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Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 – head to head

October 26th, 2006 by Zack Whittaker

 

The top two browsing programs of net users got a big update this month as Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) and Mozilla unleashed Firefox 2.0. Here we take a quick spin through some of the features to be seen in the new versions.

Both browsers offer ease of surfing

Microsoft’s IE7 program is the beefier of the two browsers with the download package weighing in at 14.8 megabytes (MB). By contrast Firefox is a svelte 5.4MB. However, neither should tax a broadband connection. Differences start to show up once the software is downloaded. Once it is done installing, IE7 demands a re-start before you can use it. Firefox installs without that need. It’s a minor difference and a minor inconvenience for those that choose Internet Explorer.

Both take about the same amount of time to install and get started-up but once they are running more subtle differences start to become apparent. At first glance Firefox 2.0 looks more familiar as its main page layout hardly differs from earlier versions. But IE7 does look changed because, for a start, the grey menu bar is hidden. It can be resurrected by hitting the “alt” key but you might be surprised by how much you need to call on it when you can’t find it.

Hidden information

With IE7 Microsoft has brought tabs to its browser but both deals with them in slightly different ways. With IE7 a blank tab is always available but with Firefox the new tab only appears, and takes up some screen space, when you open one up.

IE7 has a neat feature that lets you see thumbnails of all of the tabs you have open at any one time, letting you leap to the one you need with a click. However, it seems to take a moment longer than Firefox 2.0 to close tabs when you are done with them. Opening up quite a few webpage’s in each browser shows up another quirk. Firefox 2.0 seems to do a better job of using the text that webpage’s use to describe themselves.

Often in IE7, the only information you get about a webpage you have open but hidden on the bottom taskbar is “http://” – the rest of the title is obscured. Again, a minor difference and a minor niggle – searching a webpage is still more elegant in Firefox 2.0 than IE7.

Calling up the search function in Firefox prompts the appearance of a text box tied to the bottom of the page and typing your search term in that takes you to the first appearance of that word or phrase on the page – provided it is there, of course. In IE searching calls up a floating box in which you have to type your text and then click or hit a key to find the term or phrase.

Feeding frenzy

One of the very useful inclusions in Firefox 2.0 is a live spell checker that watches over your metaphorical shoulder as you type text into any field on any webpage. It is possible to add a similar function to IE7 but only via an add-on. It will be interesting to see how many people download and install it. When it comes to RSS – the system that feeds updates of webpage’s to those interested – Firefox 2.0 does a slightly better job of making it easy to subscribe to new feeds.

With only a click it was possible to add a feed to popular blog-following sites such as Bloglines to IE7 and Firefox. Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 also benefit from thousands of plug-ins, or add-ons – that can be installed to add more functionality to the browser. These range from RSS readers to Instant Messaging clients, Voice over IP programs, and mini iTunes controls – all accessed from inside the web browser page.

Finally, both IE7 and Firefox 2.0 have introduced systems that warn users when they are about to visit a site that is known to be used by phishing gangs. These pages are made to look like that of a bank to trick people into handing over confidential information. Firefox handles this by updating a locally held list of known phishing sites every time you use the browser.

Microsoft’s IE7 checks in via the web to make sure a site is safe to visit. In the short tests run by the BBC news website, IE7 occasionally took longer to load a page as it carried out a check to see if it was a phishing site. Despite these minor differences, Firefox 2.0 and IE7 are now broadly comparable – something that could not be said of IE6 and Firefox. But it will be up to users to choose which one best meets their needs.

Source: BBC News – Browsers go head-to-head

Posted in Internet Explorer, Reviews | 6 Comments »


This entry was posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2006 at 3:18 pm and is filed under Internet Explorer, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


6 Responses

  1. Christoph Says:

    Congratulations for finding the only article that concludes the browser duel with a tie. 🙂

    Some articles by news sources that might be slightly more qualified in this area than the BBC:

    * A nice summary of the PCWorld, CNET, Computerworld and WSJ reviews of both browsers:
    http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/feature/frankenfight-ie7-vs-firefox-2-209938.php
    While Internet Explorers new version is considered a long due improvement, no ties here.

    Wired News: A Tale of Two Web Browsers
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,72003-0.html

    “The Verdict
    The better browser is Firefox 2 for two reasons: innovation and ease of use.”

  2. anonymous Says:

    Hope the IE team adds the ability to close a tab without selecting it first in IE vNext.

  3. Zack Whittaker Says:

    I just love the fact that the IE team in Redmond sent a (unpoisoned) cake to the Firefox team saying in icing letters “Congratulations on release, love the IE team” with the big E logo 😛

  4. Patrick S Says:

    Unposioned too 😛

  5. Yurek Says:

    Big plus for Firefox for OWA. It is still able to handle OWA, which IE7 got many administrators to strugle for solution. Bad, really bad. Bot M$ products, and are not able to talk to each other.

  6. kenlin@HK [MVP] Says:

    Poor me, One of the popular “Chinese word” input program – Q9 (www.Q9Tech.com) is crashed with IE7, once I change my english input to Q9, IE7 quit.