Late yesterday, Microsoft shipped the final version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. IE 7.0 offers many functional and security improvements and puts Microsoft's browser nearly at feature parity with its main competitor, Mozilla Firefox.
IE 7.0's new features include tabbed browsing, integrated search, RSS support, and major display and printing enhancements. On the security front, IE 7.0 offers improvements such as an integrated phishing filter and better defenses against malicious ActiveX controls.
In a recent briefing, Microsoft director of IE product management Gary Schare told me that IE 7.0 had been honed over a steady series of public beta releases and that very little has changed since the last prerelease build, dubbed Release Candidate 1 (RC1). "Since RC1, we only changed one major functional area," Schare said. "We decided to migrate the browser's search-provider settings during upgrades." In response to concerns from Google and Yahoo!, Microsoft will provide customers who upgrade IE with a screen that displays their current search provider and lets them accept or change it.
Schare also highlighted a recent report from technical services firm 3Sharp that concluded that IE 7.0's phishing filter offers the best overall accuracy of any antiphishing solution. He also noted that a few Web-site compatibility problems are no longer "hugely problematic," though some users might temporarily encounter incompatible sites. Given the expected upgrade rate, these problems are likely to be resolved quickly.
Finally, Schare reiterated Microsoft's plans for distributing IE 7.0. Microsoft will release the new browser as a high-priority update through Automatic Updates in about three weeks. However, IE 7.0 will be distributed over time, so it could take two or three months for IE 7.0 to be distributed to all Automatic Update users. Unlike other high-priority updates, IE 7.0 won't be installed automatically. Instead, users will see an advertisement for the browser and choose whether to install it. There's no default choice, Schare said, so users won't run into a situation where IE 7.0 is installed by mistake. Corporations that want to prevent users from accepting the upgrade can download a free nonexpiring blocker tool from the Microsoft Web site.
Users can download IE 7.0 by using the following link:
For more information about IE 7.0 and associated download links, please read my exhaustive review on the SuperSite for Windows.