12 November 2006

Browser Wars: Internet Explorer 7

I finally took the plunge and installed Windows Internet Explorer 7 this evening. (Why they changed the name from Microsoft Internet Explorer to Windows Internet Explorer, I have no idea. Nor do I care really; it was just an observation...)

Despite how other people reported that they needed to reboot as many as three times (or more) following installation, I only had to reboot once. In fact, the installation was quite painless really. My biggest issue was the time it took to download the update and finally install it. It was probably going on for 20 or 30 minutes. By comparison, Firefox 2 took seconds to download and another few seconds to install. I guess that’s the price Microsoft has to pay when it integrates the web browser with the operating system so tightly. Whatever the reason, it’s one point to Firefox.

I’ve only tried using it for a couple of hours now and there are some quite things that are already annoying me. The first and most obvious change that’s causing a problem is the interface. I’ve read numerous other reports about how bad everyone thinks this is too – so how the heck did it ever get passed usability testing? Microsoft, please don’t make me think. And if you absolutely must include some snazzy new navigation, please provide me with a “classic” option to change it back to what I know. Firefox didn’t change their interface between versions, so they get another point.

One of the first things I did was activate the Menu Bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) only to find that it sticks it under the Address Bar! Fortunately, I’d already read this post on Anthony’s blog so I knew how to stop it doing that. That makes things a little bit better but it’s still getting on my nerves. Why they decided to stop users from moving their toolbars around like they’ve always been able to, I’ll never know. As far as I’m concerned, an essential feature has been removed. Another point to Firefox.

It seems Internet Explorer now has tabbed browser, eh? Personally, I can take or leave tabbed browsing. I still don’t fully understand the difference between using tabs in a browser and using buttons in your task bar. But thousands of people rant and rave about how good they are, so I guess they must be right. What really confuses me is why there’s no option to “Open in New Tab” when you right-click a link. (And that “Open” option has always been pointless; why would anyone not just left-click?) Of course, Firefox already has that option. Yet another point to Firefox.

After trying out a few of my websites in it, I realised that there were a couple of small changes I needed to make. When I followed my shortcut to the FTP site, it opened in IE7 rather than Windows Explorer. I then had to find the “Open FTP site in Windows Explorer” option, as the page suggested. (Why couldn’t they just give me a link to click that would do that instead of making me go hunting around for it?) So that was pretty annoying... and it was even more annoying when I realised that it does this every time! Minus one point to Internet Explorer.

One thing I do quite like though is the ClearType feature. I do find it strange how they make text appear clearer by actually making it more blurred though. Either way, it seems to work. But at least you can switch it off if you don’t like it. At last – one point to Internet Explorer!

And at the end of that round, Firefox has 4 points but Internet Explorer has zero!

Ever since around 1999, my default browser has always been Internet Explorer. And before that, I think it was Netscape 4. I guess I just never got around to switching to Firefox. I didn’t really have a good reason to do so either. However, with IE7 being so different to IE6, I’m now being forced to make a change.

Should I switch to Windows Internet Explorer 7 or Mozilla Firefox 2...?

Update: 14 November 2006 (21:58)

After switching between the two quite a bit tonight, I’ve just made a decision and changed my default browser to Firefox 2. I’ve also deleted any shortcuts to Internet Explorer as I know that my mouse would automatically go for the little blue “e” icon without even thinking about it...

If Firefox 2 annoys me too much in the next week, I may even try Opera 9 and see how I cope with that – IE7 was irritating me too much though after just two days!

(And I’ve already benefited from the spell check feature of Firefox 2 just whilst typing this – and yet I’ve not seen one single benefit of using IE7 in two days!)

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You missed the other stupid factor which has meant I am definately sticking with Firefox.

They moved the REFRESH button!?!? WHY DO THAT!?!? I expect my refresh button next to the back and forward buttons as its the most used button by web developers.

One point to MS though their Web Developer toolbar can now be included on the File, Edit menu saving me a good 20pixels of screen real estate

Switch to Firefox, though not trouble-free, it's definitely better than IE7.

After installation of IE7 my harddrive was spinning like a hamster wheel and the runonce.aspx page, that will be loaded when you start IE the fist time, had a script error all the time I started IE. Great Product! I uninstalled after 10 minutes!
The bad thing is, you need to install IE7 by default with the new update round of Microsoft.

Out of curiousity: Have you considered other browsers, like Opera?

I used Opera 7 a bit when that was released and it used to eat up 90+% of my CPU making it practically impossible to do anything else on my PC while I had the browser open. That bad experience made me never want to try it again.

However, I've just downloaded Opera 9.02 and it's improved a lot since then! It was nice and quick to install too. They claim it's "the safest and fastest Web experience" – well I disagree (at least with the 2nd part of that statement). Every page I've tried seems to "drip" into my browser window bit-by-bit. Whether this is just because Opera's showing me the bits it's downloaded before it's finished, I don't know. But it seems much slower than either IE or Firefox.

For me, it's still a two horse race.

I can't understand the interface stuff at all in Internet Explorer 7. I personally use a mac so it needn't concern me but I live on a campus with many other students who are all updating to IE7 (or having IE7 forced on them?) at the moment. One person immediately disabled tabbed browsing because it was "annoying". Another person I saw opened IE7 for the first time to see the blue screen of death. Upon reboot it did work but it was so glitchy he reverted to IE6. Having liked some of the ideas in IE7 though I pointed him to Opera which he now uses.

As far as I am aware to design a browser that people are likely to switch to from IE you have to make the browser look quite like IE to make the transition as smooth as possible. Since Microsoft have completely changed the interface in the change from IE6 to 7, people now find ourselves in the very odd situation where the most familiar product to them is in fact one made by a company they've never heard of (Mozilla, Opera etc).

I am not sure how IE7 is going to effect the growth rate of Firefox. Probably less than we all expect...