First of all this review of IE7 beta 1 is just a glimpse of what is going to be there in the next beta version of IE7. It would be improved eventually before it ships for XP SP2 and 64-bit edition. Also, beware that I am not a fan of IE, so I tell my friends that IE is really not the best browser out there at all; but for the sake of this review I removed all my biases against IE to be fair enough.
After numerous request from IE users, IE7 now sports tab browsing, similar to Firefox, Opera, Safari and other popular browsers. It\’s very similar in function but it\’s somewhat easier to use. When you click the middle button of your mouse (provided you have one), IE7 will automatically open the link in a new tab. By default IE7 will also open links in tabs. Other browsers must be configured to function with the exact behavior of IE7 and it\’s very useful for an average user to have this features by default. Not all users are inclined to adding extensions or plug-ins anyway.
Other Firefox-inspired features are built-in RSS reader and an in-line search box. The RSS reader function like the RSS reader found in Opera but the way it shows and activates the RSS indicator on toolbar is very much Firefox-like.
One could argue if the code base of Internet Explorer has changed. In most cases it loads pages faster but the increased speed is not dramatic. The rendering engine might have improved a little but there\’s no strong basis to support it. The speed gain maybe a significant improvement but it does not beat Firefox, let alone beat Opera, in rendering speed. In terms of rendering technique, I tested the rendering engine of IE7 with the Acid Test that is available here. The result from the test is not good at all (try it). Microsoft have already announced that they will not be able to fix the compatibility issue it has on Acid test. Although IE7 supports PNG now, we will still wait longer until IE finally support web standards.
The toolbars in IE7 has significantly changed in appearance due to the addition of tabbed browsing. Refer to the image below.
From here, you can see the difference in toolbar arrangement from the conventional browser appearance. The menu bar is aligned with the standard buttons (3). Oddly enough, the tabs (2) are on top of the menu bar and the standard buttons. Those users who have accustomed to the feel and look of older versions of IE will get a little puzzled with the change until they get used to it. Navigational buttons are located on the very top bar, aligned with the address bar (1). You might ask where the refresh/stop button is. It�s actually located at the far end of the address bar.
Let\’s go check the security tools in IE7. Here, we can see the effort of Microsoft on securing individual users. This tool is very promising because only IE7 has this kind of feature built in the browser. Essentially, every time the user visit a site, IE7 will check the phising sites database to identify whether the site is malicious or not. It will warn you if the site has any reported activities similar to phising. This process can be done manually or automatically.
It looks like IE7 is playing catching up with security and features. Let\’s hope that Firefox and Opera will continue to take bigger share on the internet which will eventually push IE developers to enhance IE rendering engine and security, and better support to web standards.