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The Beat Goes On For Internet Explorer

Drum roll, please: Two new builds of Internet Explorer 7--Build 5296, the Beta 2 preview version for Windows XP Service Pack 2, and Build 5308, which is part of the February 2006 Windows Vista CTP--have made their debut. These builds of IE7 are safer than before, and the interface is better. But Microsoft hasn't yet advanced the state of the art in Internet browsing.

A New UI

Both versions sport a new user interface. The menu bar is below all other tools and options and is turned off by default in Build 5296, representing a savings in screen real estate. The most often-used options (such as those to do with the page and configurations) can be accessed from a set of drop-down menus appearing at the right end of the row of the browser's tabbed pages. At the left end of the row, you'll notice a few new icons that let you access the new favorites panel, feeds panel, and Quick Tabs.

Quick Tabs lets you see thumbnail snapshots of the pages on all opened tabs.

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Either click on the Quick Tabs icon or press Ctrl-Q to bring up a special page with thumbnail snapshots of the pages on all opened tabs. The visuals here update if the page content changes (say, if you're on your Gmail page and some new e-mails appear). You can click on a thumbnail to go directly to that tab. Hovering on a particular thumbnail also reveals the URL it's displaying, which is useful if you have similar-looking pages with different URLs. While we found this useful for the most part, a current behavior of Quick Tabs is that if you click anywhere outside the Quick Tabs area itself, the display reverts to the last active tab. We're hoping that in future versions, Quick Tabs will let power users keep the thumbnails on for monitoring multiple pages simultaneously while they continue working elsewhere.

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