IE7 released

Microsoft has finally graced Windows XP users with Internet Explorer 7. While it’s redesign isn’t as severe as the one planned for Office 2007, it’s certainly a taste I haven’t acquired yet, even after playing around with it in Vista. At least the XP version doesn’t break some implementations of Outlook Web Access.

The positive additions include a tabbed interface and a good one. I particularly like how you can add a new tab by clicking a blank one and the “Expose-like” “Quick Tabs” button (although it shouldn’t be a tab itself). There’s also an integrated feed reader with auto-discovery and an integrated search bar that has arrived too late for me to dump the Google Toolbar.

Overall, a lot of these features are playing catch-up to Firefox and Safari. For newbies, there’s a host of security improvements designed to overcome the design flaws of the popular ActiveX and anti-phishing technology, but the former often gets in the way and the latter to slows down browsing. Wouldst that Microsoft would see the error of ActiveX’s ways and find a way to retire its support gracefully.

In terms of questionable UI changes, Microsoft now hides the menu bar by default, and activating it puts it below the unmoveable address bar; I seem to remember someone mentioning that Microsoft wanted the address bar to be long to provide more clues as to a site’s authenticity; URLs are now displayed atop popup wndows. In any case, there doesn’t seem to be a way to put it under the window title bar where it “belongs.” Alas, as someone who uses Outlook Web Access a lot and depends on IE’s Search feature that isn’t supported in other browsers, I will have to get used to it.

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