IE 7 Beta Overview

Well, Microsoft finally released it’s beta of the highly anticipated Internet Explorer v7. And the tech community rejoiced let out a collective groan. As exhibit A I’d like to introduce this this screenshot of the new browser UI. As exhibit B I’d like to introduce this screenshot of the RSS feature. Now, there are a few good things in this release.

  1. Tabs. Finally.
  2. RSS. Finally.
  3. Search. Finally.
  4. Phishing detection, which I think Microsoft should surely be commended for. Though I think the word “phishing” should be replaced with something less tech-centric that my mom would understand.
  5. They’ve added the ability to manage browser add-ons, which evidently wasn’t supported in previous versions.

My problem with this list is I find myself saying “So what?”. Firefox, Opera and Safari have had all of these features, except for phishing detection, for years (NOTE: Firefox has an anti-phishing plugin, but does not ship an anti-phishing feature by default). I find myself wondering if this is too little too late. Either way, Microsoft should ahem be commended for making these changes. They’re late to the party, but at least they came. As can be expected from someone who pretty much hates Microsoft products I do have a few complaints.

  1. Why the hell did the move the menu bar below the tabs? They’ve actually gone against their own UI recommendations. They should clearly put this back at the top of the window.
  2. No stop or refresh buttons? I don’t need a 500 pixel-wide location bar, but I do need a stop and a refresh button.
  3. What the hell is up with the phantom tab to the right of the tab? It opens new tabs, I get that, but it should be turned into a “New Tab” button next to the “X” for closing tabs.
  4. I can’t aggregate feeds? I assume this will be fixed before it launches.
  5. IE 7 still isn’t acid compliant and still doesn’t fix many of the CSS rendering bugs in IE 6. As someone who makes a living banging his head against various IE bugs I seriously hope they fix this before it’s finally released.

As a web developer I’m pretty pissed that the rendering bugs haven’t been fixed and the browser still isn’t compliant with even CSS1. Meanwhile, CSS3 is being proposed and CSS2 is getting wider support in Safari and Mozilla/Firefox. I would have liked nothing more than IE7 to come out and be fully CSS3 compliant. You would be reading a very different post if it had.

Overall, I give this beta a C. Why? Because Microsoft has done the bare minimum. They haven’t done anything ground breaking here and they didn’t even bother to fix the existing rendering problems. Unlike others, however, I’ll wait to pass my final judgement until the final release has hit the streets, which I think will be around when Windows Vista is released.

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