I downloaded the public beta of IE7 this afternoon. From a web designer's perspective, I give it mixed marks. The browser appears to be stronger in its CSS standards support, though the jury is still out if the dream of coding once for all browsers will become reality.
Generally, my impressions are that the upgrade is a) sorely needed, and b) brings IE usability up to the level of Firefox--but not any further. It's very obvious that the IE7 developers looked long and hard at Firefox and "borrowed" the best interface features. Under the hood, though, it still feels very much like the geriatric IE6.
Update (2/1/2005): Spent the large part of the day putting IE7 to the test by developing an easy CSS layout from scratch. Nothing complicated here; just a couple of floated divs (specifically, the red box in the middle of page). For the most part, I saw the same behaviors I've always seen in IE6. This should be familiar to all:
- Step 1) Write a standards-compliant piece of CSS
- Step 2) Preview in Dreamweaver's design view
- Step 3) Load it up in Firefox. So far, so good.
- Step 4) Load it up in IE
- Step 5) Bang head against desk wondering why, for the love of God, is the layout different!!!
- Step 6) Repeat, trying a different CSS approach.
In the end, the page rendered identically in all browsers, but the dream of doing it once and doing it easily still evades me.
Web Designers Notes:
- A cursory look at all of my clients' existing sites shows that none broke; if you've made it work in IE6, chances are good that it will work in IE7 (see Newsvine in "The Bad" below for the glaring exception)
- Spacing and padding in DIVs seems to be fixed IE6's. Wahoo! No more Holly Hack!
- The ancient DIV select bug (where text selection barfs in IE6 set in quirks mode if you try and select text across multiple, non-code-contiguous DIVs) seems to be fixed
- PNG transparency support is in. A little victory, but a welcome one at that.
- The browser fails the Acid2 test horribly (see results); Microsoft has stated openly that complying with this test is not a priority and that they do not plan to comply by the final release of the browser. This is disappointing.
- Support for custom list item (li) icons and spacing is very spotty (see screenshot). Looks like browser-specific CSS will still be required to get list items to draw correctly.
Major User Interface Omissions:
- No Undo or Redo in forms
- No ability to specify non-MSFT apps for defaults under the Tools > Internet Options > Programs menu. For instance, you cannot specify Dreamweaver as the default HTML editor even if it is the default app at the system level.
- No Firefox-style inline find feature; they still use the old pop-up, one-search-at-a-time approach (image)
- Can't install IE7 independently (!), which will make developing forward for IE7 while ensuring backwards compatibly with IE6 a royal pain.
Keeping in mind that these findings are only preliminary, here's what I've done to test the new browser:
- First, you can download the Beta on the MSFT Public Beta site. Be warned: the installation completely replaces your IE6 installation.
- Failed: Loaded Newsvine. IE7 is very broken; spacing and padding are whacked, invisible DIVs abound, line items are out of whack (screenshots: 1 | 2 | 3)
- Failed: Loaded Yahoo! Mail login page; line height and z-sorting seem to be broken (screenshot)
- Failed: Acid2 Test (live test | Wikipedia Article | screenshot of IE7 render)
- Passed: Loaded my clients' sites; none broke (at least they didn't with a cursory pass) - (site list available on my site here if you're interested)
- Passed: DHTML Menu support on par with IE6 and Firefox - (see menu on left sidebar of this site | see developer's demos [note: I have nothing to do with this site; I have just used their DHTML menu in the past and have found it to be a good test for cross-browser DHTML & JS support])
- Passed: PNG support (quick & ugly test here)
Note: I should mention I don't have an axe to grind. I am certainly open to the possibility that I'm wrong on findings in this test, and I welcome debate. Keep in mind that my findings are only preliminary and I certainly intend to do more research. Please feel free to comment on this post.
- 02/01/2006 AM- added Yahoo! results under "My Tests"
- 02/01/2006 PM - added real-world development test