- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

It’s rare, or so it seems, that Microsoft Corp. will hand out a new software program for free, but trundle over to https://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/ie7/default.mspx and you can test-drive the next generation of Web browsing software on the house.

Microsoft is offering the Beta 2 release of Internet Explorer 7.0 (IE7) to the Windows-using public.

The firm has abandoned, perhaps wisely, the Mac browser scene. The new program is quite spiffy and well worth investigating.

Perhaps the greatest new feature of IE7 is the promise of enhanced security.

Land on a Web site that’s trying to “phish” information from you, say a page that claims to be EBay but really isn’t, and the program is supposed to stop you from doing something foolish.

It took some effort. I had to dig up one of several suspect e-mails from the “recently deleted” file of my e-mail account, but I finally found an “EBay” inquiry that wasn’t one.

I clicked on the authentic-looking Web link and the page loaded, but not for long. Instead, the display changed to a warning that included the words, “Phishing Filter has determined that this is a reported phishing website” and the advice to stay away.

One could override this, but then you’re on your own.

That’s a great level of security that I haven’t seen anywhere else — not on Safari, not on Firefox, not anywhere.

This feature alone will commend IE7 to many users, as well it should. It’s the kind of thing corporate information-technology managers will especially appreciate.

Of course, the new filter may or may not be inviolable, and it’s likely someone will make an effort to defeat this process.

That’s the risk of being a popular application on the now dominant desktop operating system. At least Microsoft is making a good effort here, and they deserve to be commended.

In appearance, IE7 is much sleeker than anything else out there, and that’s a welcome change.

Instead of the now-stodgy look of IE6, you have something contemporary and charming; tabbed browsing is standard, pop-up windows are blocked, and when printing pages, “shrink to fit” is the default setting.

This won’t put a big Web page on one sheet of paper, but it will keep all of a page’s content on a single sheet, even when multiple pages are printed.

This is another one of those “easier experienced than explained” features. If you’ve ever printed a Web page directly only to have it come out resembling a jigsaw puzzle, you’ll understand.

One nice addition to tabbed browsing, which keeps several Web pages open in separate, notebook-style tabs on a single Web page, is a “Quick Tabs” feature that offers thumbnail views of the various pages.

You can switch among pages easily and close those you don’t want to keep.

Parents will welcome additional controls that can be added to keep children away from sites they shouldn’t view or visit.

However, this will require the next generation of Windows, called “Vista,” to use.

Right now, though, IE7 is worth, well, exploring. I think most will enjoy what they see.

E-mail [email protected] or visit https://www.kellner.us.

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