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Internet Explorer 7

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Windows Internet Explorer 7 is a web browser released by Microsoft in late 2006 for Windows Vista and XP SP2. It is a proprietary graphical web browser. It is part of a long line of Internet Explorer versions and the first major version of IE in over 4 years, coinciding with a dip in market share of the previous version and the release of Windows Vista.

Overview

Version 7.0 of Internet Explorer has been renamed Windows Internet Explorer (as opposed to Microsoft Internet Explorer) as part of Microsoft's rebranding of component names that are included with Windows. It is available as part of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, and as a separate download via Microsoft Update for Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1. Internet Explorer 7 can also be downloaded directly from Microsoft's website. Large portions of the underlying architecture, including the rendering engine and security framework, have been significantly reworked. Partly as a result of security enhancements, the browser will be a stand-alone application, rather than integrated with the Windows shell, and thus will no longer be capable of acting as a file browser. The first security advisory was posted only one day after the day of release, but it turned out to be a security problem in Outlook Express, not in Internet Explorer 7. The first vulnerability exclusive to Internet Explorer 7 was posted after 6 days.

On Windows Vista, Internet Explorer operates in a special "Protected Mode", which runs the browser in a security sandbox that has no access to the rest of the operating system or file system, except the Temporary Internet Files folder. When running in Protected Mode, IE7 is a low integrity process; it cannot gain write access to files and registry keys outside of a user profile's folder. This feature aims to mitigate problems whereby newly-discovered flaws in the browser (or in Add-Ons hosted inside it) allowed hackers to subversively install software on the user's computer (typically spyware). The Windows Vista and XP version of Windows Internet Explorer 7 additionally feature an update to the WinInet API. The new version has better support for IPv6, and handles hexadecimal literals in the IPv6 address. It also includes better support for Gzip and deflate compression, so that communication with a web server can be compressed and thus will require less data to be transferred. Internet Explorer Protected Mode support in WinInet is exclusive to Windows Vista.

Market Share for June, 2007
IE4 - 0.01%
IE5 - 0.23%
IE5.5 - 0.21%
IE6 - 46.21%
IE7 - 32.02%

Release history

  • On January 31, 2006, Microsoft released a public preview build (Beta 2 preview: Pre-Beta 2 version) of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (not for Windows Server 2003 SP 1) on their web site. It stated that more public preview builds (possibly Beta 2 in April) of Internet Explorer 7 will be released in first half of 2006, and final version will be released in second half of 2006. The pre beta build was refreshed on March 20, 2006 to build 7.0.5335.5. A real Beta 2 Build was released on April 24, 2006 to build 7.0.5346.5. In addition, at the MIX'06 conference, Bill Gates said that Microsoft is already working on the next two versions of IE after version 7.
  • On June 29, 2006, Microsoft released Beta 3 (Build 7.0.5450.4) of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP SP2, Windows XP x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 SP1. It features minor UI cleanups, re-ordering of tabs by drag and drop, as well as noticeable performance improvements.
  • On August 24, 2006, the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) of Internet Explorer 7 (Build 7.0.5700.6) was released for Windows XP SP2, Windows XP x64 Edition and Windows Server 2003 SP1. This was the last pre-release version of IE7 before the final release.
  • On September 28, 2006, 3Sharp, a privately held technical services firm, published the results of a study, commissioned by Microsoft, evaluating eight anti-phishing solutions in which Internet Explorer 7 (Beta 3) came out on top. The study evaluated the ability to block phish, to warn about phish, and to allow good sites.
  • On October 18, 2006 the final version was released on Microsoft.com, and was distributed as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates (AU) on November 1. AU notifies users when IE7 is ready to install and shows a welcome screen that presents key features and choices to “Install”, “Don’t Install”, or “Ask Me Later”.
  • On November 8, 2006 a version of Internet Explorer 7 was released for Windows Vista only (7.0.6000.16386).
  • On November 11, 2006 the latest version for Windows XP was made available (7.0.5730.11IC).

