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Internet Explorer 7.0 to Include Tabbed Browsing

Internet Explorer 7.0 will include the tabbed browsing feature already present in several rival browsers, including Firefox, Opera and Netscape, Microsoft developers confirmed this week.

"Yes, IE7 has tabs," said Internet Explorer product unit manager Dean Hachamovitch, who then cautioned customers not to expect much in the technical beta of IE 7.0 scheduled for mid-summer. "The tabbed browsing experience in the upcoming IE7 beta is pretty basic. Expect additional end-user functionality to come in after the beta."

IE 7.0 is a new version of the world's most-used browser that will work on computers running Windows XP Service Pack 2. Until recently, Microsoft had not planned to release a new version of Internet Explorer until the next version of Windows, code-named "Longhorn." In February, however, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates unveiled plans for the new version of IE.

With the original announcement, Microsoft limited discussion of technologies coming in the new version to security enhancements. Even late last month at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, IE product managers deflected questions about tabbed browsing, which is one of the most popular features of rival browsers, especially the surging Firefox browser.

Hachamovitch made his comments this week in a posting on Microsoft's official IEBlog. Hachamovitch reiterated the team's security focus in his discussion of tabbed browsing. "The main goal for tabs in our beta release is to make sure our implementation delivers on compatibility and security," he wrote.

Hachamovitch suggested complexity and consistency concerns led to Microsoft's original decision not to include tabbed browsing in IE a few years ago. "Will it confuse users more than it benefits them? Is it confusing if IE has tabs, but other core parts of the Windows experience, like Windows Media Player or the shell, don’t have tabs? I think we made the wrong decision here initially, and we’re making the right one now," he said.

In the same post, Hachamovitch pointed out that users with older versions of Windows currently have options for tabbed browsing through third-party plug-ins and toolbars. He also said the MSN toolbar will be updated in the next few months to support tabbed browsing within IE.

Other confirmed features of IE 7.0 so far include support for the alpha channel in PNG images and an effort to fix Cascading Style Sheet consistency problems.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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