In what I'd hoped was the death rattle for the worst web browser in popular use, Microsoft released version seven of Internet Explorer today, and I decided to give it a whirl.
It requires the infamous Service Pack 2 to function, which I have refused to install at home. But on the laptop they gave me at my new job, SP2 came preinstalled, so I disabled as many of the stupid crap items and services as I could, and now I have a semi-tolerable laptop running Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2. With an eligible machine, I installed it.
My initial reaction was how long it took to install. The progress bar is useless. I don't even know why there is one. It just moves a little nubbin from left to right, and then does it again. It gives the user no indication as to what percentage of the installation work has been done, or even what is being done at any given time. I gave the developers the benefit of the doubt with this, as it has little to do with the overall experience with the new browser.
Another slightly insignificant change, but one that's still very indicative of a conscious shift in branding, is the new name of the product. It used to be called "Microsoft Internet Explorer." Now it's called "Windows Internet Explorer." I wonder what this portents.
The installer finished after about ten minutes of nothing overt, and told me that I had to reboot my computer. I thought that Microsoft had worked to cure itself of the reboot disease, but apparently not. Luckily, it gives you the option to "reboot later," but warns vehemently against rebooting any later than right now. I clicked on the button to tell the installer to buzz off, as I had work to do, and it freaked out with another popup. It said something to the effect of, "You stupid moron! We told you to reboot! Reboot, damn you!" This was followed with an admonition of how other things- things that have notyhing to do with Internet Explorer, might stop working because I didn't reboot. I dismissed, but took the threat to heart. I gracefully closed all my apps, and rebooted.
When the system came back up, the Internet Explorer icon on my desktop had a neat little yellow ring on it. I double-clicked it, and it tried to bring up some victory page from msn.com. It tried and tried, but never could quite get there. I hit cancel, and the screen was all white within the browser window. After a couple of seconds, a window popped up, informing me that Internet Explorer was not currently set as my default browser, and asked me if I'd like to change that. I told it no, and remarked at how long it took for it to figure that out.
This is not a slow computer. It's a Pentium M 1.8GHz Thinkpad T42 laptop. It's actually the nicest laptop I've ever had, and the nicest I've seen besides my roommate's Apple laptop. That said, Internet Explorer runs very slowly on it. Menus and configuration widgets are very sluggish in coming up, moving, and in any kind of manipulation.
Microsoft said on their website that their users asked for features, and Microsoft answered. Indeed, joining with the likes of Firefox, Opera, Safari, and other browsers that have done this now for years, Internet Explorer now features tabbed browsing, thrusting its users into the future of web browsing. That is assuming that the current user is stuck in 1997.
Microsoft had some excellent ideas with their implementation of tabbed browsing, but unfortunately came up short. Like other software elements of the browser, the tabs are clunky and slow to manipulate, and feel clumsy and ungainly after doing similar things in Firefox. I can't middle click my home icon to bring up my home page in a new tab. When I close a tab, I can see the various movements in the user interface, especially(about one in every three times) the page taking its time to disappear.
Basic page loading is also slow. It's as if leaving the application idle made it forget how to react to commands issued to it, so it had to remember all over again how to do it, and then request my page. The right-click menu(something I use a lot) is very sluggish, and not very helpful. Once again, Firefox wins in the category of being able to right-click a picture and view it, while Internet Explorer has the option, "Show Picture" greyed out. I have actually never seen that option available before.
One personal problem I have with Internet Explorer is that is ruins the fonts on my webpage(this webpage- The one you're reading right now), especially the smaller fonts that I use for user comments. Observe.
Here is my comment page under Firefox:
...and here is my comment page under IE7:
I'll let the images speak for themselves. Realize that I am doing nothing strange with my fonts. They are all standard Verdana fonts, but for some reason, IE7 can't handle them.
The last feature of this new web browser I want to talk about is its ability to aggregate news feeds natively. This is indeed a nice feature, but like so many things about this browser, it's too late. They have an ingenious little feed icon on the page that is supposed to "detect" when there's a feed associated with a page. It doesn't do this on my own page, which is understandable, but even after I manually enter my page's feed address and load it into the browser, it still makes no effort to store it, or even to ask me to do so, even though it claims to save every feed that the user loads.
Furthermore, since the proliferation of feed aggregators that are 100% online, like my favorite, which is not surprisingly made by Google, I see no reason for having feedreading applications tied to your computer. For me, it just creates yet another difference between my work machine and my home machine. It's an unnecessary feature that I'd never use, so it just takes up screen real estate for me.
Internet Explorer 7 is proof that Microsoft doesn't know what its users want, and is still years behind just about every standalone browser I've ever used.
Bitch, when are you going to get your RSS feed up?
4:59 PM, Oct 19, 2006
6:03 PM, Oct 19, 2006
What I fail the understand the most is why it changes the color of some of your fonts. Wtf.
What a trainwreck of a program, nice review.
8:54 PM, Oct 19, 2006
It also messed up the disclaimer font at the bottom of your page. I couldn't see the text at all until I highlighted it. Instead of the letters in the words, there were just random dots where the letters should be. Highlighting them once restored them, but that's some piss-poor web browsering.
9:14 PM, Oct 19, 2006
Hah! Windoze can never get it right can it! Hot damn that I have Apple shares in my IRA and the masses just love apple's computers and their Ipods!
11:04 PM, Oct 19, 2006
All right Douche Bigalow, just because you know the intracacies of your website and I do not does not mean you get to be hostile. I do not see one of those handy RSS link buttons, or even a link for your feed on your homepage.
Oh yeah when is the next time you are making it up this way?
9:34 AM, Oct 20, 2006
There is a big link at the bottom of my page that says, "Syndicate," but more importantly(and the reason I called you "Dumbass"), is that I explicitly mentioned and linked the feed right in the article that you commented.
I'll not be employing the silly icon, but I might stick the url for the feed into the headers of the page. We'll see.
I don't know. I definitely haven't been to the Land of Hawks with Eyes in a long time.
9:56 AM, Oct 20, 2006
Yep you are right I am the dumbass, I totally missed your link.....
If you plan on coming up again we will need to grab a beer, if you come up during the summer months I will take you out on the boat. I have some video of Herzog in the front while I perform a sub dive with the boat and he gets drenched but I need to post that up on my site. Funny stuff.
10:17 AM, Oct 20, 2006
Verdana is crap.
font-family:'gill sans', tahoma, arial, sans-serif
11:54 AM, Oct 23, 2006
I'm surprised at the UI changes. Primarily the lack of toolbars by default.
I could see this playing hell with those who don't necessarily know how to use a computer, they merely mimic the actions they were originally taught on how to open a web browser and surf. I'm counting the days until the call from my parents asking "Where are my bookmarks?"
Maybe this new style is indicative of what's to come in Vista? I haven't checked out any screen shots or reviews.
7:55 AM, Oct 31, 2006