Microsoft has posted a mildly revised and more secure Beta 3.0 version of Internet Explorer 7.0 free for public download.
Additional features and functionality in the Beta 3.0 release include:
-- All security updates for IE 7.0 released throughout June.
-- The ability to drag-and-drop reorder browser tabs in the tabbed-browsing bar.
-- The reappearance of the optional read email button for the customisable 'Command' bar, or main toolbar.
-- The web page zoom-in scaling feature adds a horizontal scrollbar automatically.
-- A global RSS feed settings dialog.
-- A global RSS 'refresh now' function (which wasn't evident in the preview build).
-- Additional work carried out since the Beta 2.0 release aimed at improving website compatibility.
Missing from the what's new list, and perhaps the most significant change since the Beta 2.0 release, is Microsoft's publicly stated commitment - first articulated by outgoing Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates on 24 May at Microsoft's WinHEC conference in Seattle - that IE is being placed back on a fast, 18-month development cycle after IE 7.0 ships.
"If it takes longer than 18 months to ship the next version of Internet Explorer, then we're not doing our jobs right," said Gary Schare, Microsoft's General Manager of Internet Explorer.
In response to a question about why IE 7.0 isn't expanding features and functionality more aggressively, Schare acknowledged that the goal of IE 7.0 wasn't to win back market share from Mozilla, but merely to update IE 7.0 to currently expected levels of browser functionality. The shorter development track could mean that browser users will see a far more advanced IE some time in 2008.
We obtained a late 'preview' version of IE 7.0 Beta 3.0, which did not have all the bug fixes and refinements Microsoft projected would be evident in the version now available for public download. The added usability tweaks are welcome, but the preview code did exhibit some minor performance and reliability issues.
The preview of Beta 3.0 takes up 12.8MB of hard drive space. IE 7.0 requires Windows XP SP2. It's important to uninstall any previous version of IE 7.0 before installing this one. Installation of beta software is not recommended in production environments.
IE 7.0 does install some operating system components; it may be uninstalled from Add or Remove Programs.