Although Internet Explorer 7 has been out for several weeks now, users of the Microsoft Web browser have yet to see all its new features. Thats because the version of IE 7 included with Microsofts Windows Vista operating system has a few capabilities that arent found in the version that runs on Windows XP.
The biggest difference in the version of IE 7 that runs on Vista—or IE 7+—is that it inherits the Vista interface and all that it entails, including the translucent Aero Glass view of open windows.
IE 7+ also includes what is called Protected Mode, a sort of sandboxed version of the browser that prevents applications from interfacing with the browser in any way other than through a temporary folder.
eWeek Labs thinks Protected Mode is, by far, the best value-add of IE 7+. In fact, we wish the feature was in all versions of the Microsoft browser, as it can prevent most spyware and Trojan horse access.
Protected Mode is turned on by default. It can be turned off, although we dont recommend doing that. If you have an application that requires shutting down Protected Mode, you should probably change the application.
Another capability found only in IE 7+ is Parental Controls, designed to prevent unauthorized Internet use and to stop users from going to specific Web sites. As the name clearly implies, this feature is designed with parents (and their children) in mind. However, the feature has been designed in such a way that businesses could easily take advantage of it to prevent unacceptable Web usage by their employees.
Using the Parental Controls feature, for example, we could define a Web usage filter and block sites through whitelists and blacklists. We also could allow IE on Vista to dynamically block sites by choosing high, medium or low levels of controls, or we could choose a custom setting that allowed us to select from different categories of sites we wanted to block (such as porn, adult themes and so on). The Parental Controls feature also allowed us to prevent file downloads from the browser.
Outside these small differences and some of the network benefits that come from Vista, IE 7 on Vista is identical to its Windows XP sibling. But the Aero Glass version definitely looks cool.
Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.