The first IE7 Beta is out. Yes, there are CSS improvements. No, they’re not going to change the world.
Yesterday, Microsoft released a beta of the forthcoming Vista operating system, along with the first beta of IE7. Unfortunately, both are only available to MSDN subscribers.
An XP-compatible version is available from a third party if you have a BitTorrent client.
This is probably breaking all sorts of terms and conditions though, and likely won’t last. Grab it while you can. ( Upon further investigation, the site in question is a BitTorrent tracking site with links to all sorts of other copyrighted material. Since an XP-compatible version of the beta wasn’t announced, I’m guessing it’s probably not a good idea for me to recommend that anyone download it. So, don’t.) My review is based on this version, so if there are significant differences between it and the version that comes with Vista, then this review may be inaccurate.
The first thing you’ll notice upon installing is that it completely replaces IE6, which has been typical IE behaviour since, well, forever. Hence the classic problem of testing multiple versions on one system, until Joe Maddalone came along two years ago and solved the problem for us. Now we need to add a new version to the list of IE archives… for the time being, you can grab the IE6 Eolas Edition which isn’t functionally different from regular IE6 (except for the annoying ‘Click Here to Continue Loading this page’ dialogues) and it will work as expected alongside IE7b1 and your older archives.
Functionally, we should all know by now that things like enhanced security, RSS support, and tabs are included. Here’s a screenshot of how it came together, which through its incompleteness re-enforces the fact that this is just a beta. What’s that blank button next to the tab? Clicking on it opens a new tab. Can anyone spare an icon? (My guess is that this looks a little better in Vista…)
The odd new toolbar layout with dominant back and forward buttons seems to be a new direction for the UI; the only customizable items appear to be the address bar, buttons, and links panels at the bottom, and they cannot be moved higher up within the toolbar. (IE6, in comparison, lets you remix to your heart’s content.)
So what about the rendering? Things have changed, but obviously we were promised only very little for a reason — nothing much has been fixed. Yes, now we have PNG transparency. (compare Panic’s Audion Faces page in IE6 and IE7) Yes, the Peekaboo (IE6, IE7) and Guillotine (IE6, IE7, how the test case is supposed to look) bugs appear to have been addressed. Though without having had a chance to test either very comprehensively, I’ll hold off on saying they’ve actually been fixed just yet.
Other than that? After running through Position Is Everything’s “Explorer Exposed” omnibus, it seems to me that the list of outstanding IE bugs remains long. Line-height bug? Not fixed. Border chaos? Chaotic as ever. Italic overflows? Still buggy. Doubled float margin? Nope. 3px jog? Nuh-uh. Escaping floats? No way.
And what about previously unsupported CSS2 properties? Have we got
:hover support on any element other than
a yet? Sorry. What about selectors? Same as ever. Could we at least ask for a bit of
position: fixed? Keep wishing.
Yeah, after four years of suspense, all we get is an alpha channel. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the IE team kept their mouths shut for a reason; they delivered what was promised, and nothing more. Here’s to IE7.5, I guess…
: From the IE7 beta announcement post linked at the beginning of this article:
Our goal is to get feedback from this group, do a bunch more work around quality (performance, security, reliability, etc.) and some features (e.g. additional standards support beyond what’s in beta 1, additional functionality around tabs and RSS, etc.), and release Beta 2 much more broadly.
So, the IE team has committed to the final release of IE7 having improved CSS support over what was released in beta 1. Let’s hope the improvement is substantial. (Thanks, Kevin)
: More from Molly on WaSP’s role in IE development, what you can do to help, and a plea for patience.
: Oh good, I was hoping we’d get something like this. The IE team has responded to the IE7 Beta feedback with a roadmap of sorts, which clarifies that yes, contrary to the expectations of many, Beta 2 will see quite a bit more CSS support than the first beta.