New features and changes

  • For better security, Internet Explorer is no longer integrated with the Windows Explorer shell. Local files typed in IE7 are opened using the Windows Explorer shell and websites typed in Windows Explorer shell are opened using the default web browser.
  • Protected Mode (available in Windows Vista only), whereby the browser runs in a sandbox with even lower rights than a limited user account. As such, it can only write to the Temporary Internet Files folder and cannot install start-up programs or change any configuration of the operating system without communicating through a broker process. IE7 Protected Mode relies on the User Account Control technology.
  • Version 7 supports tabbed browsing, a popular feature in competing web browsers. Also new is a feature called "Quick Tabs", which displays a thumbnail preview of opened tabs. Since the release of Beta 3 onwards, the user has been able to manually rearrange the tabs by dragging and dropping them as desired.
  • Version 7 adds support for internationalized domain names (IDN) with included anti-spoofing protection. If the user visits a website whose name is in a foreign language (non-Latin characters), it will be displayed in punycode if the user does not have support for the language installed. Also, non-Latin characters can, with certain restrictions, be mixed with Latin characters. In the latter case, punycode is used if support for the non-Latin script is not installed. This helps prevent phishing scams, where some characters are replaced with a similar looking character from a different alphabet.
  • A search box has been added to the top-right corner. The default search engine is inherited from Internet Explorer 6's settings, which various search engine toolbars override to provide search capabilities on the address bar, but additional providers may be added (Google, Altavista, Yahoo!, Live Search, Wikipedia, etc.). Microsoft supplies a list of common providers. The search box uses A9.com's OpenSearch technology to import search providers. By using an open standard, Microsoft made it easier for websites to include their pre-defined search queries in the search box. Also available is a comprehensive list of popular search providers that can be added to the search box. With the release of Windows Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft updated its list of common providers with a tool that enables users to manually create and add a search provider to the search box.
  • Support for per-pixel alpha channel transparency in PNG images has been added.
  • An integrated feed reader is included, so that users can read web feeds (RSS or Atom) without a separate RSS reader. Features include automatic feed discovery and the ability to retrieve feed updates even when the web browser isn't running. The web feeds feature set is also available to third-party developers through API's, so that the list of subscribed feeds (as well as their current contents) can be used. And add-on to IE7, Feeds Plus, is provided by Microsoft itself that provides enhanced notification capabilities for the RSS platform.
  • ActiveX Opt-In blocks ActiveX Control unless it allowed to be installed. This feature improves security from unverifiable and vulnerable controls. ActiveX controls can be chosen to be installed on Information Bar. User can turn on and off ActiveX Control by using Add-on Manager.
  • A number of improvements to CSS, DOM, and HTML support have been made. Microsoft's stated goal with version 7 was to fix the most significant bugs and areas which caused the most trouble for developers, and then improved coverage of the standards would come later.
  • The known problem of having the right-hand portion of a web page cut off when the page is printed has been fixed. Page content can also be "shrunk" to fit more text on a single page. The revamped "Print Preview" interface will also let users drag the page margins around and see the results immediately.
  • A Page Zoom selector has been added to the bottom-right corner of the user interface. Unlike the "Text size" feature, this will zoom the complete contents of the web page, allowing for easier reading on larger displays. Fonts are rendered at higher resolution.
  • ClearType can be enabled or disabled separately from the rest of the operating system.
  • The new Phishing Filter offers protection against phishing scams and other websites that may be considered dangerous for a user to enter their personal information into. When enabled, every website the user visits is checked against a master list of known phishing sites. If a site is listed, the user is informed. In light of the privacy implications of this feature, it is not enabled automatically; the user is asked when they start Internet Explorer 7 if they want it enabled. Microsoft is working in conjunction with companies that specialize in identifying phishing schemes to ensure the list of known sites is accurate and quickly updated.
  • The address bar and status bar appear in all windows including popups which helps to block malicious sites from disguising them as trusted sites. Also the address bar features a color code to visually indicate the trustworthiness of the page. The address bar turns red when a page, with invalid security certificate, is accessed. In case of sites not using any encryption, the address bar is white. And if the page uses high security certificate, the bar turns green.
  • Modal windows such as dialog boxes are shown only when the tab that has generated them is selected (in such situations, the tab color becomes orange). On the other hand, the save window is modal and when saving the page shown in a tab, the user cannot browse other tabs.
  • The address bar no longer allows JavaScript to be executed on blank pages (about:blank). This feature is still supported on other pages though, which enables bookmarklets to work properly. A reason for the change has not been given.
  • The status bar no longer allows custom text to be entered (e.g.: "Formatting C:\ 10% Complete |||||||") and will always show the URL of any link hovered over, for security.
  • "Delete Browsing History" cleans the complete browsing history in a single step. Previously this was a multistage process requiring users to delete browser cache, history, cookies, saved form data and passwords in a series of different steps. This is useful for improving privacy and security in a multiuser environment, such as an Internet café.
  • Contextual Go/Refresh button. When any URL is typed into the address bar, the button changes from "Refresh" to "Go" and when "Go" (or keyboard Enter) is hit, the button changes from "Go" to "Refresh". In this way the space taken by the toolbars is minimized.
  • The "back" and "forward" menus have been combined into one menu which shows the users current position in their history with a bold entry. In most cases, the current page will be at the top, with a list of pages to go "back" to, but if the user has just gone back one or more pages, there will be additional items above the current page to which they can navigate forwards.
  • Fix My Settings checks at startup or when a setting is changed, if the current settings are unsafe it notifies the user. The user can also press a button in order to fix the settings to a safe state.
  • Old protocols and technologies removed: Gopher, TELNET, Scriptlets, DirectAnimation, XBM, Channels (.CDF files) also known as 'Active Desktop Items', etc. The DHTML Editing Control is being removed from IE7 for Windows Vista to reduce surface area for security attacks.
  • No Add-ons allows IE7 to launch without the installed extensions.
  • The menu bar can be hidden to allow more space for webpages.
  • Improved text selection.
  • IE7 cipher strength: 256-bit (Only for Vista, IE7 for XP only supports 128-bit)
  • The address bar turns red when the certificate presented by a secure site has some problems. In that case navigation to the site is blocked by default, and can only be accessed after the user explicitly confirms the navigation.
  • IE7 includes support for Extended Validation Certificates (EV). When sites present an EV certificate the address bar is shown in green.
  • New Group Policy's Administrative Templates (.adm files) for IE7 are loaded automatically onto the Domain Controller when a Group Policy is opened from a workstation where IE7 has been installed. These new administrative templates allow for controlling the Anti-Phishing filter state, for example.
  • Reset Internet Explorer settings is useful if the browser is in an unusable state: deletes all temporary files, disables browser add-ons, and resets all the changed settings.

