Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Thoughts About Internet Explorer 7

I just finished downloading version 7 of Internet Explorer 7. I've only used it for a very short period of time, but so far, I very much like what I see.

The ability to use multiple tabs in order to access multiple web pages and sites simultaneously, without the need to constantly use Alt-Tab to switch back and forth between different web pages, should be extremely useful, particularly when creating blog posts, since it will make it far easier to switch between the editing window and the actual blog page in order to insure that the changes I've made have been successfully posted to the actual blog.

With IE 6, another option when searching for particular web pages which were open in multiple windows was to locate a particular window via the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen. But that was sometimes a pain in the behind, especially if there were a number of other programs running as well. This way, regardless of how many other programs are running, Internet Explorer 7 only occupies one button on the Taskbar. Nice!

I also like the new QuickTabs feature, which should be particularly helpful when two or more of the tabs start with text which is identical. (Some long text descriptions of web pages are truncated on the tabs themselves.) QuickTabs actually gives you visual representations of each of the open web pages (but only after each page has finished loading). It will be interesting to see how many web pages can be displayed by the QuickTabs screen at once.

There's also a Tab List which makes it easy to see a complete list of all open web pages, without the need to view the QuickTabs screen. And it doesn't seem to truncate text, as far as I can tell.

They've also added a new way of accessing Internet Explorer Favorites, known as the Favorites Center. I particularly like the fact that one can "pin" the Favorites Center to a particular view, folder and subfolder. If one is engaged in a complex project which requires that one return to the same folder and/or subfolder again and again, that feature ought to save a lot of time.

One neat thing is that in addition to saving individual web pages as Internet Explorer Favorites, one can now save entire Tab Groups as Favorites. That should be really useful.

Because I have a dialup connection, I sometimes find that it's necessary for me to open a second window in Internet Explorer just so that I can periodically pop over to that other window in order to click a link or request a new web page so as to keep my service provider from disconnecting me while I'm in the process of writing or editing a long blog post. The new features in IE 7 should make it easier for me to do that.

Interestingly, it is still possible to open a new iteration of Internet Explorer, by clicking Ctrl-N. When doing so, the new iteration only opens with the tab which was active at the time, not with all of the tabs which were active.

Some of the features which were previously only available via the Menu Bar are now available via other options as well. So there's less need to display the Menu Bar, which is nice because hiding the Menu Bar frees up space at the top of the screen so that one can see more of the actual web page. But one can still view the Menu Bar, if desired.

One thing that annoyed me about previous versions of Internet Explorer was that the system didn't automatically alphabetize one's Internet Explorer Favorites or the Internet Explorer Favorites folders or subfolders. One had to alphabetize each one manually by grabbing it and dragging it into the proper position. I was hoping that the new update would offer a simple button one could click in order to alphabetize all current entries, but as far as I can see, they have not done so. Oh, well. Maybe they'll offer that feature in Internet Explorer 8.

Alphabetizing all of one's Favorites might not seem like a big deal if one only has a few entries, but I have tons of entries in my Favorites folder and related subfolders. When they aren't alphabetized, it can take forever to find what one is looking for, which partially defeats the purpose of storing things as "favorites" in the first place. So I regularly go in and drag things around in order to minimize the problem by trying to alphabetize the folders and subfolders. But that's time-consuming, and my Favorites folder is never completely alphabetized.

Despite that omission, however, it seems to me that the changes they've made have greatly improved the program. Microsoft has made major strides towards making Explorer 7 more like Mozilla Firefox.

I did download Firefox, but even though I liked the tabbed interface offered by that program, I noticed that there were instances in which Internet Explorer displayed certain web pages I had created properly and Firefox did not. Internet Explorer 7 seems to have the best of both worlds. I'm not quite ready to uninstall Firefox yet, but I have a feeling that I may be doing so in the near future. If I don't uninstall it, it will only be because I need to periodically check pages I have designed and uploaded in order to see how they look to people who prefer to use Firefox.

Now here's a cool feature I just discovered. Internet Explorer now allows one to zoom in on actual web pages, just like Microsoft Word does!

In the past, changing the text size (Smallest, Smaller, Medium, Larger or Largest) was about the only way to deal with situations where the text was too small to be read comfortably.

The problem was that that option didn't work if the web designer has used CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to specify the actual size of the text. The Text Size feature could only scale text up or down if that text was standard HTML, not if it was CSS. It should also go without saying that the Text Size command was useless for scaling graphics up or down, which was a problem in cases where web designers had chosen to display text information, using small and hard-to-read fonts, in the form of graphics.

Now one can zoom in on the entire web page, in the following percentages: 50%, 75%, 100%, 125%, 150%, 200% or 400%. Also in custom percentages. One can zoom in or out using keyboard shortcuts, too. (Specifically, the plus and minus keys, combined the Ctrl key.) In addition to making it a lot easier to read text on certain web pages, that should also make it easier to capture graphic images in the form of screen shots, without being limited to just one size.

Of course, zooming in and/or out doesn't change the resolution of a graphic image on the page. So if you zoom in on a graphic image to an extreme degree, the image may look very pixellated, since you are effectively lowering the resolution on the screen. That would be true in virtually any program capable of displaying a raster graphics image such as a photo.

Also, zooming in often means that you need to use the horizontal scroll bar to see the entire web page, even though that scroll bar wasn't visible or necessary when viewing the web page at 100%.

Zooming in can sometimes have interesting results when that option is exercised while looking at a page with multiple frames. Portions of sections can seem to disappear! But they're there, you just have to scroll up and/or down to see them.

Microsoft has also added a number of features, such as the ability to synchronize with RSS feeds directly from Internet Explorer without the need for third party solutions. That's particularly useful when subscribing to blogs and podcasts.

There are new features designed to flag potential or known "phishing" sites and other sites which might compromise the security of one's computer.

Time will tell if I will continue to be as enthusiastic about this new browser as I currently am, but so far, things are looking good.

No comments: