Mobile version (Display Regular Site)

Skip to: Navigation | Content | Sidebar | Footer


Weblog Entry

IE7: Details

March 23, 2006

A bit late posting this due to travel, but I had a chance to sit down with Markus Mielke of the IE team and find out what precisely we can expect of rendering updates in IE7. It’s likely that any praise of Internet Explorer will still be controversial for now, but it’s well-earned. Hear me out.

The latest beta preview release of IE7, the one that came out in association with this conference, is expected to be more or less the final revision to the rendering engine. What exists now is as feature-complete as it will get, so expect no more CSS or major bug fixes past this point for IE7.

They’re not 100% there yet, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but there are two important take-aways here. First, IE7 is not the end of the road. This is the first big step, but they expect to make many more. Second, now is the time to start fixing your sites. Grab the latest version, and test against it; if your site breaks in it (as this one does), you can expect that will remain true after IE7 final is released. It’s time to start the surgery. It’ll hurt. But hopefully, the rest of this post will convince you and me both that it won’t be so bad.

In the Explorer Exposed section on Position is Everything, there’s a big list of bugs exclusive to IE running down the left hand side of the page. With one exception, consider that entire list fixed. The exception is the escaping floats bug, which apparently will take a major code re-architecturing that they simply couldn’t do in IE7; it’ll come in a later release.

The big sexy stuff is of course, transparent PNGs, :hover on any element, and fixed positioning. They’ve even gone so far as to create a code demo of these in action, which is actually a Zen Garden design. Seriously. If you were in Markus’ Wednesday morning session you probably saw it. But I’m not sure if it’ll make it to the actual site or not since — (chuckle) — it would have to be made to work in IE6.

What else? They’ve started implementing CSS3 selectors. How about pixel-unit text scaling? Problem solved! Font sizing is deprecated, wait until you see the new full-page zoom. It’s like zooming in on a PDF. Your absolutely positioned text will no longer scale out of its block, since the block scales equally as well. It’s a designer’s dream. I’m a bit concerned about how the user will view this change, but that remains to be seen.

I still harbour just as much ill will toward IE6 as ever, like many of you. And I’m pretty sure a lot of the IE team understands that sentiment. So while being excited about IE7 might seem contradictory to my past stance on the browser, it’s because I simply see the potential. This first step is a big one. It’s not enough yet, but it’s significant enough that I know the next step afterward is going to be exactly what we wanted, and likely a bunch more.

As I said to Markus, at one point in time they had the best browser on the market; given the sheer momentum I uncovered at this conference, I could very well see it happening again. IE8: the new Firefox? Hmm.


1
shawn says:
March 23, 11h

Full-page zooming has been Opera for a while like you mentioned, just like PDFs. It’s real slick and I’m surprised that it hasn’t been touted as much as it should’ve been.

2
March 23, 11h

For anyone wanting to run IE7 standalone, check out http://weblogs.asp.net/jgalloway/archive/2005/12/28/434132.aspx

3
March 23, 11h

The only problem I have encountered so far is clearing floats. The ‘easy clearing’ method on positioniseverything doesn’t work in IE7 since IE7 doesn’t support :after and generated content.

Of course there is the overflow:auto method, but you’ve outlined the protential problems:
http://mezzoblue.com/archives/2005/03/03/clearance/index.php

The question is what the best way to proceed is now.

4
March 23, 11h

They need a miracle, when promoting IE8 to makeup for their lack of innovation the past years.

I have a hard time picturering myself switching back to IE. Maybe because firefox is/was around(and my favorite choice) when i disovered RSS, blogging and social bookmarking. More important Firefox supported these things, and therefor i thing i’ll always associate them with Firefox.

5
March 23, 12h

It’s quite odd, but I never thought that any version of IE might contain features that would make me switch back. The thought never even crossed my mind - all I’ve been wanting for IE is to get itself fixed and up to rendering pages so I’d not have to bother fixing my websites for a broken browser.

Now that the thought has occured, I still don’t think I am likely to switch back. Firefox’s numerous extensions, it’s cross-platform nature, and flexibility are the reasons I use it. I find it unlikely that IE will ever have superior abilities in those areas.

But hey, if future versions of IE keep fixing render and behaviour bugs then colour me happy!

6
March 23, 12h

Martijn: See http://www.456bereastreet.com/archive/200603/new_clearing_method_needed_for_ie7/ for info on clearing floats in IE7.

7
March 23, 13h

Strange if you haven’t noticed that Opera has a pixel-zoom.

