Internet Explorer 7

Post ImageLate yesterday afternoon, Microsoft released the final version of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP. I have updated my desktop and tablet, so I am now running the latest and greatest of the IE family. And I really do like IE7, I think it’s a great browser. Today the IE team announced that starting November 1st, IE7 will be rolled out via auomatic updates:

Of course we want to make sure you are ready to upgrade, so AU will notify you when IE7 is ready to install by presenting a welcome screen. You can choose whether or not to install it; IE7 will not install without your consent.

I also want to remind you that IE7 setup will preserve your current toolbars, home page, search settings, and favorites and will not change your choice of default browser. You will also be able to roll back to IE6 by using Add/Remove Programs. Only a user who is a local administrator will be offered the update.

Not everyone wants the update of course (mainly because it may break proprietary applications inside a company) so Microsoft has a free Blocker Toolkit which organizations can use to block the automatic update. This is a good strategy – companies that really want to block IE7 will use the tool, and those that don’t won’t bother with the toolkit and they’ll be much safer as a result of having a better browser installed.

As much as I like IE7, there are definitely some areas that Microsoft needs to work on (and apparently they have already begun work on IE8):

  • The setup experience needs work. It takes too long and requires two restarts (if you have old versions of IE7 installed, not sure about IE6 users which may require only one). The goal should be to have a setup similar to Firefox or Opera – short and sweet, no restarts required.
  • It may not be as bad as Firefox, but IE7 is still a memory hog. And I think the Firefox team have done some work on this in the 2.0 version, so Microsoft needs to keep up and make IE7 less resource-hungry.
  • There’s just no comparison between IE7 and earlier versions when it comes to standards support, but there’s still room for improvement.
  • It would be great to see something in the way of extensions, a la Firefox. The search builder in Opera is cool too.
  • Inline search! Dammit, I really hate that IE7 still has that archaic find box.

All of that side, I wouldn’t wait for the automatic updates if I were you – download IE7 from Microsoft now!

Read: IE Blog

NewsGator Desktop Sync Beta

Post ImageToday I started using a new aggregator for my web feeds. Well, sort of. I downloaded and installed the beta of NewsGator’s Desktop Sync, and now I can read all of my feeds inside IE7 RC1. It’s beautiful! Here’s the details on Desktop Sync:

Desktop Sync is a system tray application that keeps your feeds, folders and read states synchronized between NewsGator Online and the Windows RSS Platform. This means that any application that uses the Windows RSS Platform will be automatically synchronized with your NewsGator Online account!

Yeah baby! That’s what I’m talking about!

The product is the evolution of a demo that NewsGator head honcho Greg Reinacker did back at Microsoft’s MIX06 conference.

I have now used NewsGator Online, NewsGator Inbox (formerly Outlook Edition), FeedDemon and Desktop Sync. As you can see, having the synchronization story that NewsGator provides is incredibly important. Of them all, I think I like Desktop Sync the best. It allows me to read my web feeds in IE7, which means I can take advantage of everything I have inside my browser like favelets and other tools, but without losing the sync capabilities of NewsGator Online.

The application seems really solid for a beta, give it a try!

Read: NewsGator

Internet Explorer 7 RC1

Post ImageInternet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1 was released today by Microsoft. This is supposed to be the last test release before the final version of IE7 is made public, though more release candidates could be added depending on the feedback Microsoft recieves. I hope someone from Microsoft reads this post.

I just installed the browser, and had nothing but problems. Compared to beta 3, the installation for RC1 was a total nightmare. I downloaded the setup, closed all my programs (knowing I’d have to restart), and launched the setup. It did its thing for a while, then said I needed to restart, so I did. Upon restarting, Windows XP did something in the DOS-like blue window before the login screen, then booted normally. Right after logging in, the setup opened again (which required me to click Yes on the security box because the file came from the Internet). Almost immediately, svchost and the Generic Process Service crashed. I had to kill the setup as it was then stalled (no CPU activity whatsoever), and launch it again. After a second restart, the browser was installed properly.

After the first restart, when the processes crashed, my audio didn’t load (I only noticed because Skype popped up an error message). That was fine after the second restart. Worse though, is that something happened to my external hard drive. Maybe it was just a coincidence that it happened at the same time as the install, maybe not, but Windows thinks the drive needs to be formatted. I am currently running chkdsk on it now, and it’s found a bunch of unreadable segments. I can’t imagine that the IE setup would have touched the drive, but you never know. I didn’t have anything on the drive that I couldn’t afford to lose, but still, it’s very annoying. I’m hoping chkdsk will fix it (it’s fixed a ton of errors so far it appears…and as I type this, I see that chkdsk just encountered an unspecified error…so much for fixing it…).

