Mink Machine

Reactions on CTP versions of Vista and IE7

Like it or not, but most people who develop websites using Microsoft technologies will suffer from the benefits and pitfalls of Vista and IE7. Since the avalanche is unavoidable, it’s better to getting used to the idea and learn more of what’s behind the corner. Just as with a real avalanche, your knowledge and preparation (maybe even a proper portable jetpack) will save you from a lot of trouble.

A couple of days ago, it was announced that Vista would be postponed until January 2007. However, even though the final version is almost a year into the future, it it still very interesting to have a look at the latest build. The latest one is the February 2006 CTP (Community Technology Preview) build, and together with the feature complete version of IE7 this is one of the most interesting builds so far.

I tried to install it on a machine with 128 MB memory, just for the fun of it, but got the finger even before the installation started. I guess I had it coming.

Vista screenshot Rendering Mink Machine in IE7 on Windows Vista CTP.

The current release is a CTP, and as such it is far from finished. However, there are a lot of things to discover. The essential “run” field may seem to have vanished, but it has actually been improved with search functions and other goodies. Think of this field as your path to avoiding repetitive strain injuries. WinFS may have been reduced to only a dream for now, but the Explorer has been prepared for the arrival of the new file system.

The main idea is that you should search for files, instead of placing them into hierarchical structures. Personally I dislike the idea, but I understand why people seem to like it. To improve search results, files can now be tagged with meta information to make them easier to find, and to group similar files into collections. However, I wonder how that meta information is stored, and how portable it is.

And then there is IE7. Apart from all the promising web standard bits I mentioned last week, there are a few new things straight from the Firefox bag. As usual Microsoft has “borrowed” interested concepts and improved them a bit, so in addition to tabs we now have Quick Tabs. Just hit Ctrl+Q and you will see thumbnails of all your open tabs. Very handy if you have goldfish memory and for some reason has opened a dozen tabs.

IE7 screenshot Quick tabs in IE7.

Another good thing is the improved (that is, implemented) security where potentially dangerous stuff such as ActiveX is switched off by default and phishing prevention modules have been included. The RSS reader is also a welcome addition.

IE7 screenshot RSS viewing in IE7.

The overall UI differs a lot from previous IE versions. I can’t say I like it, but we’ll have to get used to it sooner or later.

As usual, don’t try this at home kids. CTP software can really mess up your computer and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to install it on a physical machine unless you are a proud member of 2 Much Time Ltd. If you still want to try it, use a virtual machine instead. You may even have a look at the AeroGlass while running a virtual machine. Now that’s cool.

Even though IE7 can be downloaded separately, be careful with installing it. If you want to run it on the same machine where IE6 is installed, have a look at Jon Galloway’s guide to standalone IE7.

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