Internet Explorer (IE) 7 is almost soup.
Microsoft is releasing for public download on August 24 a new test build of its browser, the near-final Release Candidate (RC) 1 milestone.
RC1 may or may not be the final public test build of IE 7, officials said, depending on tester feedback.
Microsoft has said to expect the final version of its standalone browser to be available in the fourth calendar quarter of 2006. Microsoft is planning to push IE 7 out to users via its Automatic Update software-distribution mechanism that is used to deliver security patches to Windows users. Microsoft is providing a blocking tool for corporate users who do not want the new browser delivered this way. Microsoft also plans to post the final IE 7 bits on its download site, officials have said.
IE 7 RC1 includes primarily under-the-cover tweaks in the Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) and performance/reliability arenas, said Margaret Cobb, IE group product manager.
"We've also worked on the fit and finish, and tightened site rendering for our developers," Cobb said.
Microsoft also has added, based on tester feedback, a new automatic uninstall feature to the RC1 build, she said. In order to install previous test builds of the browser, users had to first uninstall their current versions and then download the new bits. With the RC1 release, an automatic uninstall of previous IE 7 test builds will be part of the new installation process.
Microsoft has added French and Spanish support, as of IE 7 RC1, to its list of supported languages, Cobb said.
Microsoft has no plans to further reduce the number of security-related pop-ups that are part of the new IE 7, Cobb said. A number of Vista testers have complained that Microsoft is including too many security-related pop-ups with Vista and the version of IE that is integrated into Microsoft's next-generation operating system.
On August 22, the IE team posted to the IE Team Blog a list of more than 200 CSS-related changes and fixes that Microsoft has made in IE 7 in order to make the browser more CSS-standards-compliant. Microsoft has been under fire for years for not complying with CSS standards. Even though IE 7 will not be fully CSS 2.1-compliant, as Microsoft officials themselves have acknowledged, the company has made improvements in the standards-compliancy space that have won over some public skeptics.
With the IE 7 RC1 build, Microsoft made several CSS-specific changes, at customers' requests, Cobb said. Among these are changes in the way IE 7 deals with minimum/maximum build-image height and white spaces.
Microsoft also has come under fire this week for the way it is support International Domain Names (IDNs) with IE 7. Gervase Markham, a programmer with the Mozilla Foundation, said publicly that IE 7's IDN handling will have a "serious detrimental effect on IDN take-up."
Microsoft believes it is going the right route in the way it is handling IDN names -- in terms of improving IE 7's resistance to phishing and spoofing -- Cobb said, and has no plans to change the way IE 7 displays code.