It's finally here -- the highly anticipated and boldly touted, the one, the only ... Internet Explorer 7!
It's been a long time coming, but Microsoft just released the latest version of its Web-browsing software in an effort to compete with the growing popularity of its biggest competitor, Mozilla Firefox.
The IE7 is a major improvement over IE6, the current version of the browser many of us use today. With new features such as tabbed browsing, improved security and an integrated search tool, it was well worth the wait. Because IE6 was such an inferior product to Firefox, IE7 was created to be as good, and in many ways, even better than its competition.
If you're using Internet Explorer to read this article now, you're looking at a screen with a single page (similar to a sheet of paper with buttons for tools at the top) to navigate from page to page. If you want to look at another site at the same time, you have to open a new browser window -- to switch between the two, you have to minimize one and maximize the other, and vice-versa. It's a real pain, right?
IE7 offers users a new "tabbed" browser interface. Instead of opening new windows filling the taskbar with multiple instances of the browser (resulting in more clutter), users now get a single window with bookmark style tabs that can represent each of the different sites a person is surfing.
When you want to switch from site to site, all you have to do is click your mouse on a tab -- and away you go! When you want to switch back, all you have to do is click the tab.
You can even rearrange the tabs in the order you want by dragging and dropping them from place to place. To close a tab, just click on it and then click the X. Everything was made to be more visually appealing and easier to use. Even its graphics rendering capabilities are better, making images and text more colorful and sharp.
Security has really been updated, too. To Microsoft, this is probably the most important feature of IE7. Internet Explorer, in the past, has seen an extremely large number of fixes and updates that were designed to patch flaws and security holes in the software.
This time around, Microsoft corrected most of its vulnerabilities and increased the browser's default level of security before releasing the software, rather then sending out patches on almost a monthly (and, sometimes, more frequent) basis.
The biggest addition to IE7's security arsenal is the new anti-phishing toolbar. This new tool helps keep naive users from visiting scam Web sites that masquerade as real ones; for example, a site designed to look like your bank, but actually run by a hacker that steals your user names, passwords and more when you log in.
If a user goes to a known phishing site, Internet Explorer blocks you from seeing it, and issues you a warning that you've been steered away from a potentially dangerous site.
Whether you like it or not, Microsoft plans to make IE7 an Automatic Update to Windows XP in November. That means that if you have Automatic Updates configured to install automatically or to download then notify you that the installation is ready, you are going to get it.
If you're partial to IE6 and want to stay with it, you are going to have to permanently disable Automatic Updates. If you do that, you'll never have the opportunity to update your computer with the latest patches and fixes. In true Microsoft form, in one way or another, they will be forcing you to use it.
All in all, IE7 is obviously a dramatic improvement over IE6. With all of the new features and security capabilities, it's an easy choice to make the upgrade. Let's just hope they can learn from previous deficiencies and keep up the good work.
Michael Trantas is the CEO of e-Safe Solutions, Inc., and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org .