Safer and Faster Downloads in IE9

March 11th, 2011

IE9’s download notification bar helps you focus on your browsing and keeps downloads out of your way. It streamlines the “quick download” scenarios which account for a majority of downloads.

Overall, the IE9 file download experience offers:

  • a streamlined end-to-end download flow,
  • the ability to pause and resume downloads,
  • improved trust and confidence using the SmartScreen Application Reputation service, and
  • easy management of downloaded files with a simple history view.

Responding to Feedback

Over the years, we’ve received a lot of enthusiastic feedback from several channels (including this blog) about Internet Explorer’s download experience. Specifically, users want to be able to pause and resume downloads and also easily access previously downloaded files. These features are especially useful in unreliable, metered, or slow networks.

In addition to this feedback, the sorts of files users download has changed over the years. Many users now consume content such as pictures, videos, and music online rather than downloading and saving it locally.

Based on this landscape, we designed the IE9 file download experience to be lightweight, clean, and simple for everyday users by using the new notification bar. Advanced features and more options for enthusiasts are available via the download manager.

In this post, I talk about the new download notification bar and the security checks Internet Explorer 9 uses to help keep you safe from harmful downloads. A future post will discuss the advanced features of the download manager.

Clean, Fast, and Easy User Experience

We designed a download manager optimized for the two most common download scenarios in browsers:

  • files you want to keep (graduation pictures, receipts, a tax form, etc)
  • Files you want to use once (forwarded email attachments, application installers, etc)

For downloads that you want to “keep,” IE9 offers a streamlined “Save” option that saves the file to the Downloads folder and logs an entry in the download manager history list. This makes it easy to find downloaded files later.

For downloads that you want to “use once,” you can click “Open” or “Run”. The file will not appear in the download history and opens or runs directly from your Temporary Internet Files cache. This mode is clean, light-weight and focused on letting you consume the file immediately. It keeps the Downloads folder and the history view clean and free of items which you do not want to view/use again.

The following short video shows how the notification bar streamlines file download, SmartScreen Application Reputation feedback, and a few new features of the download manager.

Focus on Sites with the Notification Bar Control

With IE9’s goal of allowing sites to shine, we help you focus on sites with minimal interruptions from IE. You are not forced to switch context from the page you are on to deal with a download prompt.

The notification bar allows you to keep an eye on your download’s progress while you continue to browse:

IE will let you know when the download is complete:

Hence, all stages of the download are presented in the notification bar, avoiding the clutter of additional windows. For most downloads, you can download and consume content right from the bar and do not need to open the download manager.

Fewer Clicks

In order to make the download experience fast, we reduced the number of clicks needed to consume downloaded files. We started by taking a look at the steps to save and open a file in earlier versions of IE:

  1. Initiate: Click on a link to initiate a file download
  2. Initiate: From the information bar, click “download file” to continue
  3. Initiate: From the download dialog, click “save”
  4. Specify: From the “save as” dialog, specify folder
  5. Switch: Switch to the Web page to continue browsing
  6. Notify: Switch to download dialog when download complete
  7. Initiate: Select “open” from the dialog

We realized that we could simplify the concepts and steps from 7 distinct user actions by integrating with the notification bar and making other improvements. With IE9, the same scenario now takes 3 simple steps:

  1. Initiate: Click on a link to initiate a file download (same as IE8)
  2. Initiate: From the download bar, click “save”
  3. Notify & Initiate: The download bar shows the download progress and notifies of completion. The user clicks “open”/ “run” when complete.

The following optimizations reduce clicks even further:

  • We’ve eliminated the information bar and page refresh previously used to block downloads that don’t appear to be user-initiated. The new notification bar provides the same protection in a more streamlined manner.
  • Instead of forcing you to choose a destination folder each time you pick the “Save” option, IE9 stores saved files in the default download folder. To save to a folder other than the default, click “Save as” from the “Save” button dropdown.

Building Trust and Confidence in Downloads

Unfortunately, some downloaded files may harm your computer or attempt to steal your personal information. Internet Explorer 9 includes a new feature called SmartScreen Application Reputation that can help you avoid dangerous downloads while streamlining the experience of downloading files that have a good reputation.

SmartScreen will block the download of known-malicious files:

For uncommonly downloaded files that are potentially-dangerous, IE9 alerts you to the risk:

In addition to the enhanced SmartScreen feature, IE9 continues to provide protection from malware using Microsoft SmartScreen, scan downloaded files for viruses using your virus scanner, and check for a valid Authenticode digital signature.

We’ve simplified the security prompts in IE9 so that you see one final recommendation based upon all of the security checks.

Enhanced Experience

The new file download experience enhances your browsing experience by being easier to use and staying out of your way. Stay tuned for future posts describing more features of the download manger.

We hope you enjoy the new streamlined download experience in IE9. As always, we look forward to your feedback.

—Ritika Virmani, Program Manager, Internet Explorer