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IE 5 preview coming soon

Microsoft will deliver a "developer preview" release of its forthcoming Internet Explorer 5.0 browser later this month.

NEW ORLEANS--Microsoft will deliver a "developer preview" release of the company's next version of Internet Explorer this month, kicking off a renewed effort to get programmers to take advantage of new underlying features of the Web browser, according to executives.

The enhancements to the development options within Internet Explorer 5.0 will allow users to create a variety of new options for Web page functionality.

Discussion of the next release of IE here at the company's TechEd developer conference represents one of the first public showings of the forthcoming browser technology. Executives from the software giant said the initial release of the software is primarily targeted at developers who want to start adding functions that the new client browsing software will support to their Web sites or Web-based applications.

Users of the developer release will see an interface not unlike that of the current IE 4.0 version. "It won't seem like much of a step at all," said Craig Beilinson, an IE product manager.

New features of IE 5.0 include the following:

  • "Drag and drop" features that will allow a user to take an icon from a Web site and deposit it either to a second frame on the Web page or even to another program, such as Microsoft Word. In a demonstration here today, a computer icon was dragged to a shopping cart icon in a split-frame e-commerce environment. Once the computer icon was dropped, a list of the particulars of the item appeared in the second frame. Similar text appeared in Word when the icon was dragged to that application. The icon could also be dragged to the desktop itself and saved.

  • A "snapshot" capability that will allow pages that include fields for entry of personal information, such as an address or figures for an expense report, to be saved so that when a user returns to that page the information remains intact.

  • Development support for the creation of customized Web pages that do not, for instance, include standard toolbars or navigation controls. The option would allow system developers to create custom pages for corporate intranets, for example.

  • A clearer approach to presenting error messages to end users, as well as new tools so that a Web server can extract various types of information about a computer--whether it is Java-enabled or what type of processor it has, for example--securely before it downloads Web pages. The feature would help to prevent the downloading of pages that might not work within a user's particular browser or hardware configuration.

    The company is putting a heavy emphasis on Dynamic HTML as a programming tool, hoping to cut down the time that Web-based programmers spend coding.

    Executives also pledged that IE 5.0 will offer increased stability and performance. Initial versions of IE 4.0 were known to sometimes crash a PC, prompting a swift round of patches from Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

    Integration between IE and Microsoft's client operating systems has come under intense scrutiny from federal regulators, resulting in a lawsuit filed by the government and 20 states. The browser's integration with the forthcoming Windows 98 release, however, was not broached during the presentation.

    A beta release of IE 5.0 will follow soon after the developer preview. "It should be a relatively similar beta cycle to what you've seen from us in the past," Beilinson said.

    Netscape Communications reacted to the news of an IE 5 preview with nonchalance.

    "Microsoft releasing IE 5 to developers is a nonevent for us," said Eric Byunn, Netscape's group product manager for Communicator. "We are proceeding on our development path and our communication with developers according to the plan we laid out in the beginning of the year: releasing our source code, working with the development community all along, and moving a product into beta later this year."

    Netscape retains a larger share of the browser market with its Navigator software, according to most surveys, but has felt significant pressure from the Microsoft juggernaut.

    To spur its own developers on, Netscape has chosen to offer its source code for free, hoping to gain an advantage via the creation of a developer network based on third-party input.

    Net reporter Paul Festa contributed to this report.