While computer users are watching the slow release of builds of Windows Vista (which Microsoft calls the Community Technology Preview, or CTP), part of that anticipation includes the first new version Internet Explorer in several years. The latest widely distributed version of Windows Vista, build 5231, also known as the October CTP, is significant primarily because of the new features it delivers in Internet Explorer 7. (You can also read Scot's latest review of this version of Vista.)
Internet Explorer 7 First Impressions
We first looked at IE 7 in August, 2005, where we reviewed Beta 1 of IE 7 for Windows XP (which, except for some of the security functionality, is supposed to be nearly identical to the Vista version). Among the features we surveyed were two major additions: tabbed browsing and RSS features. Both the appearance and the functionality of those two features are upgraded in this version of IE 7.
Microsoft has added to its tabbed-browsing functionality with a thumbnail-tab overview feature called Quick Tabs, the ability to save and reopen sets of tabs known as Tabbed Groups, and a small new tabbed-browsing configuration dialog in Internet Options.
Quick Tabs is the most interesting of the new features. Although earlier Web browsers or plug-ins have offered something similar to this before, it's a first for Internet Explorer. Once you have two or more tabs open, an icon appears on the tabs bar, which, when clicked, replaces the Web page window with small thumbnail views for each of the Web pages you have open in tabs. It's very easy to click on any thumbnail to open a tabbed page or to delete it by clicking the close box in the thumbnail's upper right corner.
The new Quick Tabs feature in IE 7 promises to be one of the biggest productivity boosters in the new Microsoft Web browser. (Click for complete image.)
There are two ways we can see ourselves using Quick Tabs. The most common will probably be "Where, oh where, is that Web page with the cool stuff on it?" In other words, when you have 8, 15, or 29 tabs open, Quick Tabs will be the fastest way to find that page you were looking at three hours ago.
The other way some people will use this is as a visual tab manager. Whenever you call it a day on your computer, and you realize your browser has 14 open tabs, aren't there usually at least one or two you want to bookmark or save shortcut icons for? The easiest way to do that is to rapidly kill off tabs you know you don't need and then save the rest. And we can't think of a faster way to do that than Quick Tabs.
The Tabbed Groups feature lets you name, save, and then later re-launch sets of tabs (in other words,Web pages). (Click for complete image.)
The Tab Groups feature lets you save sets of tabs into a new folder in your Favorites list, and then later reopen them with just a few clicks. This feature will come in handy, but the implementation in Favorites is a little clunky. When I saved a folder there, IE 7 placed the folder at the bottom of the Favorites list. Microsoft describes the feature as offering one-click recall of the tab set, but that's only possible if you open the new Favorites Center in the sidebar. We don't know about you, but neither of us is likely to leave the sidebar open at all times.