It’s still early, but by this fall, Firefox 2.0 should be out. Right now you can download the alpha release, known as Bon Echo. Not to be outdone though, Microsoft has their most anticipated IE 7 beta release available for download. I decided to download and setup both on my WindowsXP laptop which is only an 850MHz machine with 256MB of memory.
Although both IE7 and Bon Echo have new rendering engine changes, primarily the most apparant feature that you will notice is the interface changes. Bon Echo which will become Firefox 2.0, has a much cleaner interface. For example the Tools menu no longer lists Extensions and Themes, but uses the term Add-ons for both. Bringing up the Add-ons option shows a new multi-tab interface for installing and managing Themes and Extensions. IE7 changes are evident right away, in that Microsoft has changed the toolbar and enlarged icons, which is reminiscent of Apple’s iTunes interface.
Although I use Firefox and Safari about 65% of the day, I still use IE6 for at least a third of my daily browsing. Initial impressions were that Bon Echo felt faster and nicer to use than Firefox 1.5. Even if the improvements are not much, the experience was overall better than the current release. For IE7, the results were a bit mixed. I found the interface hard to get use to and initially I kept wanting to re-enable missing icons that I seem to remember using in IE6. After a while, I got used to the IE7 interface and it did not bother me as much. The anti-phishing features of both browsers are a good idea for everyone, so definitely upgrading to these browsers in the future will be a must.
I still think that robust password management should be added to all browsers. Right now Firefox does a good job of storing your information for sites, but what we really need is a universal secure management system. Like most people, I seriously have too many passwords, security phrases, and numbers to remember. Apple’s Keychain is perhaps the best OS level answer to secure password management, but I have to actually open it up and use it for when I want to save something directly. It would be nice if browsers featured a secure information storage system that would allow you to save anything from the browser. Perhaps a popup that would allow you to enter three fields of criteria and let you save to an encrypted database. Lastly it would be great if it was open platform, so any computer could open the file from the browser, as long as you knew the master password. Like I said Keychain, but with a better interface.