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Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 review

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Saturday April 29, 2006 )

Beta products that have a more than minimal potential of crashing my system I usually shy away from, but I’ve been waiting so long for IE7, the anticipation was killing me. I had already resisted the IE 7 Beta 2 Preview – enough of the waiting already – on Beta 2 went :).

My intial thoughts?

I really like it. The changes might take a little getting used to if you haven’t fiddled too much with alternate browsers such as FireFox previously. Installation went fine, no unexpected nasties and it was a lot quicker than I expected.

Toolbars

For starters, the toolbars no longer take up as much valuable screen real estate. There’s fewer buttons, but you are able to customize your toolbars to show more, not that this is really necessary given the new layout. I feel that the placement of buttons and features is more user friendly overall, but I’m still getting used to the new position of the “home” button.

A button that is missing entirely which may puzzle FrontPage users is the one allowing you to edit the current page you are viewing via FrontPage. It took me a bit of hunting around to find it, but the edit function can still be accessed by clicking on the IE “Page” button and selecting the “Edit with FrontPage” option from the dropdown menu.

Search

Another nice improvement on IE 6’s search feature – adding new engines is very easy as is selecting which engine you wish to perform your search on. I’ve finally been able to get rid of a couple of search bars :).

I also noticed on the “Add Search Providers” page that instructions are given for allowing people to add your own site search to IE 7, just by adding a snippet of code. I haven’t delved into that aspect as yet, but it looks quite interesting.

Tabbed Browsing

Tabbed browsing allows you to open multiple pages in one browser window and the pages are easily accessed via a tab at the top of the window. If you have many tabs, the Quick Tabs feature makes is much easier to switch between pages.

It’s not unusual for me to have 20+ windows open and I’ve found the quick tabs feature very useful. Instead of having just a list of pages pop up on the task bar button as was the case with IE6, I can view thumbnail shots of each page using the quick tabs feature – much faster to locate specific pages if I have multiple pages from the same site open.

RSS web feeds

Another feature that I’ve been looking forward to, and it works well.

If you’re visiting a site that has an RSS web feed and the feed has been flagged in the page source code using the autodiscover tag, the feed indicator button will change from gray to orange and it will play a sound. The sound can be switched off.

The rendering of RSS feeds looks great, and subscribing to feeds is simple. You can configure IE7 to automatically check feed updates which can be viewed later. Subscriptions are easily accessed via the favorites (star) button on the left hand side of the window.

Firefox has had RSS web feed support for a long time, but given that Internet Explorer still has the majority of market share, this will be the vehicle that finally really gets the awareness and popularity of feeds happening amongst average users.

If you already have an RSS web feed, remember that you’ll need to have autodiscover code in your page headers so that Internet Explorer and Firefox can detect it. It’s very simple to do – check my post on RSS autodiscovery. If you’re using blogging software such as WordPress, this feature is more than likely already present, but ensure you’re using it on the rest of non-blog pages as well.

If you haven’t set up an RSS web feed for your site as yet, and you have a site where content is changing on a regular basis; you *really* need to start thinking about getting a feed in place as soon as possible. Learn more about creating RSS web feeds

Security

Internet Explorer 7 also includes a popup killer and a phishing filter. It uses three methods that are meant to help to protect you from the dark forces of the web. It compares the addresses of sites against a list of sites reported to Microsoft as being illegitimate. This list is stored on your computer. It also analyzes the sites you visit to see if they have the characteristics common to a phishing website.

If you should hit a suspected phishing site, a warning will flash up on the screen before allowing you to view the page. You can also report suspected phishing sites to Microsoft, and yes, the phishing filter can be turned off :).

Overhead/performance

I’m not about to get all techie here and quote CPU usage etc.; but I noticed no problems with system resources being sucked up by IE, even with 30 pages open – no more than usual anyway. The application starts quickly and it appears to release resources properly once the browser is closed. I would even venture to say that Internet Explorer 7 is faster in all aspects than it’s predecessor. I’ve experienced no glitches whatsoever so far in general usage, but no doubt there will be a few :).

Add ons

Microsoft also announced a few days ago the launch of www.ieaddons.com, which provides users with a range of extensions. These add-ons aren’t just ones from Microsoft, other developers can also contribute. There seems to be a pretty good selection out there already, many of them free – well worth checking out. There’s also an add-on manager available via the IE interface under “Tools”

Internet Explorer 7 vs. Firefox?

I freely admit to being an IE fanboy, so any sort of comparison would be highly biased. I really haven’t spent the time with Firefox in order to provide an even mildly impartial opinion. Firefox is just something I use for cross-browser compatibility testing; much the same as I used Netscape a few years ago.

So, in a nutshell, I won’t state which one is better and try to justify why – but I have not been disappointed so far with IE 7; I’m really enjoying it. Good one Microsoft.. finally! And to give credit where credit is due, thanks also to the Firefox team who put a bomb under Microsoft with their browser’s success. I’m sure that Microsoft drew on the Firefox lesson :). It will be very interesting to see if MS gains back any of the market share lost to Firefox with IE7.

According to Microsoft, there’s still a couple of release candidates to go before the IE 7 final release is rolled out, which should be before the end of the year.

UPDATE August 27 2006: Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1 was made available a couple of days ago. I installed it a couple of hours ago and had no problems with the upgrade – this time round uninstallation of my previous IE7 installation was automatic. I’m not seeing any big “in your face” type changes in this version as yet, but the upgrade went smoothly and the browser seems to be performing well. You can download IE7 RC1 here.



 

 
2 comments for Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 review
  1. The things holding me back from using IE7:

    1. It still isn’t up to w3c standards.
    2. It’s full of bloat features I don’t want or need.
    3. It eats memory as you’ve mentioned already.

    Comment by Wynter — June 9, 2006 @ 1:49 pm

  2. well written quite informative for a lay man. Thanks.

    Comment by ajay — November 2, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

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