For those of you who can’t get enough beta software, Microsoft has made available the Beta 2 Preview of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0. The usual caveats apply: This isn’t released software, Microsoft doesn't support it, and it shouldn’t be installed on a production system. If none of that stops you, you can download the beta preview at this URL:
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/ie7/ie7betaredirect.mspx.
Even if you're gung ho about testing IE 7.0, I’d suggest you start by reading the technology overview documentation, which can be downloaded at this URL:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=B2AC8F30-2D88-45B6-90AE-ED266161F463&displaylang=en.

I know many people will be interested in examining IE 7.0; make sure that you also consider the down side of doing so at this time. IE 7.0 is very different in appearance and behavior from IE 6.0. If you're used to a customized browser interface on your current browser and any of the various third-party add-ins, you’ll have to start from scratch to customize IE 7.0, and you'll likely find that your third-party tools no longer function.

IE 7.0 protects users from themselves as well as from the normal avenues of attack, disabling malicious content by default. This means that you might have trouble connecting to many sites and Web content that you currently access unless you enable specific features of the browser, so this beta preview is for the hands-on type who doesn't mind configuring his or her own browser tools. For example, with cross-domain scripting attacks, in which a Web page opens up a legitimate site in a different domain, then strips data that the user enters, IE 7.0 limits the activity of the Web site to the site's domain only. However, if the Web site is one that transfers commercial transaction control to another site (a type of online transaction that's fairly common) users would have to explicitly allow such activity in the browser configuration, then disable it after the transaction to provide maximum security from external attacks.

More About Baseline Configurations

In response to my column of February 2, "Windows OneCare Worth At Least One Look," I received several messages from vendors who make what they believe are the best-in-class standalone system utilities, who wrote that no product can replace the capabilities that their products offer. I agree completely with that sentiment. The point that needs to be made, however, is that the vast majority of small office/home office (SOHO) users get a negative experience by being forced to use the various utility suites installed on most of the computers sold today. These users have neither the skills nor the time to figure out how to make these utilities work best, and the availability of OneCare gives them a baseline configuration from which they can evaluate other third-party tools. This isn’t the case with corporate volume purchasers who are able to specify configurations and have the IT personnel to ensure their configurations work correctly.