Wednesday, February 01, 2006

First Looks: Internet Explorer 7.0 Beta 2 Preview

Earlier on Microsoft released a public beta of Internet Explorer 7.0 with web developers as the main target. At a first glance you can see the long wait was worth it. IE7 is better in terms of aesthetics, functionality and performance. It loads much faster than IE 6 and Firefox 1.5. Some might argue that IE loads much faster than Firefox since it's a part of windows; which is a myth disproved by Opera's performance. (to date opera is the fastest graphical browser) Aesthetics First thing that drew my attention (prior to even loading IE 7) is the logo change (new one on the left). I personally find think the new one is better, but I'm not graphics expert. Upon opening the browser you will notice a change to the interface. The simplicity is mind blowing, some might argue this looks like FF, I personally think it looks more like Opera. The menu bar is hidden by default (still accessible via shortcuts / tools > toolbar > classic menu), the location of the bar is peculiar. When enabled the menu will be shown under the address bar, which needs a little bit of getting used to. I won't place much importance on this as I think the average user doesn't actually need the menu bar. Another thing that caught my attention was the use of Mozilla's RSS icon, apparently the guys at Microsoft visited Mozilla offices and agreed that a unified RSS icon is in the user's best interest, as opposed to the originally proposed icons found here. The button placement is well thought of, placing the ones you need most to the left side and the ones you would use less on the right. Tabbed Browsing At Last! We finally have what we've been wanting for years. Although Tabbed Browsing has been available for IE 6 for a while now (through MSN Search Bar or 3rd Party Plugings). Worth noting that were the first to introduce Tabbed Browsing back in 1997, while Opera developed it back in 1995 and introduced it in Opera 4 in 2000, Avant Browser and Maxthon also had this feature long before FireFox arrived in 2004. Quicktabs This is probably my favorite feature. Quicktabs (accessible via ctrl+q, or the third icon from the left) is a preview feature that allows you to see what's on your tabs, very handy, this is similar to Firefox’s foXpose extension. Web Standards Compliance & CSS Fixes Gone are the days IE would render stuff like this. According to the IE blog Microsoft intends to fully comply with web standards, CSS 2 in particular (CSS 2.1 once it's recommended) . DHTML rendering noticabely improved. The only site I visited today which didn't render properly was http://uk.msn.com/ I presume it would work out fine with most hacked and non-hacked CSS code. I didn't thoroughly test this, so this is just a presumption; you can read more on this on the IE Blog I would appreciate your feedback on this. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) For those of you who don't know what RSS is, I suggest you check the wikipedia entry RSS functionality in IE 7 is superb. It allows for OPML import and export meaning that Microsoft won't lock you in and force you to use their platform. It allows for enclosures which can potentially make it a great Podcasts aggregator. And according to this video it seems to be cross application. It allows communications with other applications using the RSS API, basically this means if you add an RSS feed to your IE7 and you have another application that utilizes IE7's RSS API it will be added their too. IE7 automatically formats RSS feeds in a nice readable formats, it even highlights changes since last check, very useful! I did have a problem with Jordan Planet's RSS feed, their ATOM feed worked fine though. You can check Dave Winer's opinion on IE7's RSS ClearType & Zooming IE7 utilizes ClearType which makes webpages more readable especially on LCD Screens. The zooming feature is very useful but quite jittery when used on machines with no graphics acceleration. ClearType Screenshot Magnifying Screenshot Multi Engine Search Bar The title says it all. Search providers can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/searchguide/default_new.mspx notably missing are Google's Logo next to their link ;-) Technorati & Wikipedia (I'm sure it will have Encarta at some point)! I hope these will be added soon. Security Now before we go on with this one I want to emphasise that security is an ongoing job, anyone who claims their product is 100% secure is just being arrogant. Microsoft had it's downs, but so did all other rivals, including Firefox which had 26 security vulnerabilities 6 of which were marked as Highly Critical! Microsoft is doing a great job at securing IE 7 here are a few pointers
  • ActiveX controls are disabled by default in Internet Explorer Version 7. The ActiveX Input TYPE=FILE control no longer submits a fully-qualified path; it now submits only a filename. The ActiveX control for XEnroll certificate enrollment was removed from Windows Vista and replaced with a new control.
  • Antiphishing Filter Built In Cyota Inc, Internet Identity and MarkMonitor will regularly supply information to Microsoft on thousands of confirmed phishiping websites to help ensure the URL reputation service is running with the latest information on known attackers (more at: http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2005/11/17/494040.aspx )
  • Safer Protocol Defaults: Weaker SSLv2 protocol are disabled, TLSv1 protocol are enabled. Hence IE users will negotiate HTTPS connections using SSLv3 or TLSv1; you will not notice any difference in the user experience, it's a silent improvement in security.
You can find more at http://msdn.microsoft.com/ie/releasenotes/default.aspx Better AJAX Support IE7 support a scriptable native version of XMLHTTP. This can be instantiated using the same syntax across different browsers. The addition of XMLHttpRequest is very nice, but for really advanced AJAX applications to run without ActiveX alerts XMLDocument and XSLDocument are needed as well. International Domain Names with no Add ons So you can finally use those non-latin domains you've registered (example arabic domains) http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2005/12/19/505564.aspx Oh and I forgot.... PRINTING ;) What's Missing/What's Wrong! Missing:
  • The absence of a download manager and ability to pause downloads. (Note: IE6 & 7 do resume downloads if the server supports it, provided that you do not try downloading until the connection is resumed)
  • XMLHttpRequest is only half of the AJAX toolkit!
  • We still have that awkward find popup screen with no highlighting capability
  • Viewing source code displays the source in an unformatted colorless notepad!
  • Ability to rearrange the tabs in toolbar is missing
  • IE7 Still Lacks the Shift + Enter for sites that end with .net (if anyone knows of a key for that or .org please let me know)
  • Like I said before it doesn't have wikipedia or technorati in search options which is a bit of a disappointment.
  • Themes! I cannot stress this enough, loads of people end up downloading spyware/adware just because they want to customize their IE experience.
Bugs So Far:
  • Inability to open drupal RSS 2.0 feeds
  • One site rendering funny (http://uk.msn.com/)
  • Blogger editor doesn't display what you're typing!
  • Incompatible with MSN Messenger Produced Chat Logs (Same with MSN Messenger Live)
  • I didn't experience this myself but I heard some people had trouble uninstalling
Downside of all this:
  • You need to have a genuine version of windows in order to test drive IE 7.0
  • You still have to reboot after installing IE, but I guess that's because it's part of windows.
  • Available for I32 bit platform on Windows XP only. WinXP 64 and 2003 Server editions coming soon

