Windows 8 users will be able to set which version of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) automatically opens Web pages when links are clicked, Microsoft said Monday.
The new operating system features dual and dueling editions of IE10, one for the traditional desktop and another designed specifically for the touch-first, tile-based Metro user interface (UI).
By default, links clicked in the Metro environment open in that UI's IE10, while links clicked from within a program running on the desktop render in the conventional browser.
The two browsers rely on the same engine, but they're not twins by any stretch.
Metro IE10 does not support plug-ins like Adobe's Flash Player or those built for the long-established ActiveX standard. IE10 on the desktop is next in Microsoft's line of traditional browsers, and does support plug-ins and ActiveX controls.
IE10 on Metro presents pages only in a full-screen view, sacrifices visible tabs and eschews on-screen tools, while its kin features standard browser elements such as multiple windows and on-screen tabs.
Users can override the default to force all pages to open in one of the two IE10s, said Kevin Luu, an IE program manger, in a post to the team's blog on Monday.
From the desktop browser, users can set their link-opening preference by selecting Internet Options under the Tools menu, then choosing "Always in Internet Explorer" to make the Metro app the default or "Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop" for the traditional browser.
Another option lets users decide whether to open IE tiles -- the one for the Metro browser as well as those representing sites that have been "pinned" to the Metro interface -- using the desktop version.
Microsoft noted one caveat: The link-opening option only appears if IE10 is the default browser. That will come into play when other browser makers release Windows 8 editions that work in Metro and on the desktop. So far, Mozilla and Google have announced they will revamp Firefox and Chrome for the new OS. Neither company has revealed a release schedule, however.
Luu's explanation of IE10's options didn't collect many kudos. As has become the norm whenever Microsoft blogs about Windows 8, the criticism focused on its sparring interfaces.
"Why not just have 1 browser with two user interfaces instead of two browsers with two user interfaces?" asked a user identified only as "ok" in a comment to Luu's blog.
Another commenter was more pessimistic about Metro's chances, but because of that, happy that Microsoft offered a choice.
"When the Metro misadventure finally crashes, burns, and gets scrapped by order of the suddenly-conscious upper management, I'll be glad this option was available," said "game kid" late Monday. "Thank you for adding it."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
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