If you're looking for major changes or significant new features in the just-released RC1 version of Internet Explorer 7, you'll be disappointed. (For a thorough examination of the the IE7 beta, check out our review "IE7 For XP Beta 2: Has Firefox Met Its Match?") But plenty of work has gone on under the hood, and you'll find this a more solid, faster, less buggy release than the previous one. It features better RSS support, a much-improved installation routine, and a number of important tweaks that make it work more effectively with Web sites.
IE7 RC-1 is faster, more stable, and less buggy than previous versions.
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First, a word of explanation: If you're not familiar with the somewhat arcane language of software releases, you need to know that, in the parlance of Microsoft, RC1 means "Release Candidate 1." The term "beta" means that the software may still need significant work, while "Release Candidate" means that the software is nearly ready for prime time. In fact, an RC1 candidate often becomes an official release, although sometimes there may be an RC2 or RC3 version. In this case, Microsoft has said that it expects that RC1 will become the officially released software, but that could change if problems are uncovered.
A Real Install
The most obvious change in this new version may be the most welcome, and comes the moment you start the installation routine. Unlike earlier versions of IE7, RC1 doesn't make you uninstall the previous edition of the browser before installing this one. There's a more streamlined routine built right in that uninstalls the old version, reboots your PC, then begins the new installation. In addition, you don't need to worry about porting over your preferences from the previous version; the installation routine takes care of that for you.
Another nice installation touch: It will ferret out any add-ons known to have compatibility or stability problems, and warn you so that you can temporarily disable them, or else get newer versions that are more stable. (Yes, just like Firefox does with its extensions.)
Better RSS And CSS Support
One of IE7's most significant improvements over IE6 is its very usable built-in RSS support and reader. But in earlier versions of IE7, that support was buggy. (For details, check out Microsoft's official IEBlog.) The names of the bugs tell a colorful story -- they include the Peekaboo Bug in which (in certain circumstances) Web content mysteriously disappears and then appears again; the Guillotine Bug, in which the bottom part of "floated" elements of a page are chopped off when certain links are hovered over; Border Chaos, in which borders around boxes don't render properly (or disappear entirely); and many more.
The RSS interface hasn't changed, but standards support has been beefed up.
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Microsoft has fixed these and other errors, and says it has tried to make sure that IE7's RSS support complies with W3C specifications. It has also, according to the company, worked to improve IE7's support for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). But that support remains somewhat controversial, because IE7 still does not fully support the newest CSS specifications, a somewhat surprising oversight. Microsoft claims that future IE versions will improve CSS support.