12 comments:

Roba said...

Great post Yazan, thanks for the review. Now I'm I want to download it!

3ashiq al firefox said...

Yes, thanks for the very good review. I am sticking with FF.

but just for you effort in typing this, i may click on an ad banner. for all i know, i may be worth $50.

Anonymous said...

IE7 is lame FF forever

Lawmune said...

Regarding the Quicktabs feature, I just wanted to mention that a function very similar to this (maybe even better) is already built into Opera. See here: http://my.opera.com/Lawmune/blog/show.dml/108520

Yazan Malakha said...

Thanks Roba, Jameed.

Lawmune, thanks for pointing that out, I think quicktabs and ff expose are somewhat better looking though, what do you think?

Halden said...

It is a nice improvement. tabs are great and the simple bar is nice but it still rendered CSS intensive site terribly.

epiac1216 said...

First of all I would like to comment the high quality of your post. Now my comments:

1. "to date opera is the fastest graphical browser"

I've tried very hard to see Opera's speed in my system, but can't find it. Firefox and Flock are much faster. Believe me!

2. Microsoft is playing the catch-up game after Firefox and Opera. Nothing in MSIE 7 is new and won't court me to its bandwagon.

3. After almost five years of waiting, Microsoft doesn't have the magic wand of innovation and this preview proves that.

Bill Gates should worry, because Google is after his scalp. Unless something dramatic happens with IE, I'll keep on using the Fox.

Cheers,

Omar.-

Lawmune said...

Yazan, which one you think looks better is mostly a matter of preference, I suppose. I haven't tried IE7 yet, but I didn't like how foXpose shrunk the pages (the text for six tabes was completely unreadable on my 19 inch, 1280x1024monitor). Opera's Extensible Rendering Architecture allows pages to look good even if the windows are really small (which is why Opera is so strong in the mobile browser market). Also, the tiled pages are fully functional; you don't have to re-maximize to follow links, scroll down, etc.

Anonymous said...

ctrl+shift = .org

Nice article! I'll be moving over if they fix the search function.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft doesn't have the magic wand of innovation and this preview proves that."

Have you SEEN office 12?

Yazan Malakha said...

Halden, can you provide me with a list of sites it rendered terribly?

Epiac1216 , microsoft is constantly playing catch up they'll get things right 3rd time around, ie9 perhaps? ;)

Anonymous, thanks ctrl+shift+enter works fine in firefox but not ie.

Lawmune, true Opera displays it better, but who would bother reading the text in such a view, i believe it's designed in to help you get to the page you want after a search.

Anonymous, no I still haven't seen offie 12

Lawmune said...

In response to your question, it's really about how a person wants to use tabbed browsing. Fuzzy thumbnails are enough if you just want to remember what pages you have open. Usually, though, when I keep several pages open for long periods of time, I can easily remember what they are just from reading the text on the tab (combined with favicons in Opera).

Another way to use tabbed browsing is to open many pages at once (most modern browsers allow you to open many links simultaneously). When I do this, I don't actually want to read every page I just opened. I want to look through them quickly to decide which ones to read and which ones to close. In order to quickly scan the pages to make that decision, it is very useful to be able to read the text on each page. I think it makes more sense to evaluate a page based on its text rather than just an impression of its layout.

Also, with unreadable thumbnails, how do you distinguish between two different pages from the same site that have very similar layout?