IE 7 CSS Rendering Improves…..A Little

I’ve been playing with the latest IE 7 beta (beta 3 at the time of this posting), and I have to say it’s a big improvement on IE 6. Most of the usability improvements are simply catching up to the status quo in browsers these days - tabs, RSS feed support, etc., but as most computer users will never install a web broswer in their lives and have only seen IE 6, the improvements will seem like they walked onto the bridge of the Enterprise. There are some notable security upgrades, including phishing detection.

What will most affect your life as a web developer is IE’s W3C standards support, particularly CSS. Here we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is IE 7 has over 200 fixes to IE’s CSS2 rendering, including alpha transparency support for PNG’s (YES!), :hover class for all elements, min/max width supports, and a whole bunch of others you can see listed here. Note that you’ll only see these elements supported if you specify the all-important doctype. Otherwise, you still get quirks mode.

The bad news is IE 7 won’t be fully CSS2 compliant (forget about CSS3). That means you may still have to write some IE hacks to get your page to render correctly. Even Microsoft acknowledges they have more work to do in that area.

Still, improvement is good. Give credit to Firefox for scaring Microsoft into updating their browser, but give a little credit to Microsoft into putting in some work on this even amidst their Vista meltdown. You can download the IE 7 beta here.

For my part, I’ll stick with Firefox. I’m a plug-in junkie (the only thing that keeps me from looking seriously at Opera), an acknowledged open-source zealot, and I like having my Linux environment at home and my Windows environment at work running the same browser.

Note that Microsoft plans to ship IE 7 out as an automatic update when it’s ready, so everybody (more or less) will be using it. If you are a web developer, you should definitely test your sites before that happens.

Many of the security upgrades fall in to the “Are you really, really, really sure you want to install that?” pestering variety that many users are probably going to get fed up with and turn off. After all, it isn’t so much the browser itself but Window’s deep IE integration and run-as-administrator default user profile (which Vista will theoretically fix someday) that really hoses people. But anything to improve IE’s security level, even just a tad, is greatly appreciated.