Microsoft released a release candidate for the next version of its browser on Thursday. Internet Explorer 7 RC1 for Windows XP features improvements in performance, stability, security, and application compatibility over beta versions of the software.
Tweaks to the software include a final sprucing up of the user interface and improvements to the handling of Cascading Style Sheets.
Key enhancements to IE 7 over IE 6 include anti-phishing features and improved ActiveX controls among several security improvements. The browser also promises enhancements to support web standards (such as HTML 4.01/CSS 2), the long-awaited introduction of tabbed browsing, and an integrated RSS feed reader.
Redmond is encouraging web developers, technology enthusiasts, and IT pros to use the release to carry out testing ahead of the final availability of IE7, due to be released later this year.
This testing work, assisted by a Readiness Toolkit that accompanied the release of IE7 RC1 build, will lay the groundwork for websites and applications to work smoothly when the final version of the browser ships, Microsoft reckons. IE7 RC1 setup automatically detects and uninstalls previous IE7 betas.
A complete list of feature improvements contained in IE7 RC1 can be found in a fact sheet here, and there's more background on the software's development on Microsoft's official IE blog here. The IE home page is here.
Internet Explorer 7 RC1 is currently only available in English and available for download here. Arabic, Finnish, French, German, Japanese and Spanish are due to follow in September. The French and Spanish versions represent new localised versions of the software, since neither language was supported in beta code. The release is compatible with Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 in addition to Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2.
As previously announced, Microsoft plans to distribute the final version of IE7 as a high-priority update via Automatic Updates soon after the final version is released for Windows XP later this year. ®