Another month, another layout—though I’d like to point out that Vertigo Alley version 19 (19!!) is my first pretty-successful attempt at liquid design and at coding with DIVs instead of tables. I guess I’m just trying to keep my shiat standards-compliant for all the standards-based ladies out there. The downside to this (and there is one) is that all you Internet Explorer users are out of luck. Well, just until Internet Explorer 7 is released—at which point you will be able to enjoy many of the features Firefox / Mozilla users have been enjoying for years.
Let’s talk about Internet Explorer 7 for a minute. Beta 2 Preview was released yesterday, and, for the most part, it looks like Microsoft has added some much-needed CSS support, as well as proper PNG transparency support. This means a lot to me because, with Vertigo Alley 19, I’ve started using some slightly more daring techniques—most notably the “eye” graphic and site title at the top of each page. Both are PNG images with alpha transparency; that means you should see a nice, soft drop-shadow against the white background:
Vertigo Alley in Firefox 1.5
The above screenshot is what the site looks like in Firefox. Now, let’s see how it looks in Internet Explorer 6:
Vertigo Alley in Internet Explorer 6
Good God. The PNG specification was standardized in 1998, and, despite numerous service packs and security enhancements for Internet Explorer 6, it still doesn’t support PNG images properly?!? (Nor does it know the difference between dotted and dashed CSS lines.)
But there’s hope yet. Here’s what Vertigo Alley looks like in Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 Preview:
Vertigo Alley in Internet Explorer 7
Now, that’s much better! IE takes a few more baby steps towards standards-compliance. My only real complaint is that, as of Beta 2 Preview, it still doesn’t understand the transparent CSS border value. I’m only half-hopeful that anyone at Microsoft will notice and/or fix this before 2012.
In addition to support for proper handling of transparent / translucent PNG images and better (though not complete) CSS support, IE7 includes several other updates, like tabbed browsing, ad blocking, and an anti-phishing feature that compares the sites you visit to a Microsoft-maintained list of “baddies”. Though many of these features are already included in Firefox (or can be added as extensions), IE7 is finally on par with most current browsers—as long as you have an up-to-the-minute Microsoft operating system.
In order to install IE7 Beta 2 Preview (and, presumably, IE7 final) you need to be running Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003, or a recent Windows Vista build. (Firefox, on the other hand, runs on Windows 98 / 98 SE / ME / NT 4.0 / 2000 / XP / Server 2003, Linux, and Mac OS X.) Additionally, during installation, you will be required to re-validate your copy of Windows, which in itself isn’t much more than an extra step during setup—but it begs the question: If I already activated my copy of Windows when I first installed it, why do I have to activate it again? Was the first time not enough? Did the first hash not take? Were the Microsoft servers not in a jovial mood that day? Oh, wait—this is validation. Microsoft is merely validating my properly-activated copy of Windows to make sure it’s valid…which, again, makes me wonder how I could’ve gotten this far if my original activation had not been valid.
Hmm…so for a software upgrade that introduces features already widely available elsewhere, we have product activation, product validation—how about product divination? Just to be sure.
But I digress. The truth of the matter is most people use Internet Explorer to surf the web, and if IE7 looks and works better than IE6, that’s ultimately a good thing—but first it must prove itself to the legions of Firefox users who will no longer settle for second-best.
Electric Light Orchestra were right: It’s going to be a showdown.