IE7 – Beta 2

The MIX 06 ended a few short days ago, and with it, we saw the release of the IE7 Beta 2. This has been, needless to say, a highly awaited version (at least for developers).

It seems that the MIX did very well, and they have quite a few interesting sounding video logs available from their website. On the MIX blog they state:

“You can keep up with post-MIX news at Virtual MIX where the sessions will be streamed in ~4 weeks.”

From taking a look there today, it seems that they have quite a few videos already on there, so if 4 weeks is the estimate, I’m a little curious exactly how many videos we’re talking here :p But, do keep in mind that these videos on the Virtual MIX site are (unsurprisingly) in Microsoft ASF video format. For me, that means I’m going to have to power-on my Windows box, or dig up the codecs needed to play that format on Ubuntu.

The release came at the MIX 06 and was announced on the IE blog. After the annoucement, you can see that there were quite a lot of comments on that posting.

Also, Markus Mielke put up a great post about designing pages with the IE7 beta using a kind of Zen Garden feel. The page layout was actually quite slick, though I’ve not seen it posted live online anywhere (that I know of yet) and I’d definitely like to be able to so it could get the normal barrage of testing in other browsers. However, with that same post, came the announcement that has confused and made quite a few web designers pretty worried:

“I was also happy to announce that we are now layout complete with the release of the MIX build – we don’t plan to add more layout features or drastically change layout behavior. This gives web developers a chance to test and prepare your pages for Vista Beta2 and the final release of IE7. There are still bugs and missing features (display tables, generated content to name a few) we would have liked to do for IE7 but based on your requests to have some lead time to test your pages we need to lock it down now to be able to ship IE7.”

Now, here is where I get a bit confused. Eric Meyer postedthat:

“It was publicly stated that the current build of the IE7 beta available from Microsoft is rendering-behavior complete. In other words, the only changes to IE7 from now until it goes final will be fixes to security holes, crash bugs, and browser chrome/UI stuff. Whatever its CSS support does or doesn’t do, that’s how the final version is expected to behave.”

So, obviously I went over to the IE blog and looked for the release info on it, and that is where the confusion came in.
In response to this question about CSS problems in IE7 Beta 2:

Stuart,

Bugs will be fixed. Beta 2 isn’t even out yet and we have a final release later.

“Layout Complete” means we expect no more changes to the platform for layout except for bug fixes.

– Al Billings [MSFT]

But then there was this other question, also asking about CSS support:

Peter,

To my knowledge, we are platform complete for this release. That means that these will probably not be available. I’ll defer to Chris Wilson or one of the CSS guys answering on this though.

– Al Billings [MSFT]

So… Eric, Al: You’re killing me. I’m so confused now. >.< But! The good part is that Markus posted this also:

“…in the progress of building up a public bug database where you can submit your issues, track their progress and see when we internally fix an issue – Al is going to post about this soon.”

I’d like to raise my hand and ask for that next post to include a definition of exactly what ‘layout complete’ means to web developers. Hopefully that bug database will have issues flagged that are slated to be fixed before the IE7 full release. That way, we know what is coming, and what to plan for. For instance, I have a friend, Kalle, who is working on Synchroedit, and would just love to see DOM mutation events supported by IE7 since (currently) his only app can’t be run in IE. Will that be on the list for release?… I’m guessing there is about a 99.9% chance that it won’t be. BUT.. if there is a listing of what will be done for the IE7 release, and things that will come later on, that could be really helpful to developers. We just plain need some sort of listing of these bugs and features, and whether or not those features are planned implementations. It’s just plain helpful. Hopefully, we may see something like that in the bug database.

You will notice that there are a lot of comments that seem to be repeating themselves on the IE blog. A summary of the ones that I’ve seen repeated quite a few times about the IE7 Beta 2:

  • Crashes constantly.
  • Breaks back and forward buttons or skips pages when using them.
  • Compatibility issues with several major virus scan / firewall programs.
  • Compatibility issues with Google Desktop Search.
  • Feeds that require authentication are not supported by the feed reader.
  • Compatibility issues with the IE developer toolbar.
  • Some quirky behavior with the display of background images and borders.
  • Browser problems and crashing if multiple tabs are open.
  • General install and uninstall problems.

Overall, definitely things that fall more into the category of ‘bugs’ and hopefully most (if not all) will be fixed. The thing that I noticed personally, in addition, was the fact that the GUI is still the same as it was for the last beta. I was honestly hoping that this beta would see the stop and refresh buttons moved back to the left hand side, keeping with a more user friendly interface. I think that will prove to be more of a problem / annoyance to the general non-techie user than people realize or are giving credit to currently. Non-technical users like predictability, and they hate things not being in their expected places. Aside from the fact that it is just a little annoying to have to move all the way to the other side of the browser screen to use those buttons. I’d bet money that the general user will assume the buttons directly below the back and forth arrows are somehow the new ‘stop and refresh’.

In general, lots of good fixes for this release. I’m extremely happy to see full PNG support, and :hover for all elements. Those two things alone are massively helpful, but the one that had me bouncing nice and happy is properly functioning min/max height/width. That is great. I definitely am looking forward to doing some testing, but again, I’m not quite clear on whether or not the CSS feature twitches are considered bugs? (and therefore would be fixed before release) or are considered features? (and therefore would not be fixed).

~Nicole

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