Saturday, May 13, 2006

My IE 7.0 beta Review

I just listened to a totally useless podcast of NYT reporter David Pogue's review of the latest version of MS Internet Explorer (IE 7.0 beta) browser. Pogue complains that IE 7.0 is not as good as Firefox (FF) but never states why or how. Like most Anti-MS pundits, he alludes to the fact that 85% of the computers in the world run IE and suggests these people are all stupid because they don't know there are alternatives. What a moronic thing to say. Hey David, maybe people like IE? [Who wants to bet Pogue is a Mac Snob?] Scratch that bet, here's the proof.

I've tried them all, Mozilla, Opera, FF, - I've even played around with Safari on a Mac. I see no big difference between or among them. Yes, FF is a bit compulsive and will render things correctly based upon valid HTML and CSS, so there is some value in testing websites in FF before publishing. But for 99% of the websites out there, they look pretty much the same on every browser regardless of o/s. The differences between browsers are more related to the widgets and gadgets that run with the browser, and much of that may be simply a matter of taste.

Yes, FF was among the first to have the very popular tabbing feature (the ability to open multiple webpages within one browser session) - and now IE 7.0 has that too. I like the tabbing feature very much and I've already begun to put IE tabs through their paces. But both of these tabbing systems ultimately fail in my book because linked content continues to open up new browser sessions. The tab feature would be infinitely more powerful if it automatically opened up a new tab rather that forcing open a new window session.

The tabbing system could also be made to work more smoothly in IE (and FF for that matter). At least in IE, you can see the tabs at the top of the screen at all times. I'm not sure how I would make it better. Maybe when you open a new web address (CTRL - O) the browser could offer you the option of opening a new window/browser or a new tab? I'd vote for the latter.

The major reason I use IE as my default browser is because it opens faster and generally runs faster. I'm glad MS built it into the O/S and hope they continue despite the critics and lawsuits.

Now, here are my negative criticisms of IE.

BTW, I did try to provide some of this feedback via the MS IE beta website, but am not sure it got through.

1. When IE 7.0 beta installed on my machine (which, BTW went incredibly quickly and smoothly) it automatically installed a default setting to use "Clear Type" which made all of the text on all of the webpages I looked at very blurry and distorted.

Now, for those unfamiliar with Clear Type, this was a circa 1999 invention intended to make text on the screen (particularly on laptop screens) easier to read. I remember when it first came out, e-books were the rage and everyone was talking about getting rid of paper and reading their daily news on the john with a laptop on their knee. Never happened.

Frankly, Clear Type sucked then and still does. I'll let you look up the description on what it is supposed to look like. Suffice it to say - it ain't CLEAR!

Being a bit annoyed and initially not able to figure out why the text in the new browser looked so blurred and hard to read, I dashed off an angry note to MS. I then remembered Clear Type and spent about a half hour trying to find a way to turn it off. I could find the switch to turn it off in Windows XP, but it continued to run in IE. After I sent off my complaint to MS, I was finally able to find the switch in Internet Options> Advanced> last switch in Multimedia (dumb location) and turned Clear Type off.

So now I am happy. But MS should let people know how to turn this off, or better yet, keep it off in the default settings.

2. Putting the Favorites button right underneath the browser directions arrow was very dumb. They are simply located too close to each other. I've already click the wrong button about 20 times in two days. The size of the button should be bigger for us old farts with poorer eye-hand coordination.

One thing I like about FF (and I think Opera has this feature too) is the ability to install on different "skins." If you don't like the default colors and layout of the browser, you can change it very easily. Maybe MS will get smart and add this when they get closer to production.

I will say that the idea of having the little drop down arrow which allows one to see the list of current and already viewed pages is more elegant in IE7.0 than in the older versions of the browser where you had two drop downs, one for the right arrow (forward) and one for the left arrow (back).

3. The location of the home button, pages and tools are obscure and I've stumbled a few time to find what I need. I think this will simply be a matter of getting more familiar with the layout and location of the buttons.

4. I'll include this anti-Phishing filter thing on the neg list for now. I'm not exactly sure what it does and so far it has just managed to slow down the loading of a number of websites. I would presume it was a smarter device and would be designed to learn from the behaviors of the user or simply cache its results rather that re-testing every page. But right now it seems to want to filter every page and it does slow things down. We'll see.

Now, here are my positive criticisms:

1. I like having the Google search box on the desktop. Good idea

2. I love the Quick tabs. Great idea.

3. I love the larger screen area, especially the truly FULL screen setting. Fantastic idea

4. Despite the location of the Favorites buttons, I do like the Plus Sign used to add items to the Favorite, but I think they could still make it even faster and better.

5. I like the RSS feed button, but I'm still not sure how this works. I prefer Bloglines since I can sort and do other things.

So, that's it for now. I'll probably have more to add in the future as I have more time working with this baby.


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