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 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!