When Microsoft released the public Beta version of Internet Explorer 9 last fall, I began writing a series of Feature Focus articles that touched on each major new feature in this important browser release. Now, with the final version of IE 9 available, it's time to take another look at those new features. I'll start with the Feature Focus articles I've already written up, which will be updated to ensure they are accurate for any changes that have occurred since the Beta. Then, starting next week, I'll add new articles to the series to address features that were added after the Beta, including Tracking Protection and ActiveX Filtering. If I've missed a specific new feature that think should be added, please do let me know.

For more information about Internet Explorer 9, please refer to my Internet Explorer 9 review.

Internet Explorer 9 Features

Pinned Web Sites

IE 9 allows you to pin your favorite web sites to the Windows 7 taskbar in a manner that is similar to the way you pin favorite applications. So your taskbar can contain a mixture of shortcuts for both local, Windows-based applications and web-based applications like Gmail, Amazon, and even the SuperSite for Windows. This mirrors the way you really work on your PC, and is thus logical and intuitive.

Notification Bar

Internet Explorer 9 includes a completely redesigned Notification Bar that now appears on the bottom of the browser window, allowing you to continue reading and browsing the web and deal with notifications on your own schedule. As with many other new IE 9 features, the Notification Bar is less distracting than the feature it replaces.

Download Manager

While Internet Explorer's rivals have had download managers for years, users of the Microsoft browser have had to suffer along with a more limited and less useful downloading capability. Until now, that is: With Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft is finally adding a download manager to the dominant web browser line. And while they may be late to the game, IE 9's download manager is, as you might expect, quite a bit more capable than those of its rivals.

One Box

Like other browsers, Internet Explorer 9 dispenses with the traditionally separate address bar and search box, replacing both with a single control that Microsoft calls the One Box. The IE 9 One Box provides a single place for getting started, whether that means navigating to a particular site or searching for a site, term, or phrase.

Add-On Performance Advisor

The Add-on Performance Advisor is a new UI in the browser that provides a handy way to help users decide which add-ons to disable. The more add-ons you have installed and enabled, the slower the browser gets. But because the previous UI for determining add-on performance was essentially hidden, few users took advantage of this functionality. So in IE 9, a new Add-on Performance Advisor notification will pop-up automatically when you launch the browser and one or more add-ons exceeds a pre-set performance threshold.

Tracking Protection

Tracking Protection is a new IE 9 feature that limits the browser's communication with certain web sites, which in turn prevents content on those sites from tracking your online activities. Tracking Protection performs its magic using one or more tracking protection lists, each of which works like a combination white list and black list.

ActiveX Filtering

ActiveX Filtering is a new IE 9 feature that can block all ActiveX controls from working within the browser via a single switch. Then, users (or corporate administrators) can re-enable controls only on those sites they explicitly trust. You can also to re-enable specific controls globally, so they always work no matter which site you visit.