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• July 6, 2006 •

Review: Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3

Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 In February 2005, Microsoft announced Internet Explorer 7. This browser will be available for Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows XP x64. A version will also be shipping in Windows Vista (the next Windows operating system formerly code-named "Longhorn"), which will have a slightly different feature set than the version for the other mentioned operating systems.

At the end of July 2005 Microsoft released Beta 1 of Internet Explorer 7, although it was only made available through MSDN subscribers & beta testers. Last January Microsoft released a Beta 2 Preview, targeted at IT Pro's, developers & enthusiasts.

Last week's release of Beta 3 marks the last "beta" of Internet Explorer 7. According to Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager, Microsoft Internet Explorer team, next up will be the Release Candidates followed by general availability in the second half of the year.

Looking at Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3

Microsoft made a significant number of changes to the user interface for Internet Explorer 7. Looking at the new UI one notes that the Back & Forward navigation buttons have been separated from any other buttons and next to the Address Bar there is now a new Search Bar (Figure). While the Search Bar defaults to using Windows Life Search you can add search providers and change the default to your preferred engine (Figure). The classic "File - Edit - View - etc" menu bar is gone (although you can toggle it by clicking the ALT key (Figure)). The most used commands are grouped under a few buttons on the right side of the menu bar.

Tabbed Browsing

Internet Explorer finally has support for tabbed browsing (Figure). Tabbed browsing is a feature that most users love, and probably the single greatest reason why so many users defected to using other browsers (notably Mozilla's Firefox), since it has been a feature offered by most other browsers for several years. Microsoft's implementation of tabs looks to be well thought out. Next to the rightmost tab, there's a button that functions to open a new blank tab when clicked, and tabs can be opened and closed using the keyboard commands CTRL+T and CTRL+W respectively, and you can use CTRL+TAB to switch between open tabs (yes, other browsers use this too). Another small but useful addition is a "close" button on each tab once you open two tabs or more (Figure), something that Firefox lacks, which means you always have to use the close button at the far right of the browser window. New in the beta 3 is the ability to reorder tabs via dragging. You just grab the tab you want to re-order, and drag it where you want it to go (Figure). Another advantage that IE's implementation has over Firefox is that if you have a Web site open in a tab (while you have other tabs showing different sites/pages), if you right-click on a link in the current page & choose to Open in New Tab, it will open a new tab directly next to the current tab. Firefox will always open the new tab at the end of all other tabs currently open. For users who don't like tabbed browsing, it can be switched off from Internet Explorer's Advanced Options. When you open a new (empty) tab, Internet Explorer will show you more information about tabs, including a whole range of keyboard shortcuts you can use with tabs (Figure).

Another addition is the Quick Tabs function, which will appear as a button next to the Favorites Center and Add/Subscribe buttons when you open more then one tab. Quick Tabs will show you a tiled-preview of all opened Web documents (Figure). You can select a tab to open (IE switches back to "normal" view) or close any or all tabs from this Quick Tabs page. You can also refresh individual tabs, or refresh all open tabs. When you have opened a number of tabs, you can save those as a Tab Group (Figure) to your Favorites. From the Favorites Center you can select a Tab Group, and either open individual tabs from that group, or open all tabs from that group (Figure).

Favorites Center

Since the classic menu is hidden in IE7, Microsoft added a new Favorites Center to access & manage not only favorites, but also RSS Feeds (see more on RSS below) and browser history (Figure).

Page Zoom

Another nifty function is the new Page Zoom. You may know that in older Internet Explorer versions (it is still available in IE7 too) you can increase the text size on a Web page by selecting View > Text Size and choosing from a range of sizes (from smallest to largest (Figure)), but this would only increase the size of the text. The new Page Zoom works on all elements on a Web page, so you get true zoom capabilities (Figure). When working with page zoom, you can now also scroll horizontal, even if you don't have one of those new "tilt" mouse scroll-wheels that support horizontal scrolling by default. You can scroll horizontal by holding down the Ctrl + Shift keys while using your scroll button.


Internet Explorer's printing feature has always been a weak point. This time Microsoft decided to completely overhaul the printing functionality of IE. Finally it includes the option to "Shrink to fit" (Figure), so that a Web page fits completely onto a printed page, a feature common in most browsers today. Other printing options included let you switch between portrait and landscape mode, and an option to remove the header and footer text.

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