Hands on: A Mac fan takes on Vista

Lots of bling make Vista eye-candy, but function doesn't always follow form

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IE7 offers tabbed browsing, but no way to easily open multiple URLs in multiple tabs at once.

IE7 offers tabbed browsing, but no way to easily open multiple URLs in multiple tabs at once.

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I see the same issue -- good idea, so-so implementation -- with Internet Explorer 7. One of the biggest advances touted in Microsoft's long-overdue update to its Web browser is the addition of tabs. I use tabs daily, constantly shifting back and forth between Web pages. In fact, the easiest way for me to scan a large number of sites quickly is to launch a folder of URLs, with each one opening up in its own tab. IE7 lets you open links in a tab, too -- one at a time. After configuring the confusing user interface Microsoft has slapped on its browser, you can add a folder of links to the links toolbar, just as you can with Apple's Safari, Mozilla's Firefox and a host of other browsers.

In Mac OS X, widgets (not gadgets) float above open windows with a keystroke.

In Mac OS X, widgets (not gadgets) float above open windows with a keystroke.

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Now, try opening your list o' links in multiple tabs at one time. Safari and Firefox, for instance, add an "Open in tabs" command to the bookmark folder menu that opens when you click on a folder of links. IE7 doesn't offer that easy option -- essentially making the use of tabs in Microsoft's latest browser useless to me. That's why, almost from the start, I've turned to Firefox when surfing the Web in Vista.

(Update: Several readers have written to note that a folder of IE links can be opened in tabs -- it's just not particularly intiuitive. Here's what you do: Open the Favorites center so that links show up in a panel on the left side of the browser window. Move your mouse over the folder of links and a blue arrow shows to the right. Click that arrow and the links will open in individual tabs. As I said earlier: good idea, but so-so implementation.)

This is how Apple's Expose allows users to see all open windows at once.

This is how Apple's Expose allows users to see all open windows at once.

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The upshot: Tabs in IE7 represent another good idea -- albeit one already implemented years ago in other browsers -- that was haphazardly implemented in a way that makes it an annoyance, not a convenience.

This is how Vista lets user scan windows at one time.

This is how Vista lets user scan windows at one time.

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So if I turn off UAC, ignore the sidebar gadgets and skip IE7, what am I left with in Vista? A new operating system that is more secure than its predecessor, looks great on the surface and no doubt has a plethora of under-the-hood changes, but one that leaves the casual user frequently frustrated. I joked with a Computerworld colleague that I'd wrap up my report by noting that users who like Windows XP will love Vista.

Noting the various issues Vista presents, he shot back: "Don't be so sure."

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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