Microsoft offers Internet Explorer 7 Public Beta

Microsoft today posted a mildly revised and more secure Beta 3 version of Internet Explorer 7 free for public download.

New features and functionality in the Beta 3 release include:

  • All security updates for IE7 released through June.
  • The ability to drag-and-drop reorder browser tabs in the tabbed-browsing bar.
  • The reappearance of the optional read e-mail button for the customizable "Command" bar, or main toolbar.
  • The Web page zoom-in scaling feature adds a horizontal scroll bar automatically.
  • A global RSS feed settings dialog.
  • A global RSS "refresh now" function (which wasn't evident in the preview build).
  • Additional work carried out since the Beta 2 release aimed at improving Web-site compatibility.

Missing from the what's new list, and perhaps the most significant change since the Beta 2 release, is Microsoft's publicly stated commitment -- first articulated by Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates on May 24 at Microsoft's WinHEC conference in Seattle -- that IE is being placed back on a fast, 18-month development cycle after IE7 ships.

"If it takes longer than 18 months to ship the next version of Internet Explorer, then we're not doing our jobs right," said Gary Schare, Microsoft's General Manager of Internet Explorer.

In response to a question about why IE7 isn't expanding features and functionality more aggressively, Schare acknowledged that the goal of IE7 wasn't to win back market share from Mozilla, but merely to update IE7 to currently expected levels of browser functionality. The shorter development track could mean that browser users will see a far more advanced IE some time in 2008.

Computerworld obtained a late "preview" version of IE7 Beta 3, which did not have all the bug fixes and refinements Microsoft projected would be evident in the version now available for public download. The added usability tweaks are welcome, but the preview code did exhibit some minor performance and reliability issues.

The preview of Beta 3 takes up 12.8MB of hard drive space. IE7 requires Windows XP Service Pack 2. It's important to uninstall any previous version of IE7 before installing this one. Installation of beta software is not recommended in production environments.

IE7 does install some operating system components; it may be uninstalled from Add or Remove Programs.

For more information on IE7 Beta 3, see Microsoft's IE7 Beta 3 checklists, release notes and add-ons page.

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Scot Finnie

Computerworld
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