A Brief Introduction to Internet Explorer 7
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- Written on: October 22nd, 2006
Microsoft has officially released its newest member of the Internet Explorer family, IE 7. While the reviews from many industry leaders are mixed, as usual you can count on me to give you an unbiased evaluation of the new web browser.
As a preface, a few months ago I started recommending that all Windows users who currently use Internet Explorer should also install Mozilla’s FireFox browser. While there are FireFox proponents who claim the open-source browser is safer than IE, we do not recommend it for that reason. I feel it is important to have alternatives should either browser malfunction. Since IE is built into Windows already, installing FireFox as an alternative makes good preventative maintenance sense.
With that said, Microsoft has introduced some features that are new to IE users. These features have been present in browsers like FireFox for some time, but they are a definite improvement to IE 6. The new version of IE includes the following new features:
- A redesigned interface
- Tabbed browsing
- A built-in RSS feed reader
- A new Favorites Center
- Anti-Phishing Technology
- Other Minor Improvements
The Redesigned Interface
After you install IE 7, the biggest difference you will notice is the redesigned user interface. Microsoft has eliminated the menus across the top of the browser window, and consolidated them into one single master menu. The back and forward buttons are prominently located in the top left corner, as they always have been. But the refresh button seems to have migrated to the far right side of the screen.
The address bar has been moved to the very top of the window, which can make for close quarters at times, but it also helps prevent spyware programs from replacing it with a shady search bar. Speaking of a search bar, now MS has installed a search bar that uses Windows Live Search to find what you want on the Internet. You can replace this with a Google, Yahoo, or other search box of your choice.
While FireFox has been using tabbed browsing for some time, many IE users will think of it as a new concept. Rather than opening a new IE windows for every different age you want to have open at once, you can now open a new tab in the existing window. That means no more task-bar clutter or grouped IE windows. There is just one IE window, containing several different tabs for the pages you have open.
There is also a feature that allows you o see a quick snapshot of what a tab contains. A simple click shows you exactly (in thumbnail form) what is on each tab.
Built In RSS Reader
Many IE users many not even know what an RSS feed is. That is because IE 6 did not have any integrated support for RSS feeds, let alone an RSS Reader. An RSS feed is a file on a website that is updated to announce a change to the site. For example, this blog is equipped with an RSS feed that, when you subscribe to it, will let you know when I post a new blog entry. While nothing I say here is that earth-shattering, RSS technology can be used to deliver weather information, changes to auctions, and other time sensitive information.
With the new reader built into IE7 you will be able to monitor these RSS feeds and easily access the new information!
The New Favorites Center
Just below the new Address Bar, is the new Favorites Center. This feature replaces the old favorites sidebar in IE6. There are tabs for favorites, RSS Feeds, and your IE history. The improvements should make it easier to sort and organize your favorite sites and feeds.
Anti Phishing Technology
The new version of Internet Explorer comes equipped with anti-phishing technology. Phishing is the practice of tricking visitors into entering their user names and passwords into a website that looks official, but is not. For example, you may get an email that looks like it is from your bank, but really came from a Phisher. You click on the link and arrive at a site that looks like your bank’s website. You enter your user name and password only to find nothing happens.
What has happened is that you just handed your user name and password to someone who will have your bank account cleaned out in less than 30 seconds. To prevent this from happening, Microsoft’s anti-phishing technology alerts you when you are visiting a website that may be designed to steal your personal information. While this technology is new, most freshly launched phishing websites are detected by MS within an hour or so.
A new minor feature that is new in IE7 is Clear Type technology. Microsoft boasts that this will make the font’s on your screen as sharp as print on a page. There is also a zoom feature that allows you to get up and close (up to 400x larger) with the content on a website that might be too small to read. It works very well on text, but does distort graphics a bit.
Printing has also been improved with a new (new to IE) feature that shrinks the web page to the size of your paper when you print. While this does mean no more cut off text and images when you print a webpage, it can also mean micro-sized text, as it is shrunk as much as needed to fit on the page.
IE7 is definitely better than IE6, however these improvements only bring IE7 up to the par set by other browsers like FireFox. Mozilla has a new version of Firefox set to deploy, and it is almost a certainty that other new features will be introduced in that release to give FireFox another edge over IE7.
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