Other than that, I really like IE7. It does a great job of rendering CSS and the other standards (in my opinion) and RC1 feels much faster at loading pages than beta 3. Perhaps my only complaint right now is the find feature (CRTL-F). Why doesn’t IE7 have the inline search that Firefox and Opera have? That stupid, useless little find box feels so 1996.

Overall though, I quite like IE7.

UPDATE: I ran chkdsk one more time, just for kicks, and it seems to have fixed everything! As I said I didn’t need anything on the drive, but there were a few things I wouldn’t have minded keeping. I am now copying them to network storage, just in case the drive dies again.

Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 Released

Post ImageMicrosoft today released Beta 3 of Internet Explorer 7. The main changes are around the user interface, though there are also improvements to tabs, RSS feeds, and security. You’ll have to uninstall any previous versions of IE7 before installing the new beta. According to IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch, this is the last beta version, meaning we’ll see only release candidates until IE7 goes gold.

There’s a great overview of the interface changes up at the IE Blog. The stop, refresh, and search buttons have all been lightened, which is good as they don’t clash as much now. There’s horizontal lines separating the links toolbar from the rest now too! I don’t remember if Beta 2 had it, but when you type a URL in the address bar, the refresh button changes to become a “Go” button with an arrow. They have finally made the awkward image zooming from IE6 much easier to use as well.

And my favorite change? You can now drag and drop tabs to reorder them! I wish Firefox had this feature too, it’s so useful when you’ve got a lot of tabs open at once. IE7 isn’t the first to have this feature though, Opera 9 has tab reordering as well.

Read: Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3

Windows Vista gets thumbs up from DOJ

Post ImageIt turns out that I’m not the only one who though Google’s whining about Internet Explorer 7 was dumb. The Justice Department has reviewed many parts of Windows Vista, including the new search box, and has found no problems:

While criticizing Microsoft for its implementation of its existing antitrust accord, regulators appear satisfied with the software maker’s plans for Windows Vista, including a new search box that is part of Internet Explorer 7.

As part of its status report on Microsoft’s antitrust compliance, the Justice Department said that it had reviewed the search box and concluded that Microsoft’s implementation “respects users’ and (computer makers’) default choices and is easily changed.”

Thank goodness the government has gotten something correct for once! Apparently they have also approved the “first-boot” experience for Windows Vista, after having reached an agreement with Microsoft that gives flexibility to computer makers.

So what does it all mean? Essentially, it means the only thing holding Windows Vista back now is Microsoft itself.

Read: CNET News.com

Browser Extensions

Post ImageAs I mentioned before, I have been testing Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2. As part of my testing, I have been using it almost exclusively. Turns out, some pages simply do not render in IE7! Sometimes this is because the rendering engine has changed so much, other times its because of crappy programming on the part of the web developer. In any case, I found that I needed to load these pages in Firefox (sounds eerily familiar to when I started using Firefox way back when and had to view pages in IE).

I have had the IEView extension for Firefox installed forever – it lets you right click on a page or link and display it in Internet Explorer. Today I came across FirefoxView, which as the name suggests, lets you right click a page or link in IE to display in Firefox. I love it! The only strange thing? It’s a Firefox extension that adds things to IE – go figure!

I am starting to think my friend Kevin was right. We chatted last week about the two browsers and he remarked that unless IE had extensions like Firefox, there was no reason for him to switch. I have to admit, I wish IE had extensions like Firefox.

IE7 Beta 2 Released

Post ImageMicrosoft has released the latest test version of the new Internet Explorer 7 browser, this one titled simply Beta 2 (what the heck was with that Preview anyway). From the official IE blog:

We acted on a lot of the feedback and bug reports from the previous public releases. In particular, I feel good about changes we made based on reports from web developers around some CSS behaviors, application compatibility feedback, reliability data (yes, we do analyze the information that comes when you click “Send Error Report”), and user experience feedback. People on the team will post additional details about changes over the next few days.

Unfortunately you have uninstall any previous IE7 releases before installing the new one, but this is the last release that you’ll need to do that for. Apparently the rendering engine is now complete, which means that the way pages look in this release is how they’ll look in the final release too.

Most of the UI is the same as older releases, but it’s funny how small things make a big difference. The tabs now have a gradient that I didn’t notice before, and when you open a new tab, there is a “help” page displayed which is great for new users. A couple other things I have noticed:

  • If you right click a link and choose “Open in New Tab”, the new tab opens right next to the current tab, even if you have a bunch of tabs. Makes it easier to organize them which is nice!
  • When you press CRTL-T to open a new tab, the address bar does not receive focus which is incredibly annoying. I want to open a new tab using the key combo and then immediately start typing the address!
  • I still don’t get the “multiple home pages” feature.
  • I really love that the menu bar and stuff auto-hides when you enter full screen mode (F11).

So far, I quite like IE7. This release still uses quite a bit of memory, but that’s not really an issue at the moment considering Firefox ALWAYS uses more.

Read: Internet Explorer