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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

IE7 Beta 2 Available

Microsoft released a public preview of Windows Internet Explorer 7 (previous versions were only available to subscribers of MSDN, as far as I know). New features in version 7 include tabbed browsing, a direct search box, phishing protection capabilities, and more.

The setup caused some problems here – a “genuine Windows” validation tool crashed – but IE ended up installing anyway (I needed to restart my PC). Note that your existing IE will be replaced when you install this new version.

When you open the new IE, you’ll notice a lot of design changes. Buttons look more “aqua”, and everything is organized so it allows for maximum space for web pages. There’s not even a real browser menu anymore. All in all, many design changes will also remind you of Firefox. Indeed, this release in many ways is a response to Firefox (and its gaining market share).

IE7 defaults to tabbed browsing, and the default search engine is MSN. Adding Google is only a click away by choosing “add search provider” from the menu.

Another IE7 default is their ClearType technology, which Microsoft thinks makes for smoother fonts and thus higher readability. Take a look at the zoomed text samples below; the first is Firefox, the second Internet Explorer. You can see some colors even though this Arial font is black only (and indeed appears to be black without zoom).


Internet Explorer 7

Microsoft has done a better job than the Mozilla team in integrating RSS, I think. Take a look at their RSS reader called “Favorites Center,” where I just subscribed to Slashdot:

CSS hackers among us will certainly be glad to soon have yet another browser to cater for (more CSS hacks equal more fun, right?)... e.g. a quick look at this blog shows the rendering is off a bit. Right now, many bugs may be due to IE’s beta status, but when the final version of IE7 is out, we can check if Internet Explorer finally has better W3C-compliancy.

Personally, as I am constantly facing Firefox bugs during my work (most importantly the “keyboard input prevention” bug and the “can’t search in textareas” bug), I’ll test switching to IE now until they get fixed.

[Via Lifehacker.]

Update: After playing around with this more, I’m not convinced. This release seems more like an alpha to me. You can’t completely configure the toolbars, you can’t put the menu to the top, certain settings are lost after restart, there’s no translation tool in the search bar, there are rendering bugs on websites, and after reading some forum comments it seems the new Google Toolbar won’t work well with this release either. The screenshot below is a good example of how unfinished IE7 is at this moment... I guess we have to live with the Firefox bugs at this time.


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