Introducing the SitePoint Web Slices and Accelerator for IE8

Matthew Magain

For those readers who browse the Web using Internet Explorer (the stats don’t lie — there are plenty of you out there!), and for those browser polygamists amongst you, we’re excited to announce an incentive for you (or perhaps your company’s IT policy makers) to upgrade once IE8 is released next year: the SitePoint Web Slices and the SitePoint Reference Accelerator. In fact, if you’re OK with running a beta version of IE8, you can use them right now!

What are Web Slices?

I like to think of a Web Slice as a “bookmark on steroids”. Web Slices are a new feature in Internet Explorer 8 (the Beta 2 release of which is currently available for download).

A Web Slice allows you to view a subset of a page in a handy dropdown window that is accessible from your Favorites toolbar. Unlike traditional dropdown menus, the content in the web slice can be styled using CSS, and can include images, so it really is a “slice” of a web page.

What are Accelerators?

An Accelerator, on the other hand, is a custom lookup tool that users can add to their context menu in Internet Explorer. We realised that this technology was perfect for the content contained in the SitePoint Reference, and built an Accelerator that searches the SitePoint HTML and CSS Reference sites for any text that the user has highlighted.

Suppose you’re reading some code on a blog, and you notice an element, attribute or property with which you’re unfamiliar. All you have to do is highlight the code, right-click to look it up in the SitePoint Reference, and you’ll get instant access to a description, syntax, browser compatibility, and more!

B … b … but what about standards, and all that…?

Web slices and Accelerators are new features of IE8, so you do need to be running that browser to use them. Note however that they’re built using existing web standards—XML, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Additionally, implementing Web Slices or Accelerators on your site doesn’t prevent other visitors from accessing information on your site—they’re just an added benefit that IE8 visitors can take advantage of to consume your content.

OK, let me at ’em!

A screenshot of the SitePoint News & Trends web sliceIf you’re already running IE8 (you need the latest available version, Beta 2) then we’d love you to install our Web Slices and Accelerator right now and let us know what you think!

The SitePoint Web Slices

We’ve created five Web Slices for the sitepoint.com home page, and may create more (if you have any ideas or requests, let us know in the comments!).

Installing a Web Slice is easy. When your mouse pointer passes over an area of the page that contains a Web Slice, a green icon pops up which indicates the part of the page that the slice represents. Click on the icon, and you’ll be prompted to add the Web Slice to your Favorites toolbar.

Grab the Web Slices by hovering your mouse over the various parts of our home page that you’re interested in; you can also install each of the Web Slices directly using the links at the bottom of this page.

The SitePoint Reference Accelerator

Installing and using the SitePoint Reference Accelerator is equally straightforward. Just visit the home page for the SitePoint Accelerator, and click the Install Accelerator link (once again, this is for IE8 only).

Stay tuned for future posts to this blog that describe how to build Web Slices and Accelerators for your own site!

A screenshot of the SitePoint Reference Site Accelerator

Killer Features For IE?

The Web Slice and Accelerator technologies are two very cool and welcome additions to Internet Explorer. While die-hard fans of browsers like Opera and Firefox are unlikely to be convinced, these features alone will probably be reason alone for the many “swinging voters” out there to at least give IE8 a test drive once it is released, and could possibly be a huge incentive for users of older versions of IE to upgrade. We believe that the SitePoint Accelerator, for instance, is an enormously useful tool for web developers. And it’s one that is only available in IE8 (at this stage, anyway).

Innovations like these are strong indications that Microsoft is taking the next version of its web browser very seriously.

What other Web Slices and Accelerators would you like to see SitePoint create? Let us know in the comments!

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  • http://armchaircritic.declarationend.co.uk armchaircritic

    Nice work guys. Can’t say I use IE myself, but I’ll probably load these into the v8 beta for a fiddle and a tune. ;)

  • http://www.magain.com/ mattymcg

    Thanks Andy! James is the one who did the heavy lifting. Expect him to say more on the process of building them at a later date.

  • http://manwithnoblog.com tuna

    This site BESTED viewed with IE8 – lol “here we go again”, at least they are add ons, leveraging browser specific embedded features that don’t have to be implemented in the site. Suppose that’s one saving grace!

  • dave

    There is the ‘WebChunks’ add-on for Firefox that according to the description; Webchunks is a Firefox 3 implementation of Microsoft Webslices (feature appeared with IE8).

    This might not be an IE8 only feature for too long.

  • zuneone

    I’d never switch back after using IE8 for the last few months. To hell with standards I say.

  • http://www.digitalgreenlight.com busy

    They seem like interesting enough features, but I don’t think they’re going to be the thing that gets rid of all the IE6 users that are still out there. I’d be more than happy to be proved wrong on this though.

  • Anonymous

    Safari for Mac has had a similar feature for a long time – you simply choose “Open in Dashboard” and you can select any part of the page you want. The page-let is then kept updated in the Dashboard.

  • http://www.magain.com/ mattymcg

    @Anonymous: You’re right, it’s similar, but IE’s web slices allow you to style the segment of the web page differently from the page, if you choose (we’ve removed the thumbnails from the News & Trends web slice, for instance, to save space). Plus you can make it a one-click install to your browser’s bookmarks bar; Safari forces you to use the Dashboard to view, and forces/allows/empowers the user to define the region they clip. Horse for courses, and all that…

  • Anjay Kumar KC

    I love the way you guys put this stuff up!