IE 10 Metro vs Desktop Mode

Windows 8 is going to be released at the end of the year with two different versions of Internet Explorer 10: Metro and Desktop. Confused? Well, if you’re not confused yet, you will be! Microsoft’s reasoning for having two versions is to have one version match the new Metro UI and have one version for everyone who will hate the Metro UI and want the same interface they have known for over a decade.

Here’s what the Bing homepage looks like on IE 10 Metro mode:

ie 10 metro

And here’s what the Bing homepage looks like in IE 10 Desktop mode:

ie 10 desktop

As you can see, the desktop mode is the familiar IE that you have used in Windows 7, Vista, XP, etc. In terms of look and feel and navigation, they are totally different. For example, in order to simply type a new address to browse to, you have to right-click on the page to bring up the address bar. As another example, if you want to print something in the desktop version of IE, you click on the gear icon in the top right corner and choose Print.

print ie 10

To print something in Metro mode, you have to open up the Charms bar and then click on Devices and then choose a printer.

ie 10 print

The same thing applies to browser favorites and other tasks that you normally find in the menu bar at the top. Speaking of favorites, all you can do in IE Metro mode is pin a website to the start screen. When you open a new tab in Metro mode, you will see a list of your most frequently visited sites and your pinned sites.

pinned sites

There is no other way to organize favorites in Metro mode. Can’t create folders or anything else. If you want to do that, you have to use IE desktop mode. However, the biggest difference between the two versions of IE, which is really going to drive people mad, is that no plugins or add-ons will work in Metro mode. By default, only Flash is installed in Metro and that’s it. No other plugin or add-in can be installed or used. No Java, no Silverlight, no Shockwave, no anything.

If you want to use a plugin or add-on, you have to switch to desktop mode. You have to right-click on the page to bring up the app bar and then click on the Page Tools button and choose View on the desktop.

view on the desktop

Overall, that seems like a terrible idea to me. Yes it’s great that the world is moving towards HTML 5 and we won’t need plugins, but there are literally millions of websites that depend on some kind of add-in or plugin and that will be around for years to come. To cut out everything all at once is a drastic move. And then to confuse users by making them switch to a “different” version of the same browser just to view a website properly is mind-boggling silly.

Yes, IE 10 Metro looks great, but it should have been one or the other. Trying to appease both worlds and mixing and matching settings, etc is going to turn more people off than excite them. On top of that, links you open in Metro apps will open in Metro IE and links you open from desktop apps will open in Desktop IE. Luckily, you can change this setting so that all links are opened by either Metro IE or by Desktop IE. Go to the desktop version, press the ALT key, click on Tools, then Internet Options and then click on Programs tab.

opening links ie

You can change it from Let IE decide to Always in IE or Always in IE on the desktop. There is a also a checkbox below the combo box that lets you open IE tiles on the desktop version instead of the Metro IE, which is set by default.

open tiles

Overall, the experience is very different and I will probably use Metro IE every once in a while to see a site in full-screen (which you can do in the desktop mode also) or to browse some simple reading-only type sites. For everything else, I’ll probably use the desktop version as a lot of pages may not load correctly in Metro since no add-ons are supported. What do you think of the two versions of IE? Does it bother you or not? Let us know in the comments! Enjoy!

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