane favourites in IE7, so I hope the new links bar can be disabled, I prefer the extra space myself.

  15. As long as users have the *option* of moving the Favorites back down into the tab strip I’m all for it, though why they even need to change it is beyond me.

  16. Microsoft moves two icons (favorites and add favorite) a few pixels higher, making the toolbar height 30 pixels larger, and that is the new IE 8 interface? Mindboggling, amazing, fantastic, I am super duper Wowed. Now the WOW really starts. What a revolutionary improvment in usability, what a brilliant never thought of fantastic idea. Love it love it love it.

  17. I like how the domain name is bold. It really will make it easier to tech users how to spot phishing attacks when you can tell them to just look at the bold part of the address.

    And Fredirk, I’m sure that there is more going on with the browser than just a couple of pixels. I know you were being sarcastic, but still, I’m sure there is a little bit more.

  18. As several others have pointed out – how do you get to your favourites if you’ve disabled the links toolbar in IE8?

    It’s a pointless and unnecessary change.

  19. You are SO full of shit.
    My FF bar is all of 81 pixels tall, after i set up the UI to best use, and this is even with me being nice and displaying the BIG icons (that i had to turn ON just for this post)
    Here is a direct link to the ui.
    So YES, the IE UI is Ugly as HELL, AND it wastes to much goddamn space. get over your self, and migrate on over to Linux.

  20. I know that Microsoft took a lot of heat for the UI changes in IE7, but count me among those who like the simplified, shorter interface. It’s one of the main reasons that I still use IE more than Firefox. As long as I can turn off the links bar in IE8 and still retain the bookmark buttons (without keeping the new row) I’ll be happy, but (as others have said) are there really so many people who use the links feature to justify turning it on by default?
    Also, I rather like the bit of white space between the top of the tabs and the bottom of the navigation row in IE7.

    I was hoping that if Microsoft was going to make changes to the the UI for IE8, they would be significant changes that would really advance usability (for example, perhaps adding a small start orb). If the UI in this beta is representative of the look of the final release, the company, in my view, has instead made minor changes slightly for the worse. I hope the changes under the hood are more impressive.

  21. that ie8 vs ff2 comparisson really shows just how shit ie8 bloat bar is..( why didn’t you compare IE8 with the file menu to FF) and I mean at least with ff2 you actually got useful buttons/menus and shortcuts while IE8 you gotta go looking around for that crap in its retarded UI for nubs.. I suppose the funny thing is you’re comparing an awful UI to FF which also has an awful UI…and I mean that generally as in the icons graphics, layout etc – all cRAP

    Long why don’t you get some IE8 beta benchmarks or what IE8 really brings to the table, as its layout and UI hasn’t had jack shit improvement really… we don’t really want noob browser layout comparisons especially when you’re just comparing crap crap as in the case so far.

  22. and look at that you still see white pixels left on the ie8 tab corner graphics.. lazy bastards haven’t even bothered cleaning IE7 shity UI one little bit.

  23. I use IE7 as my sole browser since switching to Vista. I loved Firefox when i had it, but it doesn’t do much more than IE7 EXCEPT for the add-ons. I never used those that much, so it’s not a big idea. I don’t like the idea of a Browser becoming more than it should.

    That said, i did miss the ad blocking and spell checking defaulted by Firefox, but that was fixed with the IE7Pro addon.

  24. Just want to clarify something, Firefox is good, but not that good… There are just so many things Firefox can’t do in a web designer’s view. Don’t get me wrong, but the ugliness of it can only go as far to make it look bad, People who use Firefox must not have put add-on to it making it slow, ugly and fat.

    As for IE. Yes, it is not that great, but it is not that bad. The only problem I have with it is it is connect to the system core itself. Just like many people have say, it is very unsafe to have a software bound with system. That is asking hackers to drop virus and hack to computers. Only if IE can be separate from the system and standalone program, then I think IE will be much better. Just my 2 cents.

  25. Whoa! a lot of people seem to have an fairly open mind to what they wanna say about the comparision, also remember this is a “BETA” and in its very first stages…um sure what we are seeing now, has nuthin to do with the final product or look of the UI, same as the sceenshots were are seeing of Win7, people only wanna point out the negative “oh this is vista” or “it looks like crap”….but cant get it in there heads thats its all BETA as of now…

    get it together folks…


  26. Gotta love how the firefox zealots rushed in to defend their favorite browser with insightful commentaries like ‘IE sucks’, just as was predicted early on in the comments.

    So predictable. πŸ™‚

  27. Firefox fans boys are as bad as Mac fan boys.

    Anything that goes against the mighty (and awesome) Microsoft.

  28. It looks quite nice (and I use a mixture of browsers like Opera, Flock, IE7 and Firefox). But what is it doing on on every site when it loads? It slows down badly, anyone got a tip to speed it up?

  29. What’s with all the Firefox trolling? I don’t hate Firefox, but it’s unnecessary to post “Get Firefox” in a post mainly about IE8.

    Like other have said, I liked IE7’s streamlined menu. I hope IE8 doesn’t lose that nice feature. And for those people who are comparing it to the new FF3, you do have to remember their BOTH betas. Nothing’s final until it’s finished.

  30. Hehehehe… since we are talking about Firefox here… hehe… let me introduce you a little extension called Compact menu 2

    It actually gets back those “staggering 20 pixels”

    And for the comment “7, but count me among those who like the simplified, shorter interface”… well just let me link to:

    I could really do this all day long… but… well i’ve got better things to do πŸ˜‰

  31. But will there be a feature to make the icons small like there was in IE6? And plus I’m sure you can hide it the toolbar.