Looking forward for the masses to switch to IE 7.0, but for that to happend, I think MS has to do some serious PR-work.

8
Benson says:
March 23, 14h

I’m still not convince this is the time to take the knife and start re-cutting code for IE7. Especially when the user base is still so heavily IE6 or earlier. Obviously, I’m talking about commercial sites in this regard. Personal sites can be recode as Firefox ranks much high on my site stats.

9
Dave P says:
March 23, 14h

Hi Dave,

-It’s likely that any praise of Internet Explorer will still be -controversial for now, but it’s well-earned.

No, it isn’t. All they’ve done is create yet another non-compliant browser to give us headaches.

Has anyone from MS commented on fixing the line height bug on lists? In all IE versions, ol’s and ul’s have phantom spaces inserted between elements if the li’s in the HTML are on seperate lines… Example 1: http://www.alistapart.com/d/horizdropdowns/littlebetter.htm,
Example 2: http://www.heath.ca/ (conditional comments corrected on IE 6 or older)

Not too impressed here.

10
Joel Birch says:
March 23, 15h

Well, I’m praying to the great spaghetti monster in the sky that now that they are “layout-complete” (which I am happy enough with, compared to IE6) they will now be fixing the scripting side of things.
Every time I fire up the thing I find scripts that have always worked fine before triggering the oh so helpful “Error on page.” warning. Are you using addLoadEvent by Simon Wilson, for example? Trouble. (I have a test page set up if anyone is interested - and I’ve sent it to MS).
So Dave, do you know whether we should be worrying about this - or is there any indication that this is still being worked on?

11
March 23, 15h

Dave, I am happy to see the last line of this post, as it was what I was thinking. I have IE6 with every thread of my professional body, but I see leaps and bounds of improvements in this release already (the RSS support blows my mind), and I can really see that Microsoft is willing to invest in its browser again. If only browser plugins and security was as good as Firefox, I might be set to switch over (it does run much faster with less memory, after all).

I am glad someone else sees that they are turning around too, not just more of the same.

12
Thomas Tallyce says:
March 23, 16h

> They’ve even gone so far as to create a code demo of these in action, which is actually a Zen Garden design. Seriously. … I’m not sure if it’ll make it to the actual site or not since — (chuckle) — it would have to be made to work in IE6.

Go on - make a special exception and put it online anyway!

I broadly agree with Dave’s sensible analysis here. There is ample indication across many postings and comments on the IEblog that the IE team are doing their best to clear as much of the legacy bugs out of the way before they can start on the real new implementation.

Dave’s point that:

> the escaping floats bug, which apparently will take a major code re-architecturing that they simply couldn’t do in IE7; it’ll come in a later release.

suggests that the engine itself has gone through a fair amount of refactoring, but that much more is needed. Given the mess that IE6 was in, as demonstrated by the list in PiE of extremely bizarre and wierd bug side-effects, it must have taken an *awful* amount of work to get to IE7.0’s clearly much more stable CSS implementation.

It will be interesting to see whether IE7.5 or 8, which will presumably include this heavier refactoring, will cause layout regressions on what has now been fixed. Hopefully not. But it does sound as if major progress on de-tangling Trident has been made.

Dave - are there indications yet as to how agressively MS will be pushing IE7 out? Obviously through Windows/MS Update would be ideal in order to make it a pretty much forced upgrade, but I can understand that many companies who rely on the security configuration of IE6 might find that hard going and will want to delay its rollout.

13
Thomas Tallyce says:
March 23, 16h

Ah, the Zen Garden design you mention has just been screenshot-ed on the IEBlog. Go on, *please* make it live, even if it looks rubbish in IE6 - perhaps that would be a good indication of how things have progressed!

http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2006/03/23/559409.aspx

14
Paul says:
March 23, 17h

I think there’s an other bug they’ve not fixed.

Not sure of the proper name given to it. The one caused by whitespace in lists?

Can anyone else confirm that or am I the only one seeing it?

I should likely be more specific but i think you folks will know what I’m talking about

15
mackabee says:
March 23, 17h

Lets all buy macs since IE 5 mac aint supported anymore. (expensive joke that is)

16
March 23, 18h

I see IE7 as a vast improvement over IE 6 and will make developing for IE much easier, but it’s still lacking. I would LOVE to see support for display:table, display:table-cell, and display:table-row. Support for gencon would be greatly appreciated as well.

