A whole batch of good new stuff – Part 1: Browsers

I spend an awful lot of time on line so I’m always keen to find ways to make it a more productive and enjoyable time.

In the past few weeks and days there have been some interesting new versions of some of the major web browsers released, I’ve been playing with them to see how they improve on the previous versions.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.

IE 7 Release Candidate 1 is out. This is (probably) the last test version of Microsoft’s new web browser before it is fully released to the public before the end of this year. From a web developers point of view the best thing about Seven is the fact that it’s support for web standards is much better. The CSS support is almost as good as that in Firebox. There are a few things that would have been nice that aren’t there; some of the pseudo elements for example, but the IE team have done a bloody good job.

From a user’s point of view Seven is chock full of goodies! IE finally gets tabbed browsing. I remember when I first used Opera (version 4 I think) being really impressed at how much tidier it was to have all your open pages in one tabbed browser window, instead of having lots of instances of the browser across the desktop.
IE 7 is more secure than it’s predecessors and has a built in phishingfilter. It has a simplified user interface with less frequently used functions moved into sub-menus leaving more screen area for browsing web sites, which is after all what most people want to do with a browser. They’ve also added an RSS feed reader; Chris Wilson, Group Program Manager of the Internet Explorer Platform team at Microsoft said at @media 2006 that this was the feature he was most excited about. Certainly quickly flicking through your RSS feeds is much quicker than re-visiting sites to see if they have any new content of interest, Microsoft clearly that this type of Internet usage will reach mainstream users.

Firefox 2

I really like the Firefox browser, infarct it’s my browser of choice. I only use another browser if I’m testing a site, or I’m on a (badly written) site that refuses to play nice with Firefox. For version 2 (which again is a release candidate at the moment) the firefox team have made a few subtle changes. They’ve tidied up the UI and tweaked things like the “Add-ons manager”. Nice new features include the ability to resume your browsing sessions (so you can pick up where you left off) and enhanced search capabilities. Firefox will suggest search terms as you type when you use the built in search box in conjunction with Google, Yahoo or Ask.

The most important new feature from my point of view is the built in spell checker. Bang goes my last excuse for poor spelling.

One of the nice things about firefox is the vast number of add-ons that can be downloaded to enhance the functionality of the software. For example I use a number of developer tools for firefox to help me in my job. If you have a number of extensions you use already use, you may find that they wont work with version 2. This is simply because extensions are set to work up to a certain version of firefox. This extension allows you make all your extensions think they are compatible with the latest version of Firefox, which is very useful indeed.

Opera 9.02

Those Opera boys are back with another version of their browser and I really like it. Of course it has a tabbed interface, but now you get a little preview screen shot when you hover over a tab which is a really nice touch. There are far too many features to list them all here; new in this release is a bit torrent down loader which I think is a nice touch.

Flock

Like Firefox, Flock uses the Mozilla rendering engine (so it displays pages in more or less the same way). In fact it looks very, very similar to Firefox. Flock tries to position itself as

“an amazing new web browser that makes it easier to share media and connect to other people on line. Share photos, automatically stay up-to-date with new content from your favorite sites, and search the Web with the most advanced Search Toolbar available today.”

it is pretty good. I started using it because it has built in integration with wordpress and flickr. so I can write my blog posts in flock (and spell check them) before uploading them. However, now that firefox has a spell checker this isn’t such a compelling reason to use Flock. I have to admit, I haven’t used flock as much as perhaps I should have. I thought it was a bit of a novelty browser, but on closer inspection it would appear that many of the extensions for Firefox are also available for Flock which makes it a much more interesting proposition.