  32. In Firefox that link bar can be shut off. Rather that do that I moved it to after the drop down text menu. One less toolbar in height then, yet you still have links. I have on the first bar, the text drop downs followed by the links…the second bar is the address and search…the third bar is the tabs.

  33. FF is big pile of shit – that goes out to all the FF nubs who think its so great πŸ˜‰

    it looks like some bloated chunk.. the skins/graphics for it are designed by monkeys – ie most look crap.. not only that but you have to actually restart the whole friggen pile junk just to change a skin theme, same with installing plugins.. oh did I mention its bloated and takes longer than it really should just load up? ooh did I mention that you also need a ton of plugins/mods just to get the same functionality/features/control as certain other browser (maxthon).. and even then most of the plugins seem to be designed by retards, not to mention barely updated. oh and if you don’t mind the crashes poor stability once you’ve got all those addons installed.

    FF wasn’t a bad choice of a browser good back in the IE6 days when IE6 was the biggest pile of steaming shit ever, now its just for tossers/nubs who still think its so great. And can’t be bothered to have a look around at other browsers and open there tiny little minds. And I am not saying that FF2/3 is worse the IE7 or future IE8 though in terms of basic functionality.. because I’m no fan of Microsofts lame browser efforts either.. and I’ll slag them off just as much for some of lamest things about IE. Not that its even worth bothering mentioning where IE has gone wrong because MS live and work in a little world of there own.

  34. i use Fx for things i usually come back to every so often, like that graphics card i’m drooling over at Newegg or that Grindhouse-style giganto DVD boxset at Amazon…

    but when i want to get in and out real quick, like to pull down a driver or play a video embedded on this site (Windows Live Mail doesn’t support Flash, but what if……), then i use good ole IE7 for that.

    i don’t even trust my online banking application with Fx, although i did try it once just to see if it would work.

  35. Wow directimpact you sound like the greatest software developer to ever live so lets see the browser you’ve come up with that shits on both FF and IE.

  36. @ directimpact

    Opera 9.25. Enough said. You obviously have no clue as to what you’re talking about which I think is a pity. Not for you. But for everyone else whos bandwidth you’ve wasted with your ill-constructed comment.

  37. “Opera 9.25. Enough said” …lol don’t me laugh at that might have good benchmarks but thats all it has nothing to gloat ya nub.

  38. @John : Those are add-ons. You noticed that right?

    We’re talking about the current default it comes in. IE8 probably will have a list of add-ons too, including shortening the menu.

    Got you there.

  39. Check out the IE8 Beta 1 download links (not working yet):

    Additionally, here’s the welcome page that you’ll see when you first install IE8:

    As you can see on the welcome page, there’s two new things called WebSlices and Activities. Here’s what describes them:

  40. My goodness gracious me. Some of you readers take everything you see for granted ><”
    You can obviously turn the modified Links bar off and probably even rearrange where the icons have been moved to.
    Some of you also make it clear you believe in browser wars. Please, They’re just as good as each otherΒΉ – they deserve equal rights.

    ΒΉ Sure they both have their pros and cons but reading browser flame wars every 500 kilobytes gets *uruhheghrgeh*

  41. Looks when you open a new tab, instead to the old ABOUT page, there is a nice splash screen with new tab placed on the page background. Forms are also highlighted with a black box. Little different, and not sure how to take IE8 yet.

  42. So far not impressed with standards mode, noticed a few sites already that are “broken”. I see now why they wanted to ship with standards mode turned off. Yeah, it passes acid 2, but last I checked acid 2 is not on my favorites tab to go read.

  43. Maybe they’re broken because they are valid (lol) or because they were designed for it’s legacy.

  44. With FF2 and IE8B1 right next to each other, with all the same menus enabled, both are equally as “fat”. Only difference I can see is that the default setup that the icons in FF2 are defaulted to a bigger size and the menu bar (file, view, etc) is hidden by default in IE8B1.

    With the defaults set:
    FF2: big icons, tab bar, bookmark bar, menu bar
    IE8B1: Standard icons, Menu Hidden, Favorits Bar, and Status Bar.

    With these settings there is only a little difference… only a couple of pixels.

  45. IE8 will just be yet another mandatory update from Microsoft that I will never use.

  46. Just to touch on the “out-of the box” stuff, regardless of plugins/ extensions.

    Have you ever tried searching for keywords in a text longer than 100 words? That’s very easy with FX as they dock the search field – just press / and start typing (*). The modeless search dialog of IE7 is something that was kept since notepad and is IMHO a very bad feature – it is always in the way. No “repeat search” with a simple key press [F3], it just slows the user down.

    IE7 gives ridiculously little space for tabs (at the moment I have only 8 tabs open but when I am researching its 20 to 30), so IE8 gets the heads up for making more space. Of course it will never provide same usability as a “tabmix plus”.

    As regards favorites bar the big advantage is that you can organize them multi-dimensionally without the dreaded expand-compact delays and endless scrolling that you get by design with the favorites center. Once you get over 250 favorites you will be thankful for having them in a fast unconfusing menu.

    “Simplifying” the back and forward dropdown buttons was also another misguided attempt at “saving space” and actually made navigation more difficult: A longer list and the user has to decide whether to go back/forward by going above / below the current page link, which clearly breaks the previous metaphor (right-fwd, left-back) and just adds confusion. Why didn’t they just leave this alone “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. I would wish for separate history drop downs to come back with IE8.

    As I am typing this I get my text spell-checked by Firefox another missing feature that I would like Microsoft to add.

    (*) a feature that MS has added to all their commercial products (Office / Development Environments etc.)

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