Prerelease versions have been available for some time, but Microsoft made it official this week with the final release of Internet Explorer 7. Microsoft’s long-overdue great leap forward in the browser wars looks suprising familiar to users of the Firefox browser. New features in IE — tabbed browsing, RSS support and integrated search bar — are old hat to Firefox. But it also adds some other nifty features, such as page magnification (something Opera has long offered), the ability to display all open tabs as thumbnails in a single page, the ability to organize multiple tabs into a single tab group for bookmarking, and improved printing of Web pages by automatically shrinking text to fit. I also find IE7’s RSS reader better than the one built into Firefox. For one, it allows sorting of posts by category.
The biggest improvements for this historically hole-plagued browser come in enhanced security. IE 7 now offers one-step deletion of browsing history, phishing protection to protect against scam Web sites, enhanced pop-up blocking and enhanced ActiveX blocking.
IE7 won’t make me switch from Firefox as my preferred browser. But this new version now seems to be on a par with Firefox in most respects and even a bit ahead of it in some. IE6 users should waste no time in downloading it (it will install automatically for Windows users with automatic update enabled).