IE’s been practically dead for 5 years now. A lot has changed in 5 years in what other browsers support. IE has a TON of bugs to fix and a lot of things to support, but for myself to support IE on my website I need at least display:table, display:table-cell, and gencon to have it look perfect on IE7 in its current state, but gencon isn’t absolutely necessary. There’s some other minor bugs on my site in IE7, one having to do with combinations of images, borders, and anchors… that’s existed since IE5. I’ll probably work on code on the side to see if I can get it to work in IE7 in its current state if they’re not going to support that stuff in this version… pity.

As for other websites I’ve programmed IE7’s made things much easier for me.

17
Tino Zijdel says:
March 23, 18h

If the current state of IE7 reflects what we’re going to get at release than I’m deeply disappointed. Not because of the features that are not there (but considering this is the year 2006 should be there), but because of the bugs that are still present in the current version and the new bugs that have been introduced that will require developers like myself to find new hacks and workarounds (to whom can I sent the bill?)

I’m still working on a suite of testcases that illustrate bugs in IE7 (some major), but from what I read here it wouldn’t matter anyway. Even though I think that MS should be aware of these bugs if they would have tested themselves against the specs - most of them are quite straigh-forward…

18
Duncan says:
March 23, 18h

I don’t care what they fix, I don’t care how much they add to try and catch up with present day technology. Microsoft make inferior products and it’s about time that we all started boycotting them and refusing to design around their idiotic software.

19
March 23, 19h

Thanks, Dave, for a mature stance. I appreciate your professionalism. It’s hard to admit when the ‘bad guy’ does something right, but I agree. In using IE7 now for a couple of months I found myself on someone else’s computer this week (IE6) and was horrified when I realized what a difference I was seeing. The new IE7, despite its remaining faults is still a dream over the older version. I applaud Microsoft for picking up their heels and doing something. Now, off to testing!

20
March 24, 02h

Most of the points have already been argued so I’ll be a little out of the topic.

Now that IE fully support PNG there is still one major trouble to switch to a non-GIF world… the color profile ! Browser like Firefox follows that profile and correct the PNG colors making it impossible to match a background or a JPG.

For those who doesn’t already encounter this try putting a plain color PNG file over a background of the same color : the colors won’t match.

— I guess the Webkit team is aware of this because Safari seams not to use the color profile at all —

21
Rich says:
March 24, 04h

I thought the problem with matching PNG color to a CSS background color was caused by Photoshop / ImageReady’s duff exporting of PNG files?

22
ConanCanon says:
March 24, 05h

true that png-8 colors wont match up in IE why that is, not sure.

workaround make a 1px background png-8 coloured square to match the CSS background-color

23
Parker says:
March 24, 06h

I can’t support MSIE if they can’t support Macs. They may have a good product on their hands this time around, but to have it running on only one platform seems awfully cruel to me. I think I’ll be a Firefox user for some time now. I’m thankful to Mozilla and Opera (the two big ones) for providing their offerings on multiple systems.

24
Martin says:
March 24, 06h

To me the killer feature in IE7 isn’t zooming, but Quick Tabs. So easy (especially with the Ctrl+Q shortcut), and oh-so-handy to quickly find a page amongst a myriad of tabs…

The only thing (feature-wise) that’s still lacking is a slick find-bar like Firefox has.

25
game kid says:
March 24, 08h

“To me the killer feature in IE7 isn’t zooming, but Quick Tabs. So easy (especially with the Ctrl+Q shortcut), and oh-so-handy to quickly find a page amongst a myriad of tabs…”

I agree. The Zoom feature currently breaks text-spacing (zoom out of this page for example; Opera draws zoomed-out text far better), so Quick Tabs wins for now.

“The only thing (feature-wise) that’s still lacking is a slick find-bar like Firefox has.”

At least the dialog isn’t modal. Looks slightly smaller too.

26
March 24, 09h

@Dan Wilkinson: thank you for the link, it solves the problem and pollutes the CSS ;-)

27
March 24, 09h

Wow, talk about timing. Ref this article pertaining to some fixes I’ve encountered: http://green-beast.com/blog/?p=92

Good article, Dave.

Mike

28
macewan says:
March 24, 18h

they brag about their ie(insertversionhere) is still limited to the windows platform & may or maynot get updates depending on how far their competition has innovated

so they upgrade only when they need to catch up

then they have the nerve to brag?

