Project Spartan: Version 0.10.10049

I gave the Project Spartan browser a run over the last few days. While I am impressed with how nicely it renders the pages I visit, it definitely has some room for improvement. In terms of what it’s missing from a rendering perspective, it seems to already out perform Internet Explorer in a few areas when it comes to CSS and lag just behind with JavaScript. Most of the issues I’ve found with the browser are actually entirely with the experience and shell side of the application.

I never had an issue trying to use a web page I frequently visit on a day to day basis, which was completely surprising to me. I guess if they simply just refactored the existing Internet Explorer codebase to remove any of the IE specific, legacy bits, then it explains the maturity in what is so alpha it doesn’t even have a marketable name yet.

Project Spartan default page

For all the web browsers I’ve used over the last two decades, I can’t say that I’ve ever tried to run one through the ringer before. I found a few websites in a couple of Google searches that did some browser based tests and ran them in both IE 11 and the Spartan browser. I would have used Chrome in the comparison as well, but for some reason it’s on the fritz since upgrading to build 10049.

CSS Support

I found a website called css3test.com that “checks which CSS3 features the browser recognizes, not whether they are implemented correctly”. For my test in Spartan, it scored 45%. The same test in Internet Explorer 11 scored a 44%. While Spartan had more support, it ran the test consistently in twice the time than Internet Explorer 11 took.

Project Spartan CSS3 Score Internet Explorer 11 CSS3 Score

There is also the Acid3 test that both Spartan and Internet Explorer 11 passed with flying colors. I’ll be honest, I thought Internet Explorer would have been a mediocre score given it’s history. No gain for Spartan here.

Project Spartan Acid3 Score Internet Explorer 11 Acid3 Score

JavaScript Support

The Dromaeo JavaScript performance tester which is maintained by Mozilla has a fairly extensive testing suite for JavaScript which I ran for both browsers. To note, I stuck with the recommended suite of tests given that browser testing isn’t my forte. Luckily the site has the ability to link to it’s results, so rather than cherry picking data, see it for yourself:

Some areas are performing much better in Spartan than in Internet Explorer 11, and for the areas it isn’t, there is a very small gap for where it can catch up. The areas for jQuery were better than I expected given it had issues doing an animation test using the GreenSock test.

Project Spartan Animation Test Internet Explorer Animation Test

The GSAP test obviously worked flawlessly in both browsers given that’s what they want to show off about their framework, but Internet Explorer did better in all of these tests except for the plain jQuery test. In that test, both browsers failed to render anything.

Other Things

Issues and quirks I found:

  • User agent string for IE11 has changed since Windows 8.1, and I found this article that goes over the details of the string changes.
  • Right click link to New Tab or New Window doesn’t carry the link with it, so you just get a blank tab or window. Duplicate tab context menu does work though.
  • Cut and paste was flaky. The cut part worked just fine and the context menu to paste always delivered, but the key combination to paste was hit or miss depending on what control I attempted to use.
  • Drag and drop support didn’t work when trying to upload images using the WordPress image uploader.
  • Context menus in general are severely lacking.
    • You can’t right click the back button to get a short history of websites I’ve been to like I do in Chrome. This may because the History feature in the browser hasn’t been included yet. Not even the History tab where Favorites and Reading list works just yet.
    • The context menu on the window header (where minimize, resize, and close lives) renders in the wrong location. For a multi-monitor setup, the menu rendered on the Spartan window header of a window on the other monitor instead of the one I was interacting with.
  • The F12 developer tools are launched in a separate window as opposed to showing up in a pane at the bottom of the page like in all other browsers. There is no way to pin the tools back in to window, and given that it looks exactly the same (if they aren’t actually indeed the same) as the developer tools in IE11, it’s probably because it’s just borrowing the tooling until other areas of the shell are more mature.