The Fast Forward column in the Oct. 29 Business section incorrectly described how Microsoft will distribute Internet Explorer 7. While the Web browser will be automatically offered to Windows XP users through that operating system's Windows Update service, it will not be installed without a user's consent.
Must-Have Browser Upgrades
Your view of the Web is in for a change -- in some cases, whether you like it or not.
This can happen with either of two new browsers. One's the second major update to Mozilla Firefox in a year. The other is more of a surprise: It comes from the company that sat out the last half decade of browser innovation, Microsoft. And it will be automatically installed on Windows XP machines starting next week.
Don't be alarmed. If you're still using Internet Explorer 6, much less any older version, you need this upgrade. You've been stuck with a browser that lends you too little help in staying on top of the Web, and out of trouble on it.
Competing browsers, such as Firefox, Opera and Safari, have provided solutions for those problems for years. As a result, Firefox in particular has carved a chunk out of IE's once-overwhelming market share.
But some users can't or won't make the effort to download and install new software. So now Microsoft will do it for them. Starting Wednesday, its new, Windows XP-only Internet Explorer 7 ( http:/
Microsoft's mandatory upgrade is a gutsy, perhaps pushy move. Unlike almost every other patch or bug-fix sent through Windows Update, IE 7 brings major new features and a new front end. This update forcefully yanks an obsolete browser into the 21st century -- which may confuse some IE vets.
Users of other browsers, however, may feel right at home. Like them, IE 7 offers tabbed browsing, which cures screen gridlock by letting you view multiple Web pages in one window, and a search shortcut at the top right that sends a query to your choice of search engines. It also can subscribe to free Web feeds, which spare your keyboard's refresh key by letting Web sites tell you when they've posted new items.
Microsoft has made its own tweaks to these borrowed features. For example, if you've opened so many pages in tabs that you're getting lost, clicking a "Quick Tabs" button fills the window with miniature views of each open page. And when you preview a Web feed by clicking on an orange icon in IE 7's toolbar, a little search form lets you peek into its archives to see how often a topic of interest has been covered.
Internet Explorer 7 can also look out for "phishing" sites, the phony pages that impersonate banks and credit card issuers: If desired, it will check every new page against a blacklist of known phishing offenders, then block your access to any site on it. Meanwhile, IE 7 highlights legitimate financial sites that use encryption to keep out online snoops by putting a big lock icon in the address bar.
(It's a sad comment on the state of the Web these days that a browser's selling point can be how well it bars you from parts of the Web.)
IE 7 adds further defenses against browser hijacking -- attempts by sites to force-feed your computer hostile software by exploiting flaws in the browser. But since it continues to support one of the most popular hijacking targets, Microsoft's ActiveX technology, it still presents a bigger target than other browsers.
The Web may look a little sharper overall in this browser, thanks to its improved support for Web standards. And when you print pages, IE automatically resizes them so they don't get cropped at the sides. You can also resize a page on the screen by clicking on a magnifying glass icon.