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A First Look at IE 7

by Wei-Meng Lee
08/09/2005

Microsoft has recently released Beta 1 of Internet Explorer 7 together with Windows Vista Beta 1. Note that Beta 1 of IE 7 comes in two flavors:

In this article, I will take you through the numerous new features and enhancements in IE 7. I will be basing my findings on the built-in version of IE 7 in Windows Vista Beta 1.

Improved Navigation

The first noticeable feature of IE 7 is its cleaner toolbar. Instead of having a separate list of "previous" and "next" pages for the Back and Forward buttons, it now combines the various recently viewed pages into a single list (see Figure 1). This makes navigating between pages much more logical and at the same time reduces clutter on the toolbar.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Improved page navigations in IE 7

Also, the Stop and Refresh buttons are now combined into one and displayed next to the Address bar (see Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2
Figure 2. The Refresh button

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Stop button

Tabbed Browsing

IE 7 includes one of the most sought-after features in web browsers: tabbed browsing. Tabbed browsing allows you to view several web pages in a single window. To view a link in a new tab, right-click on the hyperlink and select Open Link in New Tab (see Figure 4).

Figure 4
Figure 4. Opening a link in a new tab

You can also create a new tab by clicking on the New Tab tab (see Figure 5). The icon for New Tab is not indicative of what it does, but I think it will have a more intuitive look in the next beta.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Using tabs in IE 7

You can also close a tab by right-clicking on it (see Figure 6) and selecting either Close (to close the current active tab) or Close Other Tabs (to close all tabs other than the currently active one).

Figure 6
Figure 6. Closing tabs

RSS Support

Another useful feature in IE 7 is RSS (Really Simple Syndication). In the next beta of IE 7 (Beta 2), IE 7 will support RSS 0.9x, RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, Atom 0.3, and Atom 1.0.  In the current beta release, Atom support is not included.

When IE 7 loads a page that contains one or more RSS feeds, the Feeds icon will turn red (see Figure 7). Clicking on it will show a list of feeds discovered on the page.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Feeds discovered on a page

If you click on one of the feeds, a summary of the content of the items in the feed will be shown (see Figure 8). This is a nicely formatted page, unlike displaying a raw XML file. You can then add the feed to your Favorites, if you want.

Figure 8
Figure 8. Displaying the content of a feed

In the next beta of IE 7, expect to see greatly improved RSS support, such as the aggregation of RSS feeds.

Enhanced Printing

If you have ever tried to print a web page from IE, you know the frustration you usually get when part of your page gets cropped. This is because most web pages are not designed with printing in mind.

IE 7 has improved its printing support with its Shrink-To-Fit option. Figure 9 shows how a page will look like when printed in its original form.

Figure 9
Figure 9. Printing a page in its original form

Figure 10 shows how the page can be shrunk to fit into a printable page.

Figure 10
Figure 10. Shrinking a page to print correctly

Also, it is now much easier to change the print orientation of a page by using Print Preview options (see Figure 11).

Figure 11
Figure 11. Using Print Preview

Built-In Search

IE 7 comes with built-in searching using popular search engines (see Figure 12). You can select the search engine you want to use--the default search engine will always be used unless you explicitly select others--or select Search Settings to set your favorite search engine as the default (see Figure 13).

Figure 12
Figure 12. Selecting a search engine to use

Figure 13
Figure 13. Setting the default search engine

Third-Party Toolbar Support

There have been some rumors on the Web concerning the blocking of third-party toolbars (most notably Google Toolbar and Yahoo Toolbar) in IE 7. However, I managed to install both of them on my Windows Vista version of IE 7; Figure 14 shows the Google Toolbar, and Figure 15 shows the Yahoo Toolbar.

Figure 14
Figure 14. Google Toolbar in IE 7 Beta 1

Figure 15
Figure 15. Yahoo Toolbar in IE 7 Beta 1

Note that Yahoo's version 5.6 may have an issue with IE 7 Beta 1, but the current release (version 6.1.1) should work.

Enhanced Security

In IE 7 Beta 1, secure sites now have the security padlock displayed next to the URL (see Figure 16). You can view the certificate information by clicking on the padlock icon.

Figure 16
Figure 16. The security padlock

IE 7 Beta 1 also includes the Phishing filter. Whenever you load an address, IE 7 will (in the background) check the address against a database of blacklisted URLs known to be phishing sites. When a site has been determined to be a phishing site (see Figure 17), you will have the option of blocking it or, if it looks suspicious, reporting it.

Figure 17
Figure 17. A known phishing site

Note that the Phishing filter is available only on the IE 7 Beta 1 for Windows XP. Support for IE 7 in Windows Vista will be available in Beta 2.

Summary

While the work on IE 7 is not yet done, Beta 1 does give a glimpse of the capability of the new and improved browser. The impending release of IE 7 will surely prompt other browser makers to improve on their offerings.

Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) http://weimenglee.blogspot.com is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions http://www.developerlearningsolutions.com, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.


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