With Internet Explorer 5.0, Microsoft hopes to eliminate some of the browser complexity that it introduced with Internet Explorer 4.0.
Explorer 5.0, released in its first wide beta test recently, will incorporate the Office desktop suite's IntelliSense technology, add refined search capabilities, automate several features, animate select features, and add a Windows Synchronization Manager to organise offline browsing.
Explorer 4.0, released in September 1997, was aimed at making the Internet as ubiquitous as possible for the user, said Mike Nichols, Microsoft product manager.
In the process, though, many features, such as Channels, integrated search features, and myriad folders and favourites have made the browser bigger and, for some, more cumbersome.
Early next year
Explorer 5.0, which has no major user-interface changes, is expected to ship in the first quarter of 1999.
Microsoft also released beta versions of Explorer 5.0 for Windows 3.x and one flavour of Unix, Sun Solaris; versions for the Macintosh and HP-UX are on the horizon.
The offering will include "Web Accessories" from content partners, customisable bars that reside at the bottom of the user's screen. Four partners - The New York Times, The Microsoft Network, Bloomberg Financial Services, and Alexa Internet - put out beta versions of Web Accessories.
For developers, the beta version includes enhanced Extensible Markup Language support.
Also included is a beta version of the newest Internet Explorer Administration Kit, or IEAK, which helps IT managers configure and distribute the browser.