UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 26 February 1, 2006

IE7 First Impressions

While many of you will already have sampled Microsoft’s next browser from a developer (or leaked) version the newly released Beta 2 is the first time the general public will be invited to test what Microsoft certainly hopes will curb the enthusiasm with which people have been flocking to Mozilla-based browsers, most notably the venerable Firefox.

As we have come to expect from Microsoft downloads, the installer verifies the validity of your Windows license before continuing with the install. It also asks if you wish to install a couple of additional security add-ons but generally goes about its business quickly and with a minimum of fuss. It is important to note that the installation will replace your current Internet Explorer with version 7 beta 2. While there might be a way to get around that it wasn’t obvious and it could mean that web-developers lose their ability to test their work in what is still the world’s most popular browser, IE6.

The first thing that strikes you is just how simple the interface is (screenshots on Flickr). The Fisher-Price aesthetics are hit and miss but any effort to streamline the browser interface should be applauded. I have to admit not being entirely comfortable with the new layout, occasionally fumbling to find the simplest of actions. The lack of standard “File, Edit, View” menu at the top is an interesting choice, especially since the newly laid out menu doesn’t fit next to the tabs in most resolutions.

Currently, IE7 feels uncomfortably stuck between XP’s shiny look and Vista’s all-vector extravaganza and it shows. The GUI feels rough in parts, icons aren’t scaled cleanly and some of the colour choices are just odd. It looks like the result of a botched attempt at combining MSN Explorer with a pimped-up Firefox. It looks a bit too toy-like for me but that could be exactly what attracts some people.

The new (extensively hyped) features set are well implemented. RSS features are obvious and quite clear. This could mean that RSS gets adopted by a wider majority so we should all be happy but I can’t help but feel that browser-integrated RSS or even bookmark features are proving rather pointless. There are obvious reasons for switching to hosted services to handle your information management. The future of the browser should lie in integrating with these services (like say, Flock).

Speaking of integration, Microsoft shows that it can play ball with a neat search widget that allows you to very easily add “third party” engines such as Google. This is more or less lifted straight from Firefox and as this still remains the most flexible system I’ve ever accounted it’s fine by me. The similarities with Firefox don’t end there, in actuality the browser does hardly anything you couldn’t do with Firefox and a handful of extensions.

As expected the engine renders pages far better than the current version. Strangely our test machine showed all content as ClearType even while it was disabled within the OS. I noticed some extensive text corruption in certain instances which can most probably be attributed to its beta status.

While it isn’t currently quite ready to make Firefox-switchers switch back it can only be a good thing that Microsoft finally unleashes its first real update to Internet Explorer in what seems an eternity. The new features are all in all welcome but what I welcome most is the far improved support for standards. It might not make Microsoft regain the users it lost during what can only be called Internet Explorer’s hiatus. For some this will be too little too late and I would likely agree but I feel that the new rendering engine, tabbed browsing and the various security improvements make this, at the very least, a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how the new browser gets received by the general public and whether or not it stalls the Firefox’ meteoric rise to fame. Watch this space.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

Alex is CEO of Sideshow , an award winning creative agency. You can read his blog here.

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Comments

31
33

Google is the default search engine (placed above MSN) in my install of the latest IE7 release. Why on earth would they do that?

26
37

Its Crap. It still doesnt understand some of the more advanced CSS such as .before and .after (well, advanced for IE) why is it the most populest browser has to be the the crappest one?!?!

Its a tad faster than the last version and its emphasis on security is more than obvious which, will please alot of people but i find it over the top and quite frankly, annoying.

LONG LIVE FIREFOX!

35
33

I think it’s great that Microsoft is doing this. While it may not recover users lost to the Firefox side, it will improve the navigation, security and usability for those who just use the computer a few times per week to check e-mail and news, or read a blog. Also, it is a good step towards cleaning up our website layouts. I’m sick of using tricks, and spending up to 50% of a project’s time (and my precious sleep) figuring out how to make this or that work.

19
34

I’m sticking with Firefox (especially since I can open IE-rendered tabs now), it is a superior browser in every way but a new version of IE which is more compliant, more secure and faster is a very good thing. The IE team is full of great people, just the fact that they’ll be busy maintaining and updating a brand new IE is good news. While I’m not trying to defend them, Microsoft doesn’t have the advantage of working from a clean slate like the Firefox team had. They still have to maintain support for various technologies they developed, keep the casual user happy and fit snuggly within the company’s overall vision. Not an easy situation to be in even if it’s in many ways self inflicted.

