Microsoft has released a test version of the next-generation Internet Explorer, providing the public with a closer look at the browser that Microsoft claims has much better security and usability features than Internet Explorer 6.
The software giant, faced with a history of regular patches to fix problems with the current version of Internet Explorer, has taken steps with the new version to protect users with features that include a phishing filter to identify suspicious sites and issue on-screen warnings.
In the new version of the browser, most ActiveX controls are now disabled by default. You can enable or disable them, as needed, through the browser's new information bar and the add-on manager, said Margaret Cobb, Microsoft's group product manager for Internet Explorer.
"This helps prevent invasions of a PC by remote, which has been a problem in the past with ActiveX controls," she said.
New Approach to Security
A new "fix my settings" button provides warnings when the PC's latest security settings might put the user at risk, with critical items highlighted in red when they are unsafely configured, Cobb explained.
Other notable enhancements in this version include tabbed browsing, new printing controls, and new Really Simple Syndication (RSS) tools.
Much like the latest version of Firefox and Netscape, Internet Explorer 7 lets you use tabs to preview and save Web sites on the screen. But it also lets you group tabs for collecting favorite sites -- such as news or shopping pages -- and opening them all at one time.
Better Support for RSS
In addition, the advanced printing capabilities in the new version of Internet Explorer will shrink the text on a Web page automatically to create the proper width for printing. A print-preview feature lets you view and resize text, or select which sections of a page to print, said Cobb.
In conjunction with integrated support for RSS feeds, Internet Explorer 7 detects such feeds on Web sites and notifies you with an icon on the toolbar.
A click on the icon lets you preview and subscribe to the site's feed, Cobb explained. You can read the RSS feeds directly in the browser or filter them using search terms or site-specific categories.
While Microsoft maintains its dominance in the browser space, there is a lot riding on Internet Explorer 7, especially with the Firefox browser gaining ground, along with Apple's Safari, Opera, and Netscape.
Analysts estimate said that Internet Explorer's market share has fallen from 95 percent just a few years ago to 85 percent today.