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Monday, June 12, 2006

IE7 vs Firefox 1.5 (Part 1)

IE7 vs Firefox 1.5
Microsoft released a new public beta of its popular Internet Explorer. Microsoft claims that IE7 Beta 2 is more stable and ready for use by the general public. But how does it stack up against the likes of Firefox? Let's take a look.

Basic Layout & Features

One of the first things most users switching from IE6 will notice are the new menu bars and navigation menu. While relatively unchanged since the Beta 2 preview in February, the change from the IE6 interface is pretty dramatic. IE7's page layout is probably it's greatest change though, in a good way. Compared to IE6 or Firefox, IE7 provides more room for viewing the contests of the current page you're on. I installed the Google Toolbar on both and then took screenshots of both IE7 and FF at the same screen resolution to show the difference:

IE7 Sample

Firefox Sample

IE7 Sample vs Firefox Sample

One change in IE7 that can be slightly confusing is the fact the traditional top-level menu is hidden until you hit the Alt key. While the standard toolbar vanishes as well, the fact it only shrinks down to a much more compact version of itself is less confusing than one that disappears all together. Granted I don't think this will be any major concern to most users, because the top-level bar is rarely used anyway. The most common command, printing, can be done directly from a new button on the top right-hand corner of the "tab menu".

IE7's new 'Favorites Center' combines the Favorites menu and Explorer Bar into a single drop-down list that users can choose to pin to the left side of the browser window (much like Explorer in Windows). IE7 also includes a rather nifty new Zoom button located in the lower right-hand corner. Clicking on the various zoom levels will increase the page size from 100% up to 400%. Printing pages is also significantly easier in IE7; the browser automatically shrinks the pages to fit on a single sheet of paper (width-wise) and offering a very helpful preview screen as well.

Zoom Preview & Print Preview

The best part of all the changes in IE7's user interface however is that while it's new it's also familiar. It's easy to accomplish common tasks, and the menu's that aren't needed are kept out of the way. Ultimately it's a much cleaner look for the IE browser that takes it ahead of Firefox. It's also easier to use for everyday tasks like printing. Is it enough to switch (back) for? You'll have to decide...

Basic Layout & Features Advantage: Just barely, IE7

Most Secure in 'Windows Vista'?

If you're an individual using genuine (IE7 checks) version of Windows XP (SP2) or Windows 2003 Server then IE7 is a free upgrade. If you're using Windows Vista then you're already set, as IE7 code is build into Windows Vista (due later this year to corporate customers and in early 2007 to retailers.) Both versions incorporate the same security improvements over IE6, but Vista is especially unique in the fact that it along with IE7 provides protected Mode browsing. Even when trusted add-ons are used they are quarantined and given write access only to a select set of virtualized folders (see our Vista area for more details on Virtual Folders in Windows Vista). Combined with Vista's more strict user Account Control this feature should make it significantly tougher for malware and spyware to sneak onto any system.

Security in Windows Vista Advantage: Currently, IE7

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