Browser showdown: IE7 vs. Firefox


Ie7_logo This has to be one of the best articles I’ve read in some time on the browser battles. Ed Bott authored an excellent opinion piece outlining his time with the IE7 Beta 2 preview side-by-side with Firefox. I’ve got a similar set up with IE 7 Beta 2 for XP and Firefox on my Tablet, while also running IE 7 for Vista on a desktop. I couldn’t do the comparison the justice that Ed did, so if you read one story today, make it this one.

My personal observations so far (which are generally in agreement with Ed’s):

  • Microsoft has taken some features of Firefox and actually improved them. Navigation and usage of tabbed browsing is actually better in IE 7.
  • Along the same lines, opening new tabs in IE 7 is easier than in IE 6 with the Windows Live Toolbar.
  • RSS feeds are more effective in IE 7.
  • Firefox still has the huge benefit of free extensions to make up for functional gaps.
  • Firefox still appears to render faster than IE for me.

Have you downloaded IE 7 Beta 2? What do you think of where IE is heading?



Kevin C. Tofel

These are great observations Mickey and I hope Microsoft is looking for the beta feedback. I did notice that I can remove one of the “sacred” toolbars. When I unlock the toolbars and right-click them, IE shows me the various toolbar options, i.e. Classic Menu, Links, Status Bar and ONE item that has no name. It’s blank! When I remove the checkbox for it, the bar with the Windows Search, Phishing Filter, Maps, etc…goes away giving me just two lines of menu items. My first one is the sacred address bar search (which I set to Google by default) and the second is my tabs plus the Home/Feeds/Print/etc…. It doesn’t hurt that I’m running a 1400 x 1050 res on my Tablet too; I have plenty of real estate, so the extra menu bars aren’t deal breakers at this point. However, the beta isn’t quite perfect yet; I’d like to see a tad bit more user control.

Mickey Segal

It seems “Lock the toolbars” works for all toolbar rows except the two toolbar rows that are in IE7 by default (address bar row and Favorites / Tools row). As an example, if you take a new installation of IE7 and download the Google toolbar and turn on Classic Menus you will have 4 rows of toolbars and menus.

If you then uncheck “Lock the toolbars” you can move the classic menus and the Google toolbar onto each other’s row (consolidating to 3 rows) and you can change which of these two is on the left, but you can’t move them to the two default rows (address bar row and Favorites / Tools row).

So if you have a screen with lots of pixels in the horizontal direction you can’t use the extra space for other material such as a Google toolbar. If you get rid of tabbed browsing you can’t use the recovered space at all. You also can’t use the space occupied by the Microsoft Search component, not just because you can’t put anything on that row but also because you can’t remove the Microsoft Search component at all, even if you like the word finding features of the Google toolbar and would rather use that instead.

So the problem is not that “Lock the toolbars” doesn’t work at all; the problem is that the address bar row and the Favorites / Tools row are considered sacred and you are not allowed to add stuff to these rows or rearrange the rows in any way. The dotted line at the left of other toolbars is not even present for most of these toolbars.

In IE6 there is a dotted line to the left of the address bar and the main toolbar and all can be moved. What we need is the same movability in IE7.

Chris Davies

Huzzah! I was steeling myself to the idea of holding off installing the beta and denying all that tabby goodness. I use that powertool daily, it’s my favourite.

Kevin C. Tofel

Mickey, I found that if I switch to Classic View and back, the toolbars can be moved. See if that works for you; good points on everything else.

Chris, I just re-installed Send to OneNote and it appears to be working in IE 7.

Mickey Segal

There are a bunch of bothersome problems about the IE7 beta:
1. You can’t move around the toolbars; they stay locked.
2. If you add a new toolbar such as Google it is forced to use up a whole row.
3. You can’t remove the Microsoft search component so it wastes space. It is true that Microsoft’s component can search using Google, but if you want some of the other features of the Google toolbar such as the convenient searching within a search result page you are stuck with a useless space-hoarder.
4. The button to use the default mail/newsreader program is gone, replaced by a button to open Microsoft Messenger.
5. For Tablet PC users: you can’t specify the direction of menus; some are very difficult to use for right-handed people and others are very difficult for left-handed people.

The functionality I had in two lines of IE6 now takes 3 lines of IE7 – even with Tabs turned off.

It is hard to tell how many of these bothers are due to missing features (that are planned before the final release) and how many are related to business goals.


I doubt I would ever go back to using IE, any version. I have doubts about IE ever getting out of the mess it is in, and the pain it gives me to code for it.

They still have CSS issues in 7 and offer only some html code to detect and load a load an IE specific style sheet. Broweser sniffing should be a thing long long forgotten. And it has for all browsers except IE.

Also, just from a paranoid standpoint, I try to stay away from the built in tools since they are the ones most targeted for attacks (IE, Outlook, OE).

And yes, I do realize I’m not the average user. :)

Firefox is pretty much the perfect browser right now. Nothing in IE7 seems to be swaying me.

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