28
36

Strangely our test machine showed all content as ClearType even while it was disabled within the OS.

There’s now an option in the Internet Options… window under the Advanced tab and the Multimedia section to turn ClearType on/off.

Seems like a very good change to me since it will get more people using ClearType.

24
36

ClearType looks really ugly in my opinion, nothing beats good ol’ Mac OS X font anti-aliasing.

26
37

I personally don’t use ClearType and would prefer it if the browser used my OS defaults.

Eoghan: It’s strange that Google would be your default browser, mine was MSN. Could it be that it detected a setting on a previous installation?

29
31

This diplomatic review aside, IE7 drops the ball in including more page rendering bugs.

Wouldn’t the installer have to connect to the Internet to verify a Windows installation? I wasn’t connected to the ‘net when I installed it, and it still went along with it. Let’s talk about vaporware.

26
31

Pat: Diplomatic because it’s a still only a beta. Final release will be faced with an actual review.

21
29

Alex: Glad to hear it. Gotta keep you guys on your toes. Excellent publication.

ClearType is another point I take issue with. I agree with Peter G that it is good to get more people to use it, but I would expect IE to respect system settings and not have a separate misplaced option in “Internet Options.” I prefer to keep it off, mainly because I like to experience the web as the majority does for development purposes. When ClearType becomes widespread I’ll start enabling it.

And for God’s sake let me put the File, Edit, View, etc. menus where I want them. And those misplaced refresh and stop buttons! Oh, the humanity!

28
34

In my experience after uninstalling, IE6 crashes. So You’d better wait for the final…

27
33

It still draws CSS pages 100% wrongly.

32
34

“And for God’s sake let me put the File, Edit, View, etc. menus where I want them. And those misplaced refresh and stop buttons! Oh, the humanity!”

Glad I’m not the only one annoyed with this.

I’d also like to get rid of the extra search window, but I’ve yet to find an option to do that.

29
36

Alex, I agree with you on it being a good attempt bearing in mind the bigger MS picture (with all the factors you mentioned in your comment). One thing I’ve found is that it’s still quite a bit more sluggish than FF – hopefully this is a beta thing, but disappointing nonetheless.

It will be interesting to see the final release version…

29
35

Martin: It will also be interesting to see how it works in the final Vista version which is primarily what this browser was built for.

21
34

If you have Mcafee VirusScan (at least version 8) you shouldn´t install this beta, updates of the antivirus software will stop working!

25
42

IE 7 is a slap in the face to web developers. Sure, the 90% population of laymen will enjoy all the ‘cool features’, but once again this is all micro$oft cares about. They know that no matter how horribly the Css engine renders pages, the usage percentage will be the same.

They are leaving web designers out to dry. What are we supposed to do? If we make our pages work in IE 7, they will surely be a mess in IE 6. But it will take years for the market share to even out between the two. And even worse, there is no way to test pages easily on both browsers. Its one or the other.

Don’t be surprised to see more and more sites simply scripting in different stylesheets to make up for Internet Explorer’s inability to display a coherent page out of pixel perfect coding.

25
37

The Search Engine: it allows add search engine lists, to “compare” results of search. (I saw the IE 7 Tour in microsoft site).

21
42

I love how everyone gets so bent about this. I’m sure there’s other folks out there who’ve been developing on the web for years now too (document.layers can I get a woot-woot) and have just come to accept the cross-coding as a necessary evil in what we do.

We all have our crosses to bear. Doctors have malpractice insurance, pro athletes have steroids, actors have the paparrazzi – and guess what? We got stuck dealing with the browsers.

When will everyone stop chasing the “I-want-all-browsers-to-be-standards-compliant-so-I-can-code-it-once” dream. Your rants only serve as a frustrating waste of time – so get back to work (doing what? writing conditional js/CSS blocks, of course… hehehe ;) )

26
33

Just a minor aside for ClearType criticism.

I dig nice anti-aliasing—ever since the feature was a third party plugin in Mac System 6.x or thereabout. But I don’t get ClearType at all (including Apple’s equivalent, which is fortunately not on by default). I have several very nice, new digital LCD displays, and to me all ClearType does it give text an unbearable prism effect, like misaligned guns in an old CRT. Am I the only one who can see this? It seems like the poor man’s anti-aliasing, with little red and blue fringes everywhere. I understand how it’s supposed to work in principle, but in principal is the only way it does work. Stick with grayscale AA, I say.

