I read that Microsoft has finally released a new version of Internet Explorer for general use. It promised tabbed browsing and all the things it's been 3 or 4 years behind on. It also promised an intelligible way to print things. What the heck, I thought. I'll install it and write a review.
It collects all sorts of information, including:
A unique number assigned to your computer by the tools (Globally Unique Identifier or GUID)
And the installation failed. It wants me to restart and select "update" next time I open Internet Explorer. I got two windows that popped up to encourage me to restart the computer immediately. I restart the computer when I feel like it. And I will tell IE to update itself the next time I open IE willingly. I suspected that will happen sometime around 2008. However, I just read that Firefox 2.0 would be released on Tuesday — so I thought I would look at the best Microsoft had to offer so that I could make a meaningful comparison. Internet Explorer 7.0 exceeded my extraordinarily low expectations — but I won't be switching back.
One new "feature" of IE 7.0 is it's "Phishing Filter" which evidently compares sites with a list of known sites. It will supposedly alert you if the site you are visiting is illegitimate. Additonally...
Anonymous statistics about your use of Internet Explorer and Phishing Filter will also be sent to Microsoft, such as the time and total number of websites browsed since an address was sent to Microsoft for analysis. This information, along with the information described above, will be used to analyze and improve the Phishing Filter service.
On one hand, this isn't the worst invasion of privacy we've seen from Microsoft. On the other hand, I was born with a highly-sophisticated, built-in phishing filter known a brain. If you give your credit card number to www.my6ankacount.iq, shoot me an email — I have some real estate you might be interested in. I'd rather have some minute, principled bit of privacy than whatever protection the phishing filter gave me. I disabled it.
"Welcome to tabbed browsing."
Hi Microsoft! Welcome to 2006!
Actually, IE 7.0 can do something useful that Firefox 188.8.131.52 can't do. Ctrl-Q shows a thumbnail view of all current tabs.
If you've ever tried to print a webpage from Internet Explorer (or any other web browser I've used), you've probably been annoyed by what prints and how it prints. Images either won't print or will print on seven different pages. The final printed page has the last line of a copyright notice. Worst of all, what you printed doesn't even remotely resemble what you had meant to print. IE 7.0 has fixed this. Sort of. The program does a decent job of rescaling a print request. It's not perfect yet. For example, the right column of Marco.org cuts off halfway through. The hotmail print page seems to have a printed scroll bar. If a page automatically rescales depending on resolution, you'll end up with a ridiculously small font. You can still print a selection of the page — if you don't mind waiting for it to redraw the preview numerous times.
This feature is a good idea — and I'm glad that somebody finally did it — but it has a fairly limited use. How often do you print web pages? I suspect this feature targets Microsoft's usual audience (the one that demanded a phishing filter) that is more comfortable with paper than an electronic medium.
This is kind of cool. I don't know if I'll use it — but it's a nice thing to have.
As soon as I opened the program, I was surprised by how strange it looked. Something was different. Because it was a Microsoft product, I assumed it looked more cluttered and bloated than previous versions. However, a quick inspection revealed that this was not the case. Then it hit me. Where are all the toolbars? There aren't any. There isn't even a menu bar on by default. It briefly appears if you press Alt.
I added a Google Toolbar just to make sure they still worked. (And the Google tool bar has gotten slightly creepier since I last used it. It now makes suggestions for searches for you as you type in your search term. It screens some of them — but not perfectly. Did you want to search for "Paris Hilton Photos"?) It still works. Fortunately, Microsoft has added a pop-up blocker and a built in search box — so the Google toolbar is no longer necessary for an acceptable browsing experience.
Beyond this, the icons have moved around a bit. Everything has moved over to the right. Icons have changed. Things are basically the same.
Once again, some of the defaults are a bit dubious. The default security settings don't allow whatever cookies it takes for Gmail to work. And remember those disappearing toolbars? It's now one step harder to change the defaults. If you find the little "Tools" icon on the extreme right, "Preferences" is at the bottom of the page. (The first option in "Tools" is "Delete Browsing History." It looks like Microsoft has figured out what the internet is for.)
There are a few other features or functions that I didn't recognize from earlier versions. For example: "Join the Customer Experience Improvement Program". *shudder*
Additionally, everything seems fairly slow. The new tabs do not open as quickly as they do in Firefox.
Overall, the browser seems to work fairly well — though some sites do not load correctly in all circumstances. For example, Marco.org has some overlapping text if the history sidebar is showing. Still, the browser has most of the things a browser should have. The only significant thing Firefox (184.108.40.206) can do that Internet Explorer 2.0 cannot is easily block images from certain domains.
As a bonus, Microsoft has filled my favorite links with opportunities for me to go to other Microsoft sites and buy Microsoft products. I have a new link to Windows Messanger. The new, built-in feed reader comes with built in Microsoft feeds. While other browsers, such as Firefox, might try to refer you to Amazon, eBay, or commonly used, well-respected sites, IE will only refer you to sites by Microsoft or its affiliates.
Overall, IE 7.0 is a great improvement over previous versions. In fact, I would say it could reasonably compete with Firefox 1.5(ish). I'm sure there are still security issues — and dealing with some of Microsoft's bloat is rather annoying. It looks easy enough to add extras — but no extensions Microsoft promotes appear to be both free and useful. I will stick with Firefox for now — but until Firefox releases a new version (say, last Tuesday), I could comfortably use either one.