After having used IE8 since it came out, i can say that compatibility mode is absolutely essential for quite a few sites that are still using IE7 hacks that don’t play nice with the new version of the browser. Having control over when to use compatibility mode is essential and can be turned on by clicking the button in the address bar:
If you can not see this button in the address bar, it is almost certainly due to the ‘feature’ i just discovered in my last install of Windows 7. In this install i did something i almost never do – use the default settings. By default, IE8 sets the option to Include updated compatibility view website lists from Microsoft. When this option is enabled, the compatibility button is hidden from the address bar because it is assumed that the updated list from Microsoft will include all sites that you will ever need. In practise i have found this is not the case and i wouldn’t expect it to be – how can MS expect to trawl every website and ensure they work.
Fortunately, re-enabling the compatibility view button is simple. Simply go to Tools –> Compatibility View Settings to open the following dialog. Then turn off the Include updated website lists from Microsoft setting and click OK to save. A few seconds later the compatibility view button will re-appear in the address bar and you can click it to view a webpage like you are using IE7.
So in short, if you used the recommended IE8 settings the first time you ran IE8 (which is likely for a lot of people), the issue above is very likely to be the cause of the compatibility view button not displaying in the address bar. At some point in the future most websites will be written with IE8 in mind. Until then, this button can be a lifesaver, especially with Flash enabled pages.