26
32

“I have several very nice, new digital LCD displays, and to me all ClearType does it give text an unbearable prism effect, like misaligned guns in an old CRT.”

Well serves yourself right for using an LCD screen.

I am amazed how similar IE7 is to Firefox. So when is the court case?

27
36

Another p.o.s. from Microsoft.

24
39

I am using IE for 5 years and now the IE 7.0 is the best from IE family, thanks M$ for it! :)

31
33

We could not get even a simple javascript rollover to work on IE 7 Beta 2, which works fine on IE 6, so I am thinking that the underlying engine still needs a lot of work.

In addition for now IE 7 has just copied over features from firefox and Opera and there is nothing new apparently that would make an impression.

MS still needs to go a long way I guess to win some supporters.

26
37

I hope all this feedback will find it’s way onto the Microsoft IE7 forum where it will make a difference. Microsoft is using that forum to make alterations based off user feedback.

26
38

From a designers POV, ClearType is a very welcome addition. Now we can at least try to make sites with different fonts and sizes .. and the best part, it wont suck (as much).

28
32

As someone who works in a completely unrelated field I’ve got to agree with Matt’s comments. I won’t download IE7 beta based on comments based here, but my expectation is that when the time comes I will develop and move our web sites over to IE7. For the great mass of humanity, they are perfectly content with IE, in whatever version. Since we are glorified service people we have to pony up a product (quickly) that others want. My experience with FF was less than stellar, but we never hear about that, do we. Every time I launced FF at some point in my browsing it would crash. Based on that experience I removed it. It is our task to SELL people on the merits of one versus the other. Not to tell them what stupid jugheads they are because they aren’t using what we think is the best browser.
Never forget who’s working for who, here. I work in a paper mill and I’m here to tell you, they could care less about standards and the validity of the code. They want a tool that gets or gives information in the best and best looking way possible.

29
36

Come on – where’s the useful list of IE 7 CSS bugs? Does the box model work? Do lists nested in divs with a percentage width still wrongly ‘inherit’ the percentage?? IE 7 is a chance to put these (very wrong and irritating) things right. If you’re not a web developer, pleeeez appreciate all the work we go to getting it to look good in standards-compliant browsers AND in IE (as in “I code so you don’t have to”)!! Or forget it and just use Firefox instead. And no, I won’t shut up/give up about starndards-compliance!

27
34

i dont like the interface, I think it is too different from what Im used to with FF and IE6.

who needs an address bar that long anyway?!

home button should be near the stop, refresh, and back forward buttons…

33
36

I still prefer firefox, but I’ve got to say that IE7 is a big improvement over IE6 both in interface and CSS support.

Many people bemoan Microsoft’s (oooh – sorry Micro$oft’s) browser, but the fact is that it still is the dominant browser out there and it is getting better; we’ve got to thank Firefox for giving IE a kick up the butt.

32
33

Gents and ladies (if any)...just create a system restore point before installing and play with IE7 for a few days. Then, restore and forget it. Problem solved no matter what virus scan you’re using.

That, and, don’t get so hopped up about a beta. It’s a beta for a reason…even if it is a MS product.

24
32

easy gentlemen! This is a beta, and while I don’t like the interface, I must remind you all that the css support will be much better in the final product! Don’t be put off by a beta-product!

23
37

Cool! They copied Firefox!

Now that they’ve copied an early version of OSX they’ll have a lot to be proud of.. Not..

19
38

Cool! They copied Firefox!

Now that they’ve copied an early version of OSX they’ll have a lot to be proud of.. Not..

22
38

easy gentlemen! This is a beta, and while I don’t like the interface, I must remind you all that the css support will be much better in the final product! Don’t be put off by a beta-product!

24
31

Gents and ladies (if any)...just create a system restore point before installing and play with IE7 for a few days. Then, restore and forget it. Problem solved no matter what virus scan you’re using.

That, and, don’t get so hopped up about a beta. It’s a beta for a reason…even if it is a MS product.

20
34

I still prefer firefox, but I’ve got to say that IE7 is a big improvement over IE6 both in interface and CSS support.

Many people bemoan Microsoft’s (oooh – sorry Micro$oft’s) browser, but the fact is that it still is the dominant browser out there and it is getting better; we’ve got to thank Firefox for giving IE a kick up the butt.

