Review: What's New In Internet Explorer 7 RC1?

Microsoft released IE7 Release Candidate 1 to public scrutiny. It offers several interesting tweaks, but no major changes.
Faster And Fitter
Overall, the browser just feels faster. Sites seem to load more quickly, and there's better overall responsiveness. For example, when I clicked the Favorites button, the Favorites list seemed to drop down more quickly.

This improved responsiveness, though, caused at least one minor problem. When I pressed Alt-Tab to switch to another window, and then returned to IE7, I found that the old, IE6-style menu (File, Edit, View, etc.) had suddenly appeared -- and then disappeared as soon as I clicked on the browser. Why? Because although IE7 did away with the old menus, it lets you bring them back to life by pressing the Alt button. That's nice -- but this new revision of IE7 sometimes interprets an Alt-Tab as being the same thing as pressing the Alt key, bringing back the menu when you don't want it.

A number of bugs have been squashed -- the toolbar, for example, can now be unlocked.

Better news is that a variety of bugs have been squashed. In previous versions of IE7, for example, you couldn't unlock the toolbar; in this version you can, so that you can now customize the Toolbar. More important is that this version of IE7 supports some interactive Web sites that earlier versions didn't. For example, the previous version of IE7 didn't work with the Web content management application used by TechWeb -- Web pages could not be previewed, and then could not be posted. This version of IE7 worked with the content management tool without a hitch.

A promised security feature has been fully implemented in this version of IE7 as well: Any window launched by IE, including pop-ups, now includes an Address Bar and a URL. This fixes a security hole, because pop-ups normally include no URL, so you had no way of knowing whether they originated from a legitimate site, or a scammer or spyware purveyor. With this version of IE7, the URL is now in plain sight.

All windows, including pop-ups, now include address bars for extra security.
Click image to enlarge.

Other Changes
Microsoft says that it has improved the "fit and finish" of IE7, but in truth, it's tough to find much of a difference in the interface between this and previous versions. One minor change is that the Add to Favorites button has been redesigned to be a plus sign superimposed over a star. (Previously, it had only been a plus sign.) In addition, there is now support for French and Spanish versions.

The bottom line? There are plenty of subtle changes in RC1, and overall the browser now seems ready for prime time. If you've held off upgrading, now may be the time to make your move, because this version seems solid enough to be the real thing.

Editor's Choice
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing