Get the jump on Internet Explorer 7
By Jay Dougherty Jul 4, 2005, 2:26 GMT
Washington - Microsoft's Internet Explorer commands well over 90 per cent of the browser market. But its interface is looking old, and fans have been eagerly eyeing improvements to browser technology from upstarts such as Firefox.
Feeling the pressure from rivals, Microsoft has accelerated the release schedule for its Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7), the successor to today's most popular web browser. Originally planned for a 2007 release, Microsoft now says the browser will appear in test form later this summer. But you don't have to wait to experience some of the hottest features that IE 7 should offer.
Users of IE6 have long asked for a tabbed interface - one that allows multiple web pages to be opened in one browser window, rather than a separate browser window being spawned for each page opened.
IE 7 will include a tabbed interface, but Microsoft surprised many recently by including a tabbed browser interface upgrade for today's Internet Explorer 6 as part of the new Microsoft toolbar, available now (http://toolbar.msn.com). Current users of the MSN Toolbar will have the functionality automatically installed, upon consent.
Another, more intriguing option for getting features due in IE 7 lies with Maxthon, a program that transforms Internet Explorer 6 into the browser that it could be. Maxthon is not a browser unto itself; rather, it's an ambitious Internet Explorer add-on that enhances the browser with many long-requested features.
Chief among these is the tabbed interface. Maxthon's implementation is every bit as sophisticated as what you'll see if you install the new MSN toolbar. Instead of having multiple Internet Explorer icons cluttering your taskbar when you have several web pages open, Maxthon moves all of those web pages into one browser window. Switching among them is a matter of clicking tabs along the top of the browser window.
Just as impressive, though, is Maxthon's grouping feature, which allows you instantly to open a batch of web pages at the same time. Grouping is great for those times when you typically view three or four web sites in succession.
For instance, if your morning routine includes scanning a few online newspapers, you can set Maxthon up so that it opens those pages as a group automatically when you open your browser in the morning. The MSN toolbar's new My Tabs feature works in a similar way.
Maxthon goes well beyond tabbing enhancements, though. Maxthon's developers recognised that some folks would like to erase the tracks of their Internet wanderings so that others cannot detect where they've been surfing. So built-in privacy options allow you automatically to delete your browsing history, cookies, and other traces of where you've been and what you've done on the Internet.
Internet Explorer 6 added the ability to block pop-ups, and Maxthon adds to this capability with enhancements that put an end to image ads, floating advertisements, and other annoyances that can get past IE's rudimentary ad-blocking capabilities.
Don't worry, either, about missing out on the ability to use third-party toolbars, such as Google's free toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com), when Maxthon is installed. Maxthon includes its own toolbars but works well with others.
Of course, both the MSN toolbar and Maxthon rely upon the Internet Explorer engine, which comes with both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that virtually every web site on the Internet today is optimised for use with Internet Explorer, so you can be sure that compatibility is built-in.
On the downside, Internet Explorer is the primary target for many hacker attacks. Neither the MSN toolbar or Maxthon beefs up security beyond what IE already offers.
That's where the alternative browsers can make sense. Particularly Firefox (http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox) has drawn applause from its adopters for the emphasis its creators placed on browser security.
No matter which browser or configuration you choose, though, the good news is that after a fairly long period of stagnation, browser technology is once again on the move, with competition spearheading innovation. And that benefits us all.© dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur