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Internet Explorer gets a facelift

Microsoft posted an upgrade to its Windows browser and a new version for Macintosh.

Continuing its frenetic pace of browser development, Microsoft Tuesday night posted an upgrade to the Java capabilities in Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows, as well as a new beta version of the browser for Macintosh.

According to a description on the company's Web site, the Java Support Update improves the performance of the Java just-in-time compiler in the latest version of the browser, Internet Explorer 3.0 beta 2. Just-in-time compilers improve applet performance by translating the programs into code written for a specific processor, which runs faster than Java applets' interpreted code.

The update also improves the stability of Java support so that Internet Explorer can run a greater number of applets. Although all Java licensees are required by Sun Microsystems to ensure that their products work with most applets, the previous version of Explorer was unable to run many of them on the Net.

"There are some applets that break in Explorer," said Kevin Unangst, product manager for Internet Explorer at Microsoft. "It's a small percentage. [With the update,] we've reduced the amount of applets that break."

Microsoft introduced the JIT compiler last week when it posted the latest beta of the browser. With the first release, however, the default setting in the options menu was to have the JIT compiler turned off. With this new release, the default is to have the JIT compiler on, suggesting that Microsoft was less than confident of its stability in the very first release.

The new beta version of Netscape Communications' Navigator 3.0 also includes a JIT compiler, one licensed from Borland International.

The Java Support Update for Explorer also adds support for Unicode, a kind of encoding that will let applets use a variety of writing systems, including those that require double-byte characters such as Japanese and Chinese.

This week, Microsoft also posted beta 1 of Internet Explorer 2.1 for Mac, which features improved "favorites" options, frames support, and table border colors.

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MS prepares Unix version of Explorer
Explorer 3.0 beta posted sans Java
MS ships Explorer 2.0 for Macintosh
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Comparative review of Navigator and Explorer