Windows Vista Review Part 5

Internet Explorer 7

Internet Explorer remains the most popular web browser in the world today. Since it took over the world when it won its fight against Netscape back in the dot-com-boom era the browser itself has stood still in terms of innovation and features. With each iteration since IE 5 there haven’t been much change in the likes of aesthetics or functionality. The only thing we have seen prior to IE6 were security patches and updates that plugged the holes that were left open for hackers and those with malicious intent to take advantage of.

This is why Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is a much needed and much welcomed update for Windows Vista. Available as a free download for XP users, IE7 ships alongside Vista with the same features.

Tabbed browsing that was introduced by Netscape and made popular by Firefox is now available as well as a new and unique feature that I haven’t seen in other browsers and that’s the thumbnail view of all your open windows. I’ve found this to be a handy feature, especially when you have several browser windows all with different content and you just need an easy and quick way to view what’s on each page.

The look and feel of IE7 has had a refresh with a more minimalist look to it. They’ve even stripped away the ‘File Edit View’ task bar at the top (although it can be turned back on) in an attempt to maximise your web space viewing area. Some have been able to adapt to this new button layout but others have not been so keen on it. I’ve personally been using it since it was released for XP and I’ve grown to adapt to the interface and although it takes some time to get adjusted to it, you do get used to the window layout.

RSS is now supported in IE7 with a dedicated icon that lights up whenever a feed is available. Clicking the RSS icon will bring up the feed you’re after and allow you to add to your favourites where it gets automatically updated whenever changes are made. If you’re already familiar with this feature on Safari for the Mac you will pick up the IE7 ‘version’ of it straight away.

They couldn’t possibly of missed out an instant search box since everyone else is doing it. Without it, I probably wouldn’t use it. You can now do all your searching using the search box located in the top right corner of the window. The default search engine selected is naturally the search but you can easily change this to any of the other popular search engines out there like Google or Yahoo.

Typically in web browsers you will get the enlarge text functionality hidden away in the menu somewhere but in IE7 this feature is very much accessible in the bottom right corner of the window and allows you to zoom in and out of the page you’re on.

New security features have also been implemented with the introduction of a Phishing filter that checks for the legitimacy of the web-sites and links that you’re visiting. When it detects that you are about to visit a web-site that is known to be corrupt it will let you know about it. The database in which these sites are kept is updated and maintained hundreds of times each day so you can be sure that you are protected.

Security features that were implemented in to IE6 are also present with things like the Pop-Up blocker and ActiveX detection and disable feature.

So you’re probably thinking what’s the difference between the IE7 for XP and Vista version? There are just two that are listed on the Microsoft web-site and they are the Protected Mode and Parental Controls. The first security feature stops any malicious code from tampering with the rest of your system that derives from IE7. The browser application is essentially sand-boxed from the rest of the system so that it can’t affect any other part of it. Any attacks that attempt to get through IE7 will only be successful at writing to the Temporary Internet Files folder unless the user authorises it.

The second Vista enhancement is self explanatory. It allows parents to block and restrict access to certain web-sites and as with the rest of the Vista system a safety level can be checked remotely to ensure that your kids are safe whilst using the computer.

Microsoft has made a good comeback considering they dismantled the Internet Explorer team a few years ago only to be joined back up again to work on IE7. If anything, IE7 will help bolster the security side of things for XP users and for Vista owners it is an adequate browser for the time being. I can only hope that the next release isn’t 5 years from now because rivals such as Mozilla and Opera are continuing to improve, develop and innovate in the browser market whereas IE seems to be copying where everyone else is going right now. That aside, IE7 is a feature complete web browser that has some valuable tools such as the thumbnail feature that will change the way some of us use tabbed browsing.

2007-04-14 Onwah Tsang

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