IiiEeeeeee

posted on February 2nd, 2006 by Anthony

So yesterday I mentioned the new IE7 beta had been unleashed on the developing public at large. It’s our first chance to look at what will almost certainly the base line standard that us webby types will have to work to for the next few years.

I finally managed to have a quick snoop around late last night (in between then end of the Liverpool match on the radio, and my weekly fix of Desperate Housewives… ahem) after finally getting on to my fully Service Packed box at home.

First Impressions

Downloading was easy, as was the necessary uninstalling of the previous beta version of IE7 that I had come about.

Installation was interesting, and seemed to take far longer than it should have. It was telling me about installing Malware Removal tools and seemed to stick on 39% for about 5 minutes, but overall it was quite smooth.

After the usual reboot to finish the install I fired it up and was greeted by this baffling screen:

Not a great welcome!

Which one is the Information Bar?

Is there supposed to be an icon?

I never worked it out and just ploughed on anyway. Not a great start.

Convention Smention

WTF? Where have the put the refresh button?

I mentioned this in my look at the first beta (The UI has actually improved…). MS have decided that the UI that we have all been using since the dawn of the web was broken all along. Apparently the refresh button was in the wrong place? I hadn’t noticed, but MS have kindly moved into a much more convenient place.

Sorry did I say convenient? Of course I actually meant completely infuriating.

How about the stop button? Nope that was wrong too.

The file menus? You never really ever used them did you? I mean everybody will just know to press Alt to get that to reappear surely?

I’m sure there is some really good reasoning behind the upheaval. But I struggled to find my way around and I’m a pretty experienced user.

God knows how my Mum would cope?

Rendering

The IE Developer team has been saying for a while now that developers and designers are going to have to de-hack a lot of their code because it will cause problems with IE’s new super-dooper rendering engine.

And that seems to be true.

At this point I will point you in the direction of Mr. Matthew Pennell’s “Flickr Gallery of IE7 Dooooom” (NB. The title’s my own).

This has snapshots of loads of different CSS heavy sites and the varying degrees of breakage. Some come out relatively unscathed, others, like Malarkeys clever dual serving site, may have some serious reworking to do.

This here Crate doesn’t do too bad. The major problem I have is with the transparent PNG of the Quay tie thing.

I used a simple hiding from IE6 trick:

#quay {
	background: url(images/quay.gif) no-repeat left bottom;
	height: 120px;
	width: 200px;
	float: left;
	z-index: 2;
	position: relative;
	top: 2px;
}

body>#header>#quay {
	background: url(images/quay.png) no-repeat left bottom;
}

IE6 is thick and doesn’t understand the ‘>’ child selectors, so it just ignores them. So serving the nice transparent PNG to Firefox etc is easy.

However, IE7 is a bit cleverer. It does understand the concept of child selectors, and it does seem to try to implement them.

Somehow it seems to be tripping itself up along the way. Sometimes (as Matthews grab showed) the PNG and surrounding areas go AWOL. After a quick refresh, or a resize it will pop back into existence.

Crap, then Ok... odd!

Strange.

I’m thinking this might have something to do with the z-index? But I’ll have to fiddle around more to figure it out.

There are still some other foibles too. The padding and margins on the Archives, Tags etc bars on the Crate already look different in IE than they do in Firefox – and that hasn’t been fixed. (If anybody knows why this happens please let me know!)

Padding issues

Some Good Things

Despite the rendering and button issues there are some really good ideas. No really, there are a few things that I really quite like!

ClearType

I think this is a fantastic move. IE7 defaults to display text in ClearType, regardless of the users overall XP setting!

I’ve always avoided using ClearType on my machines for the sole reason that it clouds your view of how things look in a real world where 90% of people don’t know what it is.

The fact that IE will display nice smooth fonts without any settings needing to be changed is great news!

Nicking Firefox Ideas and Shortcuts

Very good move by MS there, and there are probably more that I haven’t found yet.

Now this, I like!

Tab MultiView

I’m sure there is probably a real marketing name, but previewing all the open tabs in one window is a very neat little feature.

RSS Handling

Not only does it nicely render feeds, it also makes it easy to subscribe, and adds some extra features.

For instance you can change the order of the posts by date, title or author. Not earth shattering by any means, but a nice touch, which I assume is controlled via XSLT. Which could also mean there is some customization available.

Feed me!

Conclusions

Well it’s a step in the right direction. The IE team want our feedback, and we should give it to them. The rendering still has issues, but it does seem to have taken a good few strides in the right direction.

I think mucking about with the button layout and well concreted browser conventions is a bold move that will ultimately just annoy People. But then as People don’t realise they have a choice they’ll just get on with it. Then again I can here the call know “Can I have the old one back please?!”

I have been genuinely impressed by some of the other little touches. ClearType is a great move, the RSS handling seems neat (though I haven’t tested the discovery mechanism yet) and I really like the tab multi view. And as I mentioned in the last look the way it handles printing is a massive step forward.

Overall we all know that this is going to be the baseline standard in a few years time and we are just going to have to deal with it.

Fortunately it seems to be massive improvement.