A bit late posting this due to travel, but I had a chance to sit down with Markus Mielke of the IE team and find out what precisely we can expect of rendering updates in IE7. It’s likely that any praise of Internet Explorer will still be controversial for now, but it’s well-earned. Hear me out.
The latest beta preview release of IE7, the one that came out in association with this conference, is expected to be more or less the final revision to the rendering engine. What exists now is as feature-complete as it will get, so expect no more CSS or major bug fixes past this point for IE7.
They’re not 100% there yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but there are two important take-aways here. First, IE7 is not the end of the road. This is the first big step, but they expect to make many more. Second, now is the time to start fixing your sites. Grab the latest version, and test against it; if your site breaks in it (as this one does), you can expect that will remain true after IE7 final is released. It’s time to start the surgery. It’ll hurt. But hopefully, the rest of this post will convince you and me both that it won’t be so bad.
In the Explorer Exposed section on Position is Everything, there’s a big list of bugs exclusive to IE running down the left hand side of the page. With one exception, consider that entire list fixed. The exception is the escaping floats bug, which apparently will take a major code re-architecturing that they simply couldn’t do in IE7; it’ll come in a later release.
The big sexy stuff is of course, transparent PNGs,
:hover on any element, and fixed positioning. They’ve even gone so far as to create a code demo of these in action, which is actually a Zen Garden design. Seriously. If you were in Markus’ Wednesday morning session you probably saw it. But I’m not sure if it’ll make it to the actual site or not since — (chuckle) — it would have to be made to work in IE6.
What else? They’ve started implementing CSS3 selectors. How about pixel-unit text scaling? Problem solved! Font sizing is deprecated, wait until you see the new full-page zoom. It’s like zooming in on a PDF. Your absolutely positioned text will no longer scale out of its block, since the block scales equally as well. It’s a designer’s dream. I’m a bit concerned about how the user will view this change, but that remains to be seen.
I still harbour just as much ill will toward IE6 as ever, like many of you. And I’m pretty sure a lot of the IE team understands that sentiment. So while being excited about IE7 might seem contradictory to my past stance on the browser, it’s because I simply see the potential. This first step is a big one. It’s not enough yet, but it’s significant enough that I know the next step afterward is going to be exactly what we wanted, and likely a bunch more.
As I said to Markus, at one point in time they had the best browser on the market; given the sheer momentum I uncovered at this conference, I could very well see it happening again. IE8: the new Firefox? Hmm.