So I bit the bullet and downloaded the IE 7 Beta 2 Preview.
First thing: this overwrites your old IE 6 install. If you want to be able to use IE 6, do not install this preview.
The install was almost painless. The only problem was they’ve added a “verification” step where the installer verifies your install of Windows is legit. The installer hung here for about 5 minutes. But it eventually figured my install of Windows was legit and let me continue. I really dislike that they’ve added that to the install.. but that’s an argument for a completely different thread.
With IE 7 installed, I started it up. It was very slow to start. The overall performance for everything was slow. This is something I’m going to chalk up to it being a beta/debug release and that the final release will respond much better. *crosses fingers*
I hate the UI. They wanted to copy FireFox but be different enough that they could make a case for having not copied FireFox completely. Those differences destroyed the UI.
First thing IE 7 has done is taken the menu that we are all accustomed to seeing in every IE application and removed it. Well actually, no, it’s still there, but now it’s called the “classic menu” and it’s something you need to enable. Furthermore, the “classic menu” cannot be moved above the address bar. This puts the menu in a position we are not accustomed to having. For whatever reason this really really bugs me. The top edge of a window is a visual cue for me. If I want to access the standard file menu, I have the exact position I need to put my mouse cursor, relative to the upper left corner of the window, burned into muscle memory. But now the position has changed and it requires effort to get use to the new location. I really don’t like this.
The address bar that the same features you’ll find in FireFox with a back and foward nav buttons as well as a stop and refresh button. Thing is, the back and forth buttons are on one side, while the refresh and stop buttons are on the other side of the address text box. What’s going on here?! Why are these buttons being separated. This only adds to the work the user needs to perform to access these buttons. Keep these basic buttons in the same area. This way users know to move the mouse cursor to that area even before they know which operation they want to do (back, forward, refresh, etc…) again, we’re talking muscle memory. This is a layout we’ve had since Netscape 1.. why does IE 7 need to break this practice now? To be different?
Okay, that may seem petty.
But how about that search bar. It’s in the upper-right corner, just like firefox. However it comes with only MSN search being supported by default. If you want to be able to use other search engines you have to go to a special page on Microsoft’s website where you can pick from a list of popular search engines. This bothers me as well. It’s an obvious attempt by Microsoft to force users to use MSN search over other more popular search engines. I guess I can’t blame them for it. They are a company and they need to make a profit, etc.. but the whole thing feels a little dishonest.
The tabbed browsing feature has me baffled. I don’t understand how Microsoft could screw this up when they’ve already got some very good examples of how to do this. The button to create a new tab is a blank square. It is positioned immediately after the last window in the tab-bar. Meaning the button changes positions as you add or remove tabs. With FireFox and friends the button doesn’t move. This is a good thing. Why? Usability. Users know where the button is and can quickly access it without thinking. Again.. muscle memory. But since the button moves, you’ve got to hunt it down every time you want to create a new tab.
I also question the choice of icon for the “stop” button. It looks similar to the window close button found in some Windows XP themes. With FireFox the button is made to look different from the normal X you see in the top-right corner of your window. It has a red background, it doesn’t have a square shape, etc… but Microsoft went with a square shape, red X on a grey background. My initial assumption on the functionality of that button was not a page-load stop button but a tab-close button. I don’t think I’ll be alone in that assumption either.
This is why I’m coming off as grumpy today. Because of this stupid “phishing filter” feature built into IE 7. The “phishing filter” is a device built into IE 7 which will submit the URL of the page you’re currently viewing to Microsoft. Microsoft will then report back on whether or not that page is a known phishing site.
Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Well.. no. Not really, no.
You’re passing the URL back to Microsoft. That could include sensitive information such as passowords, social security number, maybe sesison IDs which could be used to hijack your session with a given website. It’s a bit of a privacy concern for me no matter what Microsoft says.
So during the first-run of IE 7 I selected to not use this “phishing filter”.
I was then prompted at every page i visited to have IE 7 check with Microsoft to see if the current page was a known phishing site. I had no means to stop these annoying pop-ups. After restarting IE the pop-ups went away. It is my hope that this annoyance is the product of IE 7 being beta and the settings not being properly refreshed in the application.
IE now has an Opera-esque feature that allows you to scale not just the font size, but the entire page, including any and all graphics. Nice. Except that IE corrupts any and all 24-bit PNGs when scaled at any level other than 100%.
I also found that prior to restartint IE 7 after the first-run, IE would break the layouts of several pages when scaled to anything but 100%. This behavior went away with the restart of IE 7.
So what I’m saying is restart IE 7 immediately after you first start it up. That’ll save you some hassle.
So this is what you’re really interested in. How does IE 7 do with CSS?
Well.. it’s too early to tell. The layouts on my site don’t break, but tiny features stopped working or are buggy (like the CSS drop-down menus). This is most likely due to IE 7 having fixed several CSS parsing bugs found in IE 6. This is something I’m going to have to spend time on researching and figuring out just what’s going on.
Another thing I’m noticing is a lot of CSS-based layouts (not just mine) are showing a horizontal scrollbar. When you scroll right the 20 pixels or so that is available to scroll right you see nothing peeking out the side of the layout. So why am I seeing a horizontal scroll bar? Again, probably the fix to the CSS parser is causing IE to not apply IE-specific fixes for bugs like this.
But I haven’t put IE 7 through my own tests yet. I’ll create another post to this blog once I get the chance to do so.
So what’s good about IE 7?
It’s an option that is made available to you whenever you have more than 1 tab open. It will display a thumbnail sheet of all the open tabs you have. This is a great feature and it appears to be rock solid. I think it’s obvious where the majority of effort went into developing IE 7.
But that’s it. That really is the only good thing I’ve seen thus far.
It’s beta. A lot of what I’m seeing could be bugs that will be resolved a patch or 2 from now. But I’m weary. The preview release has not inspired confidence in the next generation of IE 7.
Has anyone else tried it yet? Please, share your experiences. I might just be in a very negative mood today and I’m missing a lot of the good.