Microsoft has posted its first Internet Explorer 5.0 Developer Preview, an early look at the next-generation Web browser. Unlike IE 4.0, IE 5.0 doesn't change your Windows shell dramatically, but rather the changes are largely found under the hood. There are some cosmetic changes, however: For example, the Channel button is gone from the IE toolbar. Now, channels have been integrated into the Favorites menu. Offline sites are grouped together in the Favorites menu as well, and when you organize your Favorites, you will be greeted with a new, easier-to-use dialog box.

Microsoft is touting the following new features in IE 5.0:

  • A new tool automatically upgrades Internet Explorer in applications such as Quicken or America Online to the 5.0 version.
  • Next-generation CSS support.
  • Extensible Markup Language support that allows developers mix XML tags into HTML documents.
  • Full drag-and-drop object support.
  • New scripting capabilities that tell developers what technologies have been enabled or disabled on the client's Web browser.
  • A new HTML rendering engine that presents DHTML and data-aware documents faster.
Also of note in this release: it's a lot smaller than IE 4.0. The minimal install is only 8 MB, while a full install runs about 18 MB. This compares to a minimal IE 4.0 install that's about 12 MB.

On the Outlook Express side, the layout tools have been organized under Tools-Options, and the Outlook Bar--conspicuously--is missing in this release. No fear, however: Microsoft will return the Outlook Bar in a future release. The most obvious change in Outlook Express is the addition of the new Address Book in the Folders list, which is displayed by default.

One thing missing from the IE 5.0 Developer Preview is "Chrome", a new display technology that combines DirectX with Dynamic HTML. Microsoft is now saying that Chrome will be marketed as a separate product from IE 5 and will, as such, not be included in IE 5.0 but will be available separately for Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0.

If you just gotta have it, you can download the IE 5.0 Developer Preview now from the Microsoft Web site

Please be advised that this is a developer release, however: It is not yet feature complete. If you just want more information about the new browser, check out this overview on the Microsoft Site Builder Web site

For the record, Microsoft is saying that the final release of IE 5.0 is due "within a year from now.