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Inside Look: Internet Explorer 7, Beta 2

by Wei-Meng Lee
02/21/2006

Last year, I wrote a preview of IE 7 Beta 1 when Microsoft released Windows Vista Beta 1. Since then, six months have passed and the IE 7 team has released the second beta of IE 7. This IE 7 Beta 2 Preview is the first public beta designed for IT pros and developers, and it especially targets Windows XP SP2 users. IT pros and developers can use this beta preview to test their toolbars and ActiveX controls. But what about end users? In this article, I will update you on the features in IE 7 Beta 2 and what has changed since the last beta preview.

Installation

Before you head out to install IE 7 Beta 2, here is some useful information:

  1. When you install IE 7 Beta 2, it will upgrade your current IE 6. Side-by-side running of IE 6 and IE 7 is not supported. Hence you will not be able to run IE 6 after IE 7 is installed.
  2. You can uninstall IE 7 if you don't like it. This process will return IE 6 to its original state.
  3. If you have IE 7 Beta 1 installed, you need to uninstall it first before you install Beta 2. Check out this page for more information.

You can download the IE 7 Beta 2 Preview from the Internet Explorer 7 page. During installation, you will be prompted to validate your copy of Windows and install the latest updates for IE.

The first time you run IE 7, you need to set some options (see Figure 1). In particular, you are recommended to turn on the Automatic Phishing Filter so that the URL of sites you are visiting will be sent to Microsoft for checking. You can also opt to participate in the Customer Experience Improvement Program.

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Figure 1. Setting the options the first time IE 7 is run--click for full-size image.

New UI

The UI of this latest beta is slightly different from the last beta. Figure 2 shows the new UI of IE 7 Beta 2.

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Figure 2. New UI of IE 7 Beta 2--click for full-size image.

One noteworthy feature is the Zoom capability (located in the status bar; see Figure 3). This accessibility feature is very useful for vision-impaired users who need to enlarge the page for easier viewing.

Another easily accessible feature is Automatic Website Checking. This feature is also located in the status bar, and with one click of the mouse you can turn it on or off.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Turning on/off Automatic Website Checking

Internet Annoyances

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Tabbed Browsing

One long-overdue, requested feature in IE 7 is tabbed browsing. Like its previous beta preview, IE 7 Beta 2 supports tabbed browsing. To add a new tab, move your mouse pointer over the New Tab tab and an icon showing a new page will appear (see Figure 4). Click on the icon and a new tab is created. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-T to add a new tab page to the current browser.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Adding a new tab page

One new feature related to tabbed browsing in the Beta 2 Preview is the new Quick Tab button (see Figure 5). If you click on the button with the down arrow icon, you can directly select a tab page to view.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Selecting a tab page to view

The Quick Tab button renders miniature versions of all the tab pages (see Figure 6). Click on one of them to set the selected page as the current active tab page.

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Figure 6. Previewing all the tab pages using Quick Tab--click for full-size image.

You can also save a tab group to your Favorites (see Figure 7).

Figure 7
Figure 7. Saving a tab group to Favorites

In this preview of IE 7, the menu bar is hidden. You need to press the Alt key to bring it up (see Figure 8).

Figure 8
Figure 8. Press the Alt key to display the menu bar.

Tip: To permanently display the menu bar, click the Tools menu and select Toolbars-->Classic Menu.

RSS Aggregation

RSS aggregation in IE 7 is also improved in this beta preview. Just like in the previous beta, when a page contains links to RSS feeds, the browser's RSS icon will turn orange in color (see Figure 9 and note the use of the new RSS icon promoted by Microsoft--it's actually the one that Firefox uses). You can view the list of RSS feeds contained in the page by clicking the down arrow, then select the feed you want to view.

Figure 9
Figure 9. RSS aggregation in IE 7

Tip: IE 7 now supports Atom-based feeds.

When a feed is displayed, you have the option to filter the document by typing in key phrases you are searching for, or to sort the postings by date, time, or author (see Figure 10).

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Figure 10. Filtering and sorting in a feed--click for full-size image.

To subscribe to a feed, click the "Subscribe to this feed" hyperlink on the page. Strangely, for some pages IE 7 could not manage to detect the feeds on the page (what makes it stranger is that the page is from MSDN! See Figure 11). In this case, you can simply click on the RSS icon on the page (if there is one) and subscribe as usual.

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Figure 11. Clicking on a link containing an RSS feed--click for full-size image.

To view the list of subscribed blogs, click on the Favorites Center button. It will display three tabs: Favorites, Feeds, and History (see Figure 12).

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Figure 12. Finding the subscribed feeds--click for full-size image.

Printing

As in the previous beta preview, you can shrink a page to fit it for printing (see Figure 13).

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Figure 13. Using the Shrink to Fit option for printing--click for full-size image.

Delete Browsing History

One feature that I welcome is the new Delete Browsing History shortcut located under the Tools button (see Figure 14).

Figure 14
Figure 14. The Delete Browsing History menu item

Using this shortcut, you have granular control on what to delete (see Figure 15). In the current IE 6, you have to go to different tabs to delete all the different data such as cookies, form data, etc. In IE 7, you can delete all this data in one place, with just one click.

Figure 15
Figure 15. Deleting your browsing history

Search Providers

By default, IE 7 uses MSN Search (see Figure 16). To add other search providers, select the Get Search Providers item.

Figure 16
Figure 16. Searching in IE 7

You will be redirected to a page where you can select from a list of search providers (see Figure 17). To add a search provider, click the link next to its name.

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Figure 17. The Search Provider page--click for full-size image.

Amazon is one of the search providers, and I can now install the Amazon search in IE 7 and search for books directly from within the browser.

Summary

Overall, I am happy with the new Beta 2 of IE 7. I have been using it for the past few days and it works quite well (it has crashed on me only once). Give it a spin and see if it works well for you.

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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