The upcoming release of the Windows Vista operating system also means the impending release of the full version of the web browser Internet Explorer 7. Like most website developers, I toughed out a brief bout of panic as memories of the release of Internet Explorer 6 came rushing back through my mind. Those were tough, frustrating days. However, I believe that this time the release of a new version of Internet Explorer will be a much more enjoyable experience for developers. At the very least, its release is something for which all web developers should be preparing by understanding how it will affect them.
To start with, IE7 promises to have some new features designed to improve the user experience. As web developers understanding these features can help us to know what our users are experiencing, particularly when it comes to the world's most widely used browser. A few of the features worth mentioning are the introduction of tabbed browsing, integrated RSS feed support, inline searching and a whole host of security features designed to thwart common Internet Explorer vulnerabilities.
Better support for CSS
The really good news for developers is the much-improved support for CSS. It falls short of full CSS2 compliance, but is a vast improvement over IE6. Of particular interest to developers are the improvements in CSS consistency and the support for CSS2 fixed positioning. Finally, although some of the more well-known CSS hacks are not interpreted by IE7, there are CSS hacks that are specific to IE7, which means developers will still be able to target just IE7 when necessary.
Another fantastic improvement, even if it is extremely late coming, is the native support for transparent 24-bit PNG images. While supported natively by Firefox and Safari, use of high-resolution transparency has in the past been a very nerve-wracking experience. Native support will open up a whole new realm of layout possibilities and interface design for developers, and is an exciting improvement.
My impression on the new version of Internet Explorer is that it should be an exciting event for developers. However, we all need to keep in mind that it will be at least a year before most users migrate to the new browser, so in the meantime the impending release of Windows Vista means that we need still need to account for IE6 users while also making sure that IE7 users are also taken care of.