Explorer 7: Browser upgrade you've been waiting for?
By Jay Dougherty Oct 23, 2006, 5:05 GMT
Washington - The world's most popular Web browser has a new lease on life.
With the recent release of the final version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7, Internet users everywhere will begin testing out this new window to the Web, available for free from Microsoft's IE7 download site (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie).
The headline features of the new browser - improved security, a tabbed interface, and anti-phishing controls - are well-know. What's less well-known is how to get the most out of the new features - and whether the changes made to the browser will interfere with the way you're used to working. An early outing with the new browser provides some answers.
-- Get ready to upgrade
Your first step in upgrading to IE7 should be to make sure that your copy of Windows XP has been registered with Microsoft. Before you can download the installation file, Microsoft requires you to click a 'verification' button that allows the company to verify that your copy of Windows is registered legally.
This verification process has become more common with software companies that distribute their products online, and Microsoft has started requiring verification for a growing number of its free downloads.
Once your copy of Windows is verified, you can download the installation file, which, when run, will proceed to download yet more files necessary to complete the upgrade.
Upgrading itself from a previous version of Internet Explorer is painless and seamless: your favourites are retained, as is your default home page, browsing history, and any other customisation settings that you've defined. Users of other browsers will be able to choose whether IE7 is the default browser or just an option.
--- First impressions
Perhaps the best news about IE7 is that, once installed, it does not appear so radically different that you feel as though you need to relearn everything you've known about browsing the Internet. Controls work the same way, menus continue to respond as they have before, and familiar commands are intact.
The first major pleasant surprise visually is that the browsing screen appears less cluttered - because it is. Gone are the numerous toolbars that consumed too much of your browsing window.
Those toolbars are still there if you want them, but IE7 uses the menu, address, and toolbar area more efficiently so that you see more of what's important: your Web pages. If you want to see all of the toolbars available, just right-click a blank area in the toolbar region and explore the context-sensitive menu.
Performance of the browser is snappy - easily on par with Internet Explorer 6 and feeling smoother than rival Firefox. Scrolling down a long Web page is quick and smooth.
--- Getting used to tabs
One of the first things you'll want to master is the new tabbed interface. With tabs, you have the option of launching new Web pages within the same browser window - rather than having multipled browsers open and cluttering up your taskbar. You switch from one open Web page to another by clicking on tabs that appear just below the toolbar area.
There are several ways to open a Web page in a tab rather than in a new browser session. There's a button called New Tab in the toolbar, an entry in the File menu that creates a new tab, or you can just use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-T. Once you have a new tab open, just navigate to a Web page the usual way. Your original Web page will remain open.
Switching among open Web pages using the tabbed interface is easy. The most obvious way is just to click on the tab that represents the Web page you wish to view: it's the same principle as using a tabbed dialog box, common in today's applications. Even more fun, though, is the Quick Tabs feature, accessible via a button or by pressing Ctrl-Q.
Quick Tabs gives you a thumbnail view of all open Web pages - a graphical representation of what appears on each page you have open. Using Quick Tabs makes it simple to go to an already-opened site. You can even use the keyboard's arrow keys to move among open Web pages within the Quick Tabs view. When a thumbnail is highlighted, just press Enter to activate the Web page. You close a tab by clicking the 'x' that appears in each tab, or you can just press Ctrl-W.
--- Useful tools
The Tools menu in IE7 gives you access to some tools that make Web browsing safer and less frustration. Here, you can activate and configure the integrated pop-up blocker and anti-phishing tool. Phishing is the term used to describe Web-based attempts to access your personal information, including account numbers and passwords. IE7's anti-phishing tool will alert you if you attempt to access a site that is in Microsoft's database of known phishing sites.
The new IE7 also makes it easy to erase your browsing history to protect your privacy. A menu item in the Tools menu puts history erasing just one click away. Another entry - Feed Discovery - is activated if a site you're on has a news feed available. News feeds allow you to get recaps of the major publications on a Web site from a separately configured news reader or search engine that accepts news feeds.
Finally, IE7 includes an enhanced Print Preview function that can scale large Web pages down to a standard-sized sheet of paper for printing, so you'll not have to suffer through printouts that contain just part of a Web page you've attempted to print.
With Web browsers slowly but surely becoming as important as the operating system itself to many people, the prospect of upgrading to a new version of a familiar browser should not be taken lightly.
But with IE7 Microsoft has made the path as painless as possible, retaining the familiar feel of Internet Explorer while subtly weaving important enhancements into the browsing experience. All in all, IE7 should prove a painless upgrade for most.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur