Is IE7 really ready for prime time?

Like many people, I’ve upgraded my copy of Internet Explorer to the latest version 7 for Windows XP released last week.

My update happened automatically via Microsoft Update.

I’ve been using the various betas for a while so I didn’t expect anything radically new in the final release. I think it’s a good app especially with tabbed browing and, most of all, its seamless support for RSS.

Yet I wonder whether this release version shouldn’t still be known as a beta.

I’ve had a number of crashes and lock-ups, with the worst behaviour being during a lock-up where IE7 just kept on opening multiple instances of itself. The only way to stop it was hit the off button on the computer.

Then today, I noticed this alert in Basecamp, the collaborative online tool you use with your browser that I’ve been using for a while:

SYSTEM ANNOUNCEMENT: IE 7 compatibility update
If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 with Basecamp you may experience some weirdness over the next week or so. Unfortunately every time Microsoft releases a new browser they break a lot of things that worked with their previous version. So we’ll be scrambling with the rest of the web to tighten up support for IE 7 without breaking support for IE 6, Firefox, and Safari. We’re sorry in advance for any issues you experience while using IE 7 with Basecamp.

I have experienced weirdness, eg, various places in Basecamp you upload files to where the dialog that should be there is invisible. Works just fine with Firefox.

These may be glitches on my particular PC, perhaps hangovers from the various betas that I’d been running. IE7 uninstalls previous versions but maybe some things in the registry have remained that interfere with smooth operations.

Whatever it is, I don’t have sufficient confidence to make IE7 my default browser yet. So, I’m sticking with Firefox.

Version 2 of Firefox is due out tomorrow, by the way.

Related post:

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Vishnu K. Mahmud

    Hey Neville,

    My first comment would be: get a Mac (ducks) :)

    I’ve downloaded IE7 and so far its running pretty ok, but those registry issues still plague old laptops around the office and I really don’t want to format and reinstall (I have yet to reinstall my Mac in the past 2 years – hint, hint :)

    Still, why do you and Shel use Beta software on your business macines? Isn’t there a risk that the beta app might take your machine down, or mess something up?



  2. Garrison

    Have to agree with VisH, get a Mac, they just work. Besides, websites look better especially the rendering of typogpraphy – nice and clean and crisp.

    I don’t know why MS is still bothering. FF is way better although I have experienced problems with Flash sites using FF on OSX but since I visit less Flash sites these days I can live with that problem.

  3. Dave

    IE7 is too slow, and the interface is still clunky to me.

    FF v2 is excellent, I’ve been running versions of it for a while now. Much quicker than previous versions of FF and definitely quicker than IE.

    As for using beta software on business machines – well, for a large company that might be an issue, but for guys like Shel and Neville in their line of business, well, I guess they need to be on the cutting edge!

  4. Stuart Bruce

    Curious, I’ve had only one crash – using PRX Builder to create a social media release. I’ve also had all the betas. I haven’t looked at Firefox 2 yet, but will do so later in the week. IE7 has me hooked. I dumped Firefox as my main browser when the IE7 release candidate cam out and now just use Firefox for techy/developer type stuff (rarely).

  5. Dave

    I think the issue now for many ‘serious’ internet users who have switched to FF after years of inactivity on IE is just why exactly they should make another switch back again. IE7 might have some nice features and not crash that often, but is it really a reason to go back? MS need to come up with some amazing new stuff that makes it worthwhile.

    Neville, I’d be interested to know what sort of uses you put Basecamp to. It’s a great service, but much of the good stuff will be in how different people implement the technology.

  6. Dominic Jones

    If sites break, the problem may be that the sites are not standards compliant, in which case you can’t blame IE 7.

    We’ve seen quite a few problems on corporate sites using IE 7, but the problem is not IE 7. The issue is either poorly coded websites or sites designed specifically for the vagaries of IE 6, which was never standards compliant.

    I am very surprised that the Basecamp folks are blaming Microsoft. If basecamp works in FF it should work in IE 7, except for a few CSS things like max width. Furthermore, Microsoft has been warning developers for over a year to fix their sites.

    This doesn’t address why your system is going ape, but it should be remembered that IE 7 is a much better browser than IE 6 and is supporting the same standards as FF, Safari, Opera, Netscape etc to a far greater extent. This is good.

    I expect howls of protest over the next little while, but it’s a case of no pain no gain.

  7. neville

    A Mac has zero appeal to me, Vishnu/Garrison. Overpriced and under-spec’d compared to similar configurations with a Windows PC. But let’s not go down a cul-de-sac discussion about Mac vs Windows please! Very subjective.

    Dave, I don’t find IE7 slow compared to FF. Don’t really notice any difference in things like loading the app, web pages appearing, etc. In fact, I like IE7. Having used all the betas leading up to the release, I’ve experienced its evolution and wholly agree with you, Dominic, that it’s a far better browser than IE6.

    Yet I certainly didn’t expect the flakiness with the release version that I’m now seeing. But I do wonder whether it’s more to do with crap lying around my PC. And Vishnu, it’s a good question re why use dev/beta software on a main PC. I shouldn’t, definitely, becuase of potential consequences like this. I had a massive problem with Office 2007 beta on my main PC. Major headaches. Can’t say I wasn’t warned by Microsoft who advise you not to run betas on main PCs.

    And re the update, Dominic, yes, it came to me as an automatic update the day after it was released. That’s how Microsoft plan to primarily roll it out to users – you do nothing and get the update automatically, assuming you have the update service set on your PC to do that.

  8. neville

    Here’s something worth reading – Lorelle van Fossen has a great commentary on FF vs IE7 (actually, FF 2 beta), referring to Robert Scoble’s recent post about memory usage.

    Lorelle’s post is more about what happens with websites that use Ajax, widgets, how many tabs you have open, the memory on your PC, etc.