34
32

i dont like the interface, I think it is too different from what Im used to with FF and IE6.

who needs an address bar that long anyway?!

home button should be near the stop, refresh, and back forward buttons…

29
38

Come on – where’s the useful list of IE 7 CSS bugs? Does the box model work? Do lists nested in divs with a percentage width still wrongly ‘inherit’ the percentage?? IE 7 is a chance to put these (very wrong and irritating) things right. If you’re not a web developer, pleeeez appreciate all the work we go to getting it to look good in standards-compliant browsers AND in IE (as in “I code so you don’t have to”)!! Or forget it and just use Firefox instead. And no, I won’t shut up/give up about starndards-compliance!

23
34

As someone who works in a completely unrelated field I’ve got to agree with Matt’s comments. I won’t download IE7 beta based on comments based here, but my expectation is that when the time comes I will develop and move our web sites over to IE7. For the great mass of humanity, they are perfectly content with IE, in whatever version. Since we are glorified service people we have to pony up a product (quickly) that others want. My experience with FF was less than stellar, but we never hear about that, do we. Every time I launced FF at some point in my browsing it would crash. Based on that experience I removed it. It is our task to SELL people on the merits of one versus the other. Not to tell them what stupid jugheads they are because they aren’t using what we think is the best browser.
Never forget who’s working for who, here. I work in a paper mill and I’m here to tell you, they could care less about standards and the validity of the code. They want a tool that gets or gives information in the best and best looking way possible.

28
37

From a designers POV, ClearType is a very welcome addition. Now we can at least try to make sites with different fonts and sizes .. and the best part, it wont suck (as much).

22
33

I hope all this feedback will find it’s way onto the Microsoft IE7 forum where it will make a difference. Microsoft is using that forum to make alterations based off user feedback.

31
30

We could not get even a simple javascript rollover to work on IE 7 Beta 2, which works fine on IE 6, so I am thinking that the underlying engine still needs a lot of work.

In addition for now IE 7 has just copied over features from firefox and Opera and there is nothing new apparently that would make an impression.

MS still needs to go a long way I guess to win some supporters.

26
33

I am using IE for 5 years and now the IE 7.0 is the best from IE family, thanks M$ for it! :)

26
37

Another p.o.s. from Microsoft.

24
39

“I have several very nice, new digital LCD displays, and to me all ClearType does it give text an unbearable prism effect, like misaligned guns in an old CRT.”

Well serves yourself right for using an LCD screen.

I am amazed how similar IE7 is to Firefox. So when is the court case?

34
32

Just a minor aside for ClearType criticism.

I dig nice anti-aliasing—ever since the feature was a third party plugin in Mac System 6.x or thereabout. But I don’t get ClearType at all (including Apple’s equivalent, which is fortunately not on by default). I have several very nice, new digital LCD displays, and to me all ClearType does it give text an unbearable prism effect, like misaligned guns in an old CRT. Am I the only one who can see this? It seems like the poor man’s anti-aliasing, with little red and blue fringes everywhere. I understand how it’s supposed to work in principle, but in principal is the only way it does work. Stick with grayscale AA, I say.

22
33

I love how everyone gets so bent about this. I’m sure there’s other folks out there who’ve been developing on the web for years now too (document.layers can I get a woot-woot) and have just come to accept the cross-coding as a necessary evil in what we do.

We all have our crosses to bear. Doctors have malpractice insurance, pro athletes have steroids, actors have the paparrazzi – and guess what? We got stuck dealing with the browsers.

When will everyone stop chasing the “I-want-all-browsers-to-be-standards-compliant-so-I-can-code-it-once” dream. Your rants only serve as a frustrating waste of time – so get back to work (doing what? writing conditional js/CSS blocks, of course… hehehe ;) )

29
34

The Search Engine: it allows add search engine lists, to “compare” results of search. (I saw the IE 7 Tour in microsoft site).

27
38

IE 7 is a slap in the face to web developers. Sure, the 90% population of laymen will enjoy all the ‘cool features’, but once again this is all micro$oft cares about. They know that no matter how horribly the Css engine renders pages, the usage percentage will be the same.

They are leaving web designers out to dry. What are we supposed to do? If we make our pages work in IE 7, they will surely be a mess in IE 6. But it will take years for the market share to even out between the two. And even worse, there is no way to test pages easily on both browsers. Its one or the other.

Don’t be surprised to see more and more sites simply scripting in different stylesheets to make up for Internet Explorer’s inability to display a coherent page out of pixel perfect coding.

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