Internet Explorer 7.0

Since I don't feel like packing my moving boxes yet, I am trying out IE 7.0 RTM for Windows XP SP2 in a Virtual PC.

Moving boxes

Installation took about 5 minutes including a nag screen about running Windows Update first, which I had already done, and validating the Windows installation (WGA). After that I compared some features of IE7 and Mozilla Firefox.

IE7 vs Firefox

Tabbed browsing

I mainly use Firefox for browsing since I have become addicted to tabbed browsing. I don't like the default tabbed browsing experience in Firefox so I have tweaked it with the Tab Mix Plus extension.

How customizable is the tabbed browsing in IE7? Somewhat, but not as much as in Firefox with the Tab Mix Plus extension. This is the settings screen in IE7:

Tabbed Browsing Settings screen in IE7

I won't post a screenshot of the Tab Mix Plus settings because it has six tabs worth of tweaks and twiddles. Is Tab Mix Plus suitable for the average user? Probably not, but I am not an average user.

Points I like about tabbed browsing in IE7:

  • The tab bar clearly shows what the active tab is.
  • The quick tabs feature showing a thumbnail view of all tabs on a single page.
  • A dropdown which shows the titles of all tabs, allowing you to quickly choose a tab.

Points I dislike about tabbed browsing in IE7:

  • You can't close the last open tab. When I am done browsing for a moment, I like to have a big white open space instead of the last page I looked at.
  • No way to undo closing a tab.
  • No way to duplicate a tab. I regularly use this to fork my browsing history. In Firefox the duplicate tab inherits the browsing history of the original tab. In one tab I can move back and navigate in another direction.
  • You can't change the default behavior where a page should be opened if you type in a URL in the address bar. It always opens in the current tab, unless you press ALT + ENTER.
  • You have to switch to a tab before a close button appears by which you can close it.

RSS

One of the features in IE7 that rocks is the RSS and Atom support. It gives you a very nice view of an RSS feed with several options for sorting and filtering:

Security

One of the major areas of improvement in IE7 over IE6 is security. IE7 still supports ActiveX and Firefox doesn't. This probably means that Firefox remains less vulnerable.

On Windows Vista, it's a whole different ball game between IE7 and Firefox. IE7 can run in Protected Mode. This mitigates a whole slew of possible security vulnerabilities.

Firefox has its own set of security problems. That's why I run Firefox without administrative privileges on XP even though I am logged on as an administrator. I do this using the Drop My Rights tool. One of the things this tool does is to remove the administrative privileges and membership of the Administrators group from the security token of the process. This way malicious code injected into the Firefox process cannot write to system folders or the Program Files folder. It does have some side-effects. For example, when Firefox starts a Windows Media Player process, this process inherits the security settings of the Firefox process. WMP doesn't behave well with such low privileges. I have to remember to open up a WMP window before launching an mms:// link from Firefox.

Nevertheless malicious code injected into the Firefox process can still wreck My Documents folder, since it does run under my user account and that folder is owned by me. IE7 running in protected mode on Vista cannot do that since the user profile folder is virtualized.

Conclusion

Of course, IE 7.0 is a much improved browser over IE 6.0 SP2. But Microsoft hasn't won me over yet, so I will probably continue to use Firefox. At least on Windows XP.

[Updated 2006-10-19: IE7 does allow you to rearrange tabs by dragging-and-dropping.]

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