“Look!!, we have tabs!!”
“Look!!, we have a search thingy like firefox & google!!”
“Look!!, we have maps like gooogle!!!”“

Look Microsoft, no one cares anymore

29
March 24, 20h

“I thought the problem with matching PNG color to a CSS background color was caused by Photoshop / ImageReady’s duff exporting of PNG files?”

It’s partly that, Photoshop has bad PNG output, and doesn’t handle gamma correctly (and it’s a lossy output as well)

Now, if a browser does gamma correction on a proper PNG, every thing will be fine (since “all” browsers do gamma correction on css colours and such), but since some browsers don’t do gamma correction on PNG images (looking at you Safari/WebKit), and (arguably) the most popular image editing software suite can’t output PNG images correctly, and it gets annoying.

At least you can partly fix it, SuperPNG (http://www.fnordware.com/superpng/) is a plugin for Photoshop that saves images faster, smaller, and with correct gamma.

30
March 25, 04h

I was not aware that Photoshop inserted bad PNG gamma, but it is definitively crappy for the compression rate. Even if it has been improved since Photoshop 7.

Thank you for the link, I’ll try that.

31
Paul says:
March 25, 16h

There’s something that I haven’t been able to understand for a long while now. Why is it that Firefox, an open-source project is able to produce correct browser rendering (for the most part) and IE isn’t?

MS has all the money in the world … Opera, and Mozilla do not. Why are they able to do it? I’m just absolutely confused about this.

32
Thomas Tallyce says:
March 26, 07h

@parker:
> I can’t support MSIE if they can’t support Macs. They may have a good product on their hands this time around, but to have it running on only one platform seems awfully cruel to me. I think I’ll be a Firefox user for some time now. I’m thankful to Mozilla and Opera (the two big ones) for providing their offerings on multiple systems.

Do you use Safari (a partly open-source product as it happens)? Surely the same arguments apply to that. I wish Windows users had some of the stuff that Safari has.

Quite frankly I can’t imagine why Mac users would actually *want* IE7 given its basic brokness (despite highly welcome much-needed recent improvements) compared to other browsers on the mac platform nowadays.

33
Thomas Tallyce says:
March 26, 07h

> brokness

(brokenness I meant..)

34
Duncan says:
March 27, 08h

It’s a shame that creative professionals working on the web have to use IE to test sites, given that most creative professionals work on Macs. I think a good point is raised by saying that Firefox is an open source product and that Microsoft have all the money in the world.

Dave’s point that:

> the escaping floats bug, which apparently will take a major code re-architecturing that they simply couldn’t do in IE7; it’ll come in a later release.

To me and many others I know, this simply suggests that they made it so badly in the first place that to fix it would require re-making it from scratch. The fact that they havn’t suggests that Microsoft is so greedy and lazy that they’ve forced out yet another piece of crap so they can make more money.

I would be interested to hear if anyone knows the legalities of an actual boycott of IE, in the sense of making sites unavailable to anyone viewing with any IE browser.

35
March 27, 11h

I would love to start testing on IE7, but I use a Mac, and so that is completely impossible.

I wonder if someone could create a browser that worked on Macs and used a redering engine that would be as close as they could make it to IE7’s, for testing purposes.

36
Vuk says:
March 27, 15h

People,

cool down your sentiments towards Microsoft. You know just like they do that your target audience runs IE. At least 80% of your users on the Internet are using IE to view your pages. Whether you like it or not you will be making your sites to work with it. And instead of jumping up and down about the forthcoming IE7 get yourself a good reference for its features and start coding.

37
March 27, 17h

I haven’t seen any significant improvement or degradation in IE7 with any of the sites I’ve built recently. I do fully agree with you, Dave, that their efforts should be commended and think that people should stop whinging about how it’s still non-standards-compliant.

We can’t expect such things to happen over night. Considering it’s only been just over a year since IE7 was announced and that browsers like Firefox, Opera and all the rest have been under continual development during the past *5* years while IE6 was stagnant, yet none of them are fully compliant, you can’t honestly expect IE7 to be perfect.

It’s time to be thankful for what we’ve got and look forward to the future with IE8 and beyond.

38
March 27, 18h

It is great to see what has been achieved in IE7, even if I am disappointed that generated content didn’t make it in.

I can’t say I’m excited about all the interface features they’ve added, since other browsers like Opera have had them for years! ;)

But I am excited after all these years to be downloading a new version of IE. It’s nice to feel some sense of anticipation :)

IE8: the new Firefox?

hehehe, just recently i was muttering that Firefox was the new IE ;)

39
March 27, 19h

…ugh, the excitement was short-lived. IE7 killed my workstation’s network client, so I had to uninstall it. Guess that’s why they call it “beta” :)

40
Anonymous Coward says:
March 28, 07h

“It’s quite odd, but I never thought that any version of IE might contain features that would make me switch back.”

