If you looked at Microsofts rebuilding of its Internet Explorer Web browser as if it were an automobile, then the early alphas and betas were initial construction phases with new engines and frameworks added, and the Beta 2 releases added all the features and components in essentially the way theyll end up in the final design.
With the release this week of Beta 3 of IE 7, Microsoft is essentially adding the final trim and doing some initial detailing to clean up the look and feel of the Web browser, along with more fixes and tweaks based on the extensive road testing the product is getting from beta testers. This current beta is available only for systems running Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Server 2003 SP1.
From eWEEK Labs tests of IE 7 Beta 3, it looks as if the first truly new version of the Microsoft browser in the last several years is shaping up nicely to be, if not a groundbreaking change, at least a browser that is from more or less the same generation as the competing Firefox and Opera browsers.
There are no major new changes from the last Beta 2 release in this release, and we honestly had to look hard to find some of the changes. Tabbed browsing has received a few tweaks, making it easier to drag and drop and manage tabs. The settings dialog for configuring tabbed browsing in IE 7 has added a few new options for controlling how IE handles tabs.
The Tools menu now includes an option for providing beta feedback and accessing Windows Messenger, while the Page menu offers more detailed send options, such as send page as link or send in e-mail.
As is typical in this type of beta release, Microsoft has addressed some of the stability and site compatibility issues that were reported by testers of the earlier betas, and those who previously ran into problems should test out Beta 3 to see if the problems have been addressed.
Since this beta release also represents another significant step toward final release, we think it is a good opportunity for developers and site authors to look into some of the many traditional IE capabilities that are being removed from Version 7.
Many of these removed capabilities are in the good-riddance category, such as Channel Definition Format and DirectAnimation. However, the way IE handles scriptlets and ActiveX controls has changed dramatically, and some sites that think of themselves as tuned specifically for IE will run into problems with IE 7. Old-school users will also find that they can no longer launch Telnet or (for the few who still use it) Gopher sessions from IE.
As is always the case with betas, we dont recommend that everyday users move over fully to IE 7 Beta 3, as it will still have stability and compatibility issues, though developers and advanced testers should put it through its paces.
To download Beta 3 of IE 7, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/downloads/default.mspx.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at [email protected].