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IE7Pro turns Windows' browser into a Firefox copycat

INQpressions Extensions and GreaseMonkey-like scripts
Thu Jul 24 2008, 09:49

Product: IE7Pro v2.3
Cost:
$0 (Freeware)
OS: WinXP, IE6+
Link: www.ie7pro.com


MOST WINDOWS users simply don't bother to install another third party web browser and just use what comes with the OS. IE7Pro brings comfort to those suffering from Firefox-envy by bringing some of the power-user features and expandability reserved until not long ago for Firefox.

Why IE still matters, despite the Firefox growth
A couple years ago, before the Firefox craze hit several milestones, the Vole's Windows Client director in India Rishi Srivastava made a good joke by saying that Microsoft's bundling of IE with Windows had nothing to do with its market share: “IE’s success cannot be attributed to its access through Windows. The reason why people are not opting for other browsers is because of IE’s superiority."

Fortunately, by the time IE7 entered the scene copying the main feature of Firefox and Mozilla - that is, tabbed browsing - the NY Times' David Pogue wrote a refreshing piece with a much more down-to-earth analysis: "About 85 per cent of the Internet population uses the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser to surf the wWeb, even though it's relatively ancient, crusty with neglect and about as secure as a screen door."

Mr. Pogue continued by saying, "In what other industry would 85 percent of consumers choose such a product ? when better ones, also free, were also available? Trick question. Those consumers aren't actually choosing Internet Explorer; in fact, they're not choosing. They just use what came on their Windows computers."

Things didn't bode well for MSIE since then, and according to a white paper by Jamco Associates IE has been losing market share ever since Srivastava's made his superiority claim. Yet, there's plenty of people in work environments for whom Internet Explorer is the only corporate-mandated option.

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IE7Pro adds a session manager, Ad Blocker, a download manager, plug-ins and much more on top of your IE6 or IE7 browser

An article by CW earlier this year highlighted the fact that Firefox adoption at corporations doesn't match its popularity with home users. The causes can be many: inflexible corporate tech support policies, the use of Active-X based in-house applications and never underestimate the fear of the unknown. Whatever the case might be for someone sticking with - or forced to - MS IE, this power user's dream brings some of Firefox' bells and whistles to the Microsoft engine.

A cure for Firefox-envy
IE7Pro is an add-on for Internet Explorer, not a browser replacement. It's the work of a "virtual" firm, a team of programmers spread around the world and ironically headed by Faniel Fang, a former team leader at open sauce firm TurboLinux. The lead programmer, Chris Li also has open source experience as he claims to have developed, "the first open source intelligent input method for Windows".

alt='ie7pro-7'
"User-scripts"
: Greasemonkey style plaintext scripts, for IE

Basically what it does is replace every IE add-on you can imagine, and brings the same functionality as several Firefox extensions. It also brings something very similar to Greasemonkey user scripts to modify web pages in the browser, basically allowing one to "extend" web sites with functionality beyond what webmasters intended.

alt='ie7pro-1'
The program is free but developers request donations
or ask you to set their web site as your browser's default home page.

This software has updates released quite frequently. The program hit version 1.0 less than a year ago and by now it's already at version 2.3, which was released on May 20th. It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit builds, and you can download it from this link. Installation is flawless and a no-brainer. You will immediately recognise its round blue icon at the browser's status bar, next to the zoom level indicator. Clicking on it brings a pop-up menu with all the options you might need.

In the world of IE7PRO, what would be called "extensions" in Firefox parlance are called "plug-ins" instead. Getting weather data for your location from AccuWeather, getting the Google pagerank displayed on each web page visited, looking up the web server information, all these and more can be accomplished via IE7Pro "plug-ins".

With regards to "user scripts" these are user-readable scripts, just like Greasemonkey's. You get about 15 scripts already delivered with IE7Pro, with about 240 user-submitted scripts listed at the IESCRIPTS.org web site over here, plenty of which are "ported" by the IE7Pro team from existing Greasemonkey scripts from UserScripts.org.

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User scripts at work. Here, "automagically" adding a download link to YouTube videos

Other very useful functionality is already included in the IE7Pro code without needing any plug-ins or user scripts, for instance, a download manager which almost copies the Firefox one in look and feel. Another popular Mozilla feature, bookmark aliases, is present in IE7Pro. So if you bookmark www.theinquirer.net and define it with an alias of "INQ" you'll only have to type "inq" into the url bar to end up here.

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You can switch the User-agent at will and add a list of proxies to use

An ad-blocker, a Flash blocker, a spelling checker and a very useful "save current tab as an image" feature add icing to the cake. We tested it on XP SP2 and IE build #7.0.5730.11 and couldn't find any major bugs with it. The " user scripts" work as intended and for instance we used one to download videos from Youtube effortlessly: it just adds a "download video" link to each Youtube video page.

In short
It will not make Internet Explorer suddenly open source, cross-platform, or community supported. It won't make the MSIE engine loved by CSS web designers, or make you part of a rebel movement trying to change the web. It won't also add a full fledged E-mail application like SeaMonkey, but at least you can enjoy some of the tricks and expandability of the Mozilla browsers atop the default Windows browser, with all its defects and virtues.

Being able to use MS Internet Explorer without hating it every minute is one big plus. Since it's a piece of proprietary software and not open source, it loses one beer and gets a score of eight. ?

alt='beer8'

L'INQs
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World's worst web browser: Internet Explorer
Opera leads the pack wrt HTML 5 support
Microsoft turns to pirated Windows users to boost IE7 market share
Opera files EU antitrust suit against Microsoft
Firefox struggling to compete as a Corporate Browser
Microsoft's Online Chief signs off

 

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