I have spent the last two weeks testing Internet Explorer 7 RC 1 (IE 7) and I have to admit it is not too shabby. This newest releases did not any new features but, rather, it focused on supporting web standards. IE is notorious for not supporting web standards; it appears that users’ comments made Microsoft realize the need for change. Microsoft has not commented if there will be any more release candidates before releasing the final version. However, Microsoft is keeping to its schedule to releasing the final version of IE 7 before the end of October, 2006.
The first thing that caught my eye is the new layout. I found myself moving the cursor to what use to be the home icon. I found the layout to be somewhat confusing and the navigation controls to be placed haphazardly. But, once I move to actually using it, I discovered this release candidate to be quite nimble and everything worked the way it should. I experienced several bugs and crashes with earlier beta versions but not with the release candidate. It can be a resource hog; it uses as much as 50MB. However, it is nowhere near the amount used by the Firefox web browser. Firefox continues to suffer from memory leaks.
The highlights of IE 7 includes: tab browsing, integrated search box, rss aggregation, security and zoom viewing. Tab browsing is a welcome addition to IE. In IE 7, you can open a link in either a new tab or in a new window, you can change the tab order, you can see a thumbnail view of all open tabs and each tab has a close button. The features worked flawlessly.
Microsoft has added a search box to the address bar. Windows Live search is installed by default but you can add an assortment of different search engines, such as Google and Yahoo! Installing a new search engine was easy enough and running searches was easy too. The list of search engines which can be installed will grow after the final release.
I am glad that Microsoft decided to add a rss aggregator to IE 7. You can access it from the toolbar under favorites. I am accustomed to using the Sage extension for Firefox and Opera’s integrated rss aggregator so I had a little difficulty using IE 7 rss aggregator. But, after a few minutes, I started admiring it. IE 7 rss aggregator has a clean interface. A rss icon appears on the toolbar and, when you are viewing a website which offers a rss feed, the icon lights up. Clicking on the icon adds the feed to the browser. Users can adjust the properties of the feed, such as how often the feed should be updated. I must admit, Microsoft has out done itself with the rss aggregator.
Microsoft made it a goal to strengthen IE 7 security. IE 7 comes with tighter ActiveX controls and an integrated anti-phishing feature. IE 7 alerts users when a website is trying to upload a file on to their computers.
Microsoft has also added a zoom function in IE 7 but I never had an occasion to use it. I have yet to see either IE or Firefox to provide a “fit to width” feature in displaying a webpage. So far, the Opera web browser has this feature.
As a whole, I recommend IE 7; it is a definitely a step up from IE 6. I like the new features but I am sad it did not include an ad blocking or a website preference feature.