Microsoft ships upgraded preview of IE11 for Windows 7

Final version of newest browser to reach Windows 7 'later this fall'

Microsoft today shipped a more polished preview of Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) for Windows 7.

The Release Preview, as Microsoft named it, followed a rougher-edged Developer Preview issued in late July.

IE11 on Windows 7 is similar to the same-named browser slated to ship in final form with Windows 8.1, the update set to debut on the Windows Store Oct. 17 as a free download for current Windows 8 users.

There are several differences, however, between the two.

While IE11 on Windows 8.1 is -- for obvious reasons given the newer OS's emphasis -- heavily reliant on touch and gestures, IE11 on Windows 7 is a keyboard-and-mouse application. It also places the address bar at the top of the window, unlike at the bottom as does IE11 on Windows 8.1's "Modern" nee "Metro" user interface (UI).

The Windows 7 browser also omitted support for SPDY -- the Google-designed page load acceleration protocol -- won't sync open tabs between machines, as does Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and IE11 on Windows 8.1; and cannot keep as many tabs open as 8.1's version.

Microsoft claimed that IE11 on Windows 7 was 37% faster than Chrome, 31% faster than Firefox and 41% faster than Opera Software's Opera, citing benchmark scores from the SunSpider JavaScript test suite.

Ironically, Microsoft once dismissed JavaScript benchmark results as bogus. Three years ago, Dean Hachamovitch, the executive who heads the IE team, said speed trials like SunSpider were "at best, not very useful, and at worst, misleading."

That was during a time when rivals regularly trounced IE -- early builds of IE9 in particular, but prior to that, IE8 too -- in SunSpider benchmark scores.

Microsoft today declined to disclose a release date for the final version of IE11 on Windows 7 but said it would launch "later this fall."

The release preview can be downloaded from Microsoft's download center or the IE website. Systems must be running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1).

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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