First Release Candidate For IE 7 Hits

Microsoft has posted the first release candidate for Internet Explorer 7, adding a number of improvements under the hood along with the usual bug squashing from the last beta.

The main goal of the release candidate is to assist developers in ensuring that their Web sites are compatible with this impending final release.

Microsoft  has not updated Internet Explorer in a significant way since IE 6 came out in 2001.

As such, IE has been completely rebuilt. It’s no longer integrated with the Windows Explorer shell to improve security.

“Protected Mode,” available in Windows Vista, will run the browser in a sandbox, so only cache files can be written to the disc.

Version 7 will add tabbed browsing, one of the most popular options in competitors such as Firefox, along with anti-spoofing and anti-phishing protection, a search box with a number of search engines to choose from, and support for RSS feeds.

Another big change will be the addition of new Web technologies that have emerged since IE 6 came out five years ago, notably Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) 2.1.

Microsoft said in a statement announcing the release that more than 200 behavioral changes have been made to CSS between beta 3 and RC 1.

Other rendering improvements include transparent PNG support and native support for XMLHTTP, which means AJAX-based Web applications will no longer require an ActiveX control to function.

Other enhancements include a simpler user interface, customizable search box and a revision to how favorites are organized.

Joe Wilcox of JupiterKagan, said it’s almost ready for prime time.

“The security features are fairly robust and impressive, although I think there is too much ‘security noise’ from the browser,” he told

“Microsoft has done a terrific job communicating what it’s doing with the browser, and the company put IE 7 into protracted beta, which facilitated broad testing by many Web developers,” said Wilcox.

“That said, cascading stylesheet support needs lots more work. I would regard many competing browsers, particularly Firefox, as being much more standards compliant.”

Along with RC1, Microsoft is offering tools to help developers and designers evaluate their sites for standards compliance.

The company is offering the Internet Explorer Readiness Toolkit, which provides a developer checklist, testing guidance, and links to resources such as technical articles and helpful blog posts.

The other offering is the Internet Explorer Compatibility Evaluator, which analyzes the underlying code of various Web sites and highlights necessary changes to make the site fully compatible with the different versions of Internet Explorer. The Evaluator comes with the Readiness Toolkit.

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