Hello, I’m Max Stevens, and I recently joined the IE team as a Program Manager working on the user experience. In anticipation of our next major pre-release of IE, I’d like to give an overview of some of the great work we’ve done in the UI, especially a lot of the progress we’ve made since Beta 1. For more in depth looks at specific features mentioned here, Jeremy, Aaron, Jane and others will be posting soon.
Main Browsing UI
One of the most obvious changes since Beta 1 is in the toolbar area. We focused on building a smaller, more compact UI that exposes only the most commonly used features, saving space for the content and tab areas. Here’s a screen shot:
Overall, the key is how the graphics have been cleaned up:
- The forward and backward buttons are now visually grouped with updated colours to increase contrast and pop out a little better.
- We heard the feedback on the stop button – the stop button is now back!
- The refresh and go buttons have been combined and is now grouped with the stop button to the right of the address bar.
- Favourites have been moved to the left hand side under the forward back buttons, with “Add new favourite” now easily accessible from the main frame.
- Tabs have seen many improvements, among them that it’s much easier to see which tab is currently active.
The Command Bar, which appears to the right of the tabs area, is the new main interface to all of IE’s functionality. With it we have built a new command interface that focuses on getting the common tasks done quickly. The top level buttons include:
- A new home page menu to make it easy to manage your homepage tab group.
- A printing menu. Printing and print preview has been much improved, including a new “shrink to fit” option – no more wide pages that are cut off when printed!
- Feed discovery. This button lights up to show a feed has been discovered for the current webpage. This is just one of the many new features added to feeds.
With the Command Bar providing the common browsing commands, we hid the File/Edit/View menu by default. With only two rows of UI elements on by default, the webpage area is maximized vertically to allow you to see as much of the webpage as possible. If you’re used to the old menu structure and wish to display them, it’s easily done either by navigating Tools->Toolbars->Classic Menu, or by simply tapping the “Alt” key. Responding to feedback from you, it now appears above the tabs.
The traditional menus will appear by default if, when you install the Beta 2 Preview, you had a toolbar installed in IE 6. You can still customize the positioning of these toolbars with the File/Edit/View menus, although they cannot at the moment share the same horizontal row as the command bar. If you find the File/Edit/View menu on by default after installing IE 7, I encourage you to hide them and try out the Command Bar!
The search box has undergone many improvements from Beta 1, including our new search discovery capability. Similar to feed discovery, sites can now advertise search providers, making it much easier for users to perform searchs on sites straight from the IE frame without first having to navigate to that site. An upcoming post will provide details on how sites can advertise their own search, but in the mean time you can get a list of search providers you might want to install from here.
New since Beta 1 is the Favourites Center:
This is a single location where you can access all of your favourites, RSS feeds, and browsing history. It expands out for quick access, or can be pinned in place for frequent access. One great feature here is the ability to quickly open an entire folder of favourites or feeds as a group of tabs – just click on the blue arrow next to the folder name.
Another really cool feature added since Beta 1, Quick Tabs displays thumbnails of each open tab allowing for fast switching amongst them.
The user experience for tabs has been improved in many ways. For example, we acted on feedback from you to add a close button directly on the tab itself.
My Favourite Feature
What’s my favourite feature in the new IE? I’m an old Office hound myself, and so I really love to see Zoom. Available from the bottom right of the main browse window, this acts like it does in Word or Excel – it enlarges or reduces the entire page (text and graphics) to a specific zoom setting.
There are many changes we’ve made since Beta 1 and we’re always looking to hear feedback on what you think, so as you start to become familiar with the new look and read a little bit more in depth about the UI changes in coming days, please keep the feedback coming, eh?
PS Seeing as how I’m from Canada, I’m still trying to get the mis-spelling of the word “favourite” throughout the product fixed. Perhaps for our Beta 2 release.