Microsoft has released a public preview of its forthcoming Internet Explorer 7 browser, designed to fend off the mounting challenge from the open-source Firefox browser.
Available to download from the Microsoft website, the new browser demonstrates new security and functionality features.
Previous versions of Internet Explorer 7 had only been available to a limited audience, but the latest version can be used by any user with Windows XP service pack 2 on their desktop.
New security and privacy protection capabilities are designed to combat phishing attacks, spyware programs and other threats.
As expected, another new feature allows users to more easily clear their browsing history, thus wiping passwords, form data and cookies in one click.
This feature will make it harder for remote attackers to steal valuable information from users if there is a security breach on the user’s machine.
IE7 also includes tabbed browsing and a new search box on a more streamlined toolbar, to rival features already available to users of Mozilla’s Firefox browser, which is currently taking market share away from IE.
Tabbed browsing allows users to open multiple web pages in a single browser window.
In addition, new printing enhancements and shrink-to-fit printing features enable users to adjust margins, change a page layout, remove headers or footers, and increase or decrease print space.
The browser is also designed to make it easier for users to automatically download Real Simple Syndication (RSS) content.
Microsoft plans to release a final version of IE 7 later this year, around the same time as it launches its new Windows Vista operating system.