Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3: What's in it for you?
By Jay Dougherty Aug 19, 2006, 4:03 GMT
Washington - When it comes to Web browsers, there's Internet Explorer - and then there's everything else.
Almost 70 per cent of Web users rely on some version of Internet Explorer (IE), with IE version 6 being the most popular by far, according to Norwegian-based Refsnes Data, which provides monthly reports on browser usage throughout the Web.
And that means most Web browser users will have a decision to make shortly, for Microsoft is poised to release Internet Explorer 7, which the company claims will represent a significant leap forward in ease-of-use and security. Can the company make good on its promise? Here's an overview of what to expect.
Internet Explorer 7 is available now, for free, in a beta version. Beta 3 was recently made publicly available, and you can download it in many languages from Microsoft's IE7 download site (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/default.mspx).
Listen to Microsoft, and you'll hear a lot about how much more secure Internet Explorer 7 is than previous versions. Beefed up protection against browser-borne viruses and worms, phishing scams, and spyware are part of the solution. Anti-phishing technology is particularly important today. Phishing refers to the practice of having people click on a Web address - or URL - that appears to be from a trusted or legitimate source but actually takes the user to a site from which their personal information can be extracted.
Unfortunately, some of the security improvements in IE7 will be available only when the browser is running under Windows Vista, scheduled for release early next year. That's because some of Internet Explorer 7's security enhancements rely upon the technology available in Windows Vista but not in Windows XP and earlier versions of the operating system. IE7 was originally designed to be bundled with new copies of Windows Vista, but Microsoft decided to unbundle the browser and release it early, probably in response to the growing popularity of the competing Firefox browser.
When you surf the Internet, how many Internet Explorer icons end up cluttering your Windows taskbar? Unless you've turned on the icon grouping feature of Windows XP, the answer is probably 'plenty.' Internet Explorer has always launched a new browser window whenever you wanted to visit a new Web site while keeping information from a current one open. In fact, clicking a link while holding down the Shift key is a well-known shortcut for opening a new browser window quickly.
Taskbar clutter will be a thing of the past for Internet Explorer 7 users. Instead, one browser window will display all open Web pages, with each selected by clicking on a tab along the top edge of the browser display area. There's even a thumbnail viewing feature, which gives you an overview of Web pages you have open. And you can group tabs, as well, saving a set of Web pages as a favourite for quick retrieval in a later session.
IE7 is not all about security and tabs. Aware that computer users spend an ever-growing amount of their day within a Web browser, Microsoft has improved the browser in myriad small ways that are meaningful on a daily basis.
Gone, for instance, is the toolbar clutter that plagued previous versions of IE and other browsers. A clean interface that maximizes the amount of space available to display Web pages is what you'll likely notice first. You can bring the toolbars back if you choose, but they're options.
Recognising that many people print Web pages from their browsers, Microsoft has made printing easier and more efficient in IE7. A new 'shrink to fit' option can automatically adjust fonts and graphics to the size of a printed page - a boon to those who have been frustrated by printing a Web page only to find that a good portion of it went missing because the page was too large to be printed correctly by the output device.
A new 'instant search box' allows you to search the Web using the search engine of your choice directly from within any Web page you're viewing. This saves you from having to launch a separate browser window to conduct a search while reading.
If you're not running Windows XP or Windows Vista, you can forget about Internet Explorer 7, at least for now. Microsoft has designed the new browser to be compatible with Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows XP x64 (the 64-bit edition of XP), Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1, and of course Vista. The company has not indicated that it will release versions that are compatible with any other Windows versions.
Note, too, that the version of IE7 that you can download and use now will not contain all of the features that will be available in the final version of IE7 that comes with Windows Vista. The Vista version of IE7 will contain graphical enhancements, security improvements, and searching capabilities that are uniquely tied to the Vista interface. IE7's roots as a Vista-only product will become apparent once you switch from the standalone IE7 to the Vista version.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur