Internet Explorer 7 or "the latest version of the world's most popular Web browser", like Microsoft puts it, is out now. After three betas and a release candidate, IE7 is available today for Windows XP (SP2 or x64 edition) and Windows Server 2003.
The installer for XP has 14.8 MB, that is almost three times the size of Firefox setup or Opera installer. The installation required two restarts and it was pretty slow (it took around 10 minutes).
Internet Explorer 7 changed the user interface: it combined the Back and Forward buttons into one single button, it merged the Stop and Refresh buttons and changed the order or buttons in a confusing manner. IE7 downgraded the menus in favour of six little buttons that reveal some of the most used features. Internet Explorer 7 is the first version that has a search box (who stirred a lot of discussions), support for feeds and tabs.
Microsoft's implementation of tabs is very good: it has some of the best features from Opera and Firefox 2 (a close button for the active tab, an easy way to open a new tab, consistent shortcuts, drag and drop) and a great way to preview all the tabs, called QuickTabs.
IE improved the security by adding a phishing filter and an ActiveX protection that disables unsigned ActiveX controls. Microsoft's philosophy for security continues to
be: add more annoying questions for the user like "Are you sure you want to...?".
The feed reader is the best one included in a browser and uses a system process to poll feeds, so it could be used by other desktop feed readers. You can preview feeds, search through the posts and add them to feed folders. You can also keep old posts.
Internet Explorer 7 improves the support for web standards (transparent PNGs, CSS 2.1, better AJAX support), but that also means that some sites won't render as good as before in IE.
You'll also like the page zoom, that promises to zoom the text and the images of a page, and the print preview that lets you shrink the page to create the proper width for printing.
Internet Explorer 7 will be more visible in the market share reports from November, when Microsoft will start to distribute it through Automatic Updates. If you don't want to wait until then and you have a genuine Windows, you can download it now.
IE7 is a big step ahead, although it comes pretty late.
Update: A vulnerability has already been discovered.