IE7 and Windows adoption capability

Browser Years Vista XP x64/64-bit WS 03 SP1 XP SP2/ MCE XP SP1 XP 2000 98/Me
Years (OS) - 2006 2005 2003 2004 2002 2001 2000 1998
Internet Explorer 7 2006 Included Partial Partial Partial No No No No
Internet Explorer 6 SP2 2004 Terminated </br> (6.0 SP2)** No Terminated Terminated* </br> Included (6.0 SP2)** No </br> (6.0 SP1)** No </br> (6.0)** No No

*Internet Explorer 6 SP2 is only available as part of a standalone Windows XP SP2. **Old version will not install on system with new version.

Release history

Release history of Internet Explorer. Service packs are not included unless significant.

Major version Minor version Release date Significant changes Shipped with
Version 7 7.0 Beta 1 July 27, 2005 Support of PNG alpha channel. CSS bug fixes. Tabbed browsing. Windows Vista Beta 1
7.0 Beta 2 Preview January 31, 2006 More CSS fixes. RSS platform integration. New UI. Quick Tabs.
7.0 Beta 2 April 24, 2006 Feature complete. More CSS fixes. Application compatibility fixes.
7.0 Beta 3 June 29, 2006 Fixes rendering issues for CSS.
7.0 RC 1 August 24, 2006 Improvements in performance, stability, security, application compatibility and final CSS adjustments.
7.0 October 18, 2006 Final and current release. Windows Vista
Key: Old Version Current Version Future Version


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