Its market share never in doubt, Microsoft has waited a long time to upgrade its Internet Explorer browser. But incremental market gains by FireFox and constant comparisons in the press to that feature-packed alternative have finally forced Microsoft back into the software lab. The result is a beta version of the forthcoming IE 7 that we recently tested. We got it up and running and turned on the automatic phishing filter feature. The first thing you notice is the streamlined toolbar across the top that leaves more area to view web pages. Management of bookmarks and RSS feeds is improved, and your favorites are accessed via a small star icon.
The main improvement, of course, is tabbed browsing. Made popular by FireFox, it has been the favorite addition to just about every recent browser upgrade. IE 7 adds a fairly straightforward pull-down tab list that helps you keep track of open tabs. This being a beta release, there were some expected rough patches--a few initial installation hiccups, and text appeared a bit fuzzy at times. It takes some getting used to, but all in all, IE 7 is the upgrade IE users have longed for. It's definitely a step up.