Me either, but I’m starting. FFox 1.5.0.1 is using amazing amounts of memory and crashed twice in the last two days.

I’m giving tabbed IE a shot.

41
Buckthorn says:
March 28, 07h

Yes, we all need to get recoding our sites. That’s the main news as far as I’m concerned. But considering the time Microsoft has had to do something about IE’s poor CSS support, I don’t see the need for applause. To me, there’s simply no excuse for not having IE virtually up to par with Firefox/Mozilla and Safari by now when it comes to CSS support. One MIA item that bugs the heck out of me is the continued lack of support for :before, :after, and generated-content. The extra work we all had to do to make sites work with IE6 will now be compunded by more extra work necessary to accomodate IE7. Plus the hassle of testing on a separate machine (I know about the standalone script – no thanks, we still need to continually test for IE6 on our existing Wintel box). So when is Microsoft actually going to do something that actually saves us time and makes our work easier, instead of the reverse?

42
Sean Darling says:
March 28, 07h

“We can’t expect such things to happen over night.”

Why not? Seriously. Im glad about the improvements in IE7 but I dont see why it cannot be made to be fully web standards compliant. We dont even have IE7 yet and we are forgiving its shortcomings. I say postpone its release and get that stuff sorted!

43
Paul says:
March 28, 09h

“Why not?”

Exactly! Opera and Mozilla aren’t having too much trouble, and they don’t have a 50 billion dollars behind them…

44
March 29, 04h

Until IE7 get widely accepted by users, here’s a simple css hack that ensures it that both IE5+ and other browsers (with native png transparency support) display transparent png pictures properly, and at the same time (and without lengthy javascript trickery):
http://7black.uw.hu/PNG_css_hack/PNG_opacity.html

45
Brett says:
March 29, 08h

So is the min-height and min-width issues going to be fixed as well? I heard previously that they weren’t, but according to what you were saying in your article they will be. I can’t tell you (and many other developers I’m sure) how happy I am about that if that’s the case. Thanks for the article!

46
Thomas M. says:
March 30, 18h

@ Fabrice Delaneau

I found that using PngOptimizer solves that problem with IE (also it help to reduce filesize :))

http://psydk.org/PngOptimizer.php

47
iain says:
April 05, 04h

I think Microsoft needs to be cut some slack.

I really think we are about to see a new microsoft emerging and I’m really excited about what is round the corner…

Anyone else get that feeling..?

48
April 06, 19h

Although IE7 is certainly an improvement over IE6 as far as CSS support goes, when you compare it to Firefox and Opera, you see just how far behind they still are. I’ve tested the overall standards support in HTML/XHTML, CSS 2.1 and CSS 3, DOM, and ECMAScript and have the results for IE6, IE7, Firefox 1.5, and Opera 8.5 available here:

http://www.webdevout.net/browser_support_summary.php

I’m glad that they finally have their minds set on supporting standards, but there is so much catch-up work that still needs to be done, and I don’t think they have a chance at reaching Firefox’s and Opera’s level for at least a few more versions.

49
April 13, 07h

From the comments of Sean and Paul, it is obvious that they aren’t commercial software developers.

First of all, let me point out that there’s no good reason to hold off on shipping IE7 until the standards compliance is complete. Commercial software development is an iterative process. Whether you ship the product in once or twice before you make the final goal generally doesn’t make a lot of difference on how long it eventually takes to make the final goal. The advantage of shipping interum releases is that you get validation from your market place that your intended goal is what is needed.

Why not allow users to get their hands on some of the juicy new features and the enormous improvements that they’ve made thus far?

BTW, Dave, have you installed the latest IE7 image? There are some issues with your main page. The date icons aren’t placed correctly (they are off in the left margin instead of along side the post’s title) and the comment count bubbles are along the left margin line too.

I’d be very interested to know if the problems are due to IE7 CSS rendering issues or a result of the hacks that you’ve put in place to make IE6 work correctly coming back to bite you.

50
April 13, 09h

I started writing another comment, but it took on a life of it’s own. If you are interested, read my blog post.

http://www.hailstormmedia.com/ss/index.php/2006/04/13/internet-explorer-7-and-the-design-communities-response-2/