    Adds some good perspective when comparing IE and FF.

  9. Dominic Jones


    I upgraded from the RC1 on the day IE7 was made available so I didn’t get the automatic update because I didn’t need it.

    It’s interesting that you didn’t have problems with the beta versions (or you didn’t mention any) and then things go haywire when you let it come to you via automatic updates run.

    Microsoft is not going to be the most popular company over the next little while. Personally, I think they are hopelessly unprepared for what’s coming their way. I don’t think they know what’s coming.

    For experienced web users IE7 is nothing they haven’t already seen. But for the average joe and jane, it’s going to be a huge change.

    “What’s that little orange button do?”

    (BTW Neville you don’t have auto discovery code in your pages)

    A huge change for millions of people. Just look at where the refresh button is in IE7 by default compared to IE6. Seems minor at first, but it’ll soon be slowing people down.

    It has to be done, but it’s not going to be pretty. What’s the most used software program in the world? IE6, I would bet. And, overnight, it’s completely different.

    I know it’s not nice, but I love it when the fit hits the shan.

  10. Dennis Howlett

    I won’t go the Mac v PC route but I will say that on a VFM basis, Mac does the business for me. That coming from someone who spent 24 years on Wintel. That’s before we say anything about the hassle factor associated with PC…

  11. neville

    Again, Dennis, it’s purely subjective. Hassle factor? We’ve all had that. Just Google for examples of many, many people with hassle factors on Macs, too.

    Dominic, I did have problems with the IE7 betas, just didn’t get time to post about them. Anyway, I wasn’t too inclined to post blow-by-blow accounts here. Left comments on others’ blogs mostly.

    As for this site not being RSS auto-discoverable, you’ve hit on another mega-issue with IE7 as far as I’m concerned.

    This site is auto-discoverable. The Firefox RSS button lights up here. FeedDemon automatically finds the feeds. As do other aggregators. But not IE7 release version.

    Not only that, if you visit this site with IE7, the layout is all over the place in that browser as you can see from this screenshot.

    Post content shows in the right-hand sidebar – which it should not – with what should be in the sidebar squeezed beneath. And there you’ll see all the RSS subscribe links showing in IE7 not as links, just text. Why? You tell me!

    But this doesn’t happen all the time, it seems. Two people have told me this site looks just fine in their copy of IE7 release version.

    It didn’t do this with the betas. Ridiculous. IE7 release version is still a beta.

  12. Garrison

    Good point Dennis regarding the VFM factor. Sure PCs are cheaper and great if you’re into gaming. For me the internet has now become my main platform. I like crisp and clear text, not wishy washy screens with poorly rendered type.

    As Nev says though, and I paraphrase him, each to their own.

  13. neville

    Actually, PCs are great if you’re in to business, too, Garrison. Great graphics, tons of video and system memory, fast processor… great for gaming, undoubtedly. But also great for business video, content-rich PPTs, hefty spreadsheets, even fancy Word documents. Etc.

    My podcasting partner Shel has an interesting take about Macs, what I call “Shel’s Ode to the Mac.”

    Undoubtedly someone else has something similar about PCs. So each to their own, you’re absolutely right.

  14. Garrison

    Nev, you forgot that PCs are also great for generating, and distributing, press releases via the PRX builder ;-)

    Sadly, the PRX Builder doesn’t work on a Mac using Firefox which sorta, just kinda, goes against the grain of what social media is all about.

    The original question though is, is IE 7 ready for prime time? I like what Shaun Inman has to say on the subject.

  15. Patrick

    Internet Explorer 7? Even edition number seven can’t compete with Firefox. Before this year, I had been using Internet Explorer and it gave me trouble: too slow and virus bound. As soon as I saw and used Firefox, I was sold. It has way more protection from viruses and tends to be faster when browsing. I really don’t have a complaint about Firefox, but I do believe that Internet Explorer is beaten and should give up.

  16. Dominic Jones

    Oh dear! Really frustrating, especially because it works for some and not others.

    I’ve had similar issues with my WordPress-hosted sections — mostly resolved, I think — but I can’t be sure. Seems to depend on the user’s platform. Users with resolutions below 1024×768 have been my biggest headache. Fortunately, that’s around 5% of my site’s visitors, but I care about every one of them.

    Your site looks great to me in IE7, if that’s any consolation. Actually, it looks better than in FF because of cleartype. The auto discovery issue isn’t a huge deal, but it is perplexing.

    My view, and this doesn’t apply to you I don’t think, is to bow to IE7, even if it means breaking things for other users. 90% of my users use Windows and IE. They’re my bread and butter and they are always right.

  17. Dominic Jones

    Neville, wish I could explain any of it, but I can’t. Yes, you’ve go the auto discovery code, and yes it works in other programs but not IE 7. Really odd.

    I’ve had my fair share of issues to deal with. I’m hoping they’re fixed, but can’t be sure. Most of my site’s users are on IE6 and Windows and will move to IE7 gradually over time. That’s a pain because I have to continue to support IE6 and IE7.
    I’m find IE 6 more trouble than IE7, but it’s still early days.

    BTW, your site looks good in my version of IE7 compared to FF. But that’s because of the clearer fonts.

    Anyway, I hear you. There should be fewer of these issues.

  18. Shannon Whitley

    For those of you who had trouble with the first beta of PRX Builder, I’ve introduced a new version ( It has been rewritten using Ajax and tested with IE6, IE7, and Firefox. Unfortunately, it has not been tested with a Mac, but I’d love to get feedback from any Mac users on the new release.


  19. neville

    Thanks for the update on PRX Builder, Shannon. Looking forward to trying out the new Ajax version. I’ll give you some feedback.

    (I blogged about PRX Builder last month here).

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