A new preview version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, with tabbed browsing, an integrated search box, and RSS support -all features long taken for granted by Firefox users -is now available.
The Beta 2 preview of version 7 also sports a much more compact and streamlined interface than that of the current IE, with a strong emphasis on dedicating as much of the window as possible to the displayed Web site.
If you use Windows XP with Service Pack 2, you can download the new beta at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/ie7/default.mspx. Like any still-in-development program, this preview release has bugs and rough edges: You will encounter some display problems and program crashes.
In this edition of IE, only two slim toolbars sit up top, with the navigation buttons back, forward, refresh, and home split up between them.
Tabs, new to version 7, appear on the second toolbar. Although you can't move the tabs around, you do get a nice feature called "Quick Tabs": Clicking a gridlike icon next to the tabs brings up a convenient thumbnail display of all your currently open pages.
New security features include an antiphishing filter that warns you if you happen across a known phishing site, better ActiveX management, and programming changes that try to reduce the number of avenues for attack. Also offered is a one-click option to clear your personal browsing data, including the history, cookies, and the cache.
A more polished Beta 2 release is due to come out in the coming months, and the final IE 7 release is planned for the second half of 2006.