Microsoft's next-generation browser, Internet Explorer 7 (IE7), is rounding the corner and getting the "spit and polish" it needs as it heads into the stretch run of its final release.
According to one Microsoft developer, IE 7 is now actually considered to be "layout complete."
In an online chat hosted by Microsoft's IE development team today, users of the IE7 Beta lobbed a long list of questions on a variety of topics at Microsoft developers.
Chat participants asked about minor bug issues and feature requests, and they even had a few usability gripes.
In general, though, the tone was very cordial and in contrast to the way users behaved in Microsoft's online chats in previous years before the IE7 Beta was available.
IE 7 Beta 2 has been publicly available since January, while the first Beta was released last summer.
One of the things that the online chat revealed was just how complete work on IE7 actually is.
"IE 7 is now Layout complete," said Peter Gurevich, IE program manager. "We are continuing to work on any rendering issues that we come across."
The chat's moderator, IE Program Manager Dave Massy, responded directly to user questions about the final work going into IE7.
"Fixing bugs and spit and polish. Pretty standard for any software project as we get through the beta phase," Massy said.
"We have work to do to get the product to a quality level for full release. Please keep sending feedback so that we can prioritize that work."
One of the issues that was asked about but not specifically responded to was the impact that the Eolas settlement has had on IE7 and IE in general.
Microsoft recently offered developers a 60-day reprieve to adjust to changes that have been introduced in IE to avoid infringing on the Eolas patent claim affecting ActiveX plug-ins.
"As the ActiveX activation change is the subject of an ongoing legal issue, we are unable to discuss it. Sorry," Massy said.
Massey also admitted that IE7 is still lacking full FTP browsing capability and still needs some fixes to allow FTP to work as before.
Only Genuine Microsoft validated users are allowed to download the beta. But apparently it will also work on pirated copies of Windows.
An online chat user asked, "Rumor has it, that the latest build of IE7 (Build 5358), cripples the tab functionality when 'successfully' installed on pirated/non-genuine copies of Windows XP. Any truth to this?"
Chris Wilson, the group program manager of the Internet Explorer platform, responded simply, "No."
Bug fixing is still Microsoft's top order of the day when it comes to IE 7.
To that end, Microsoft recently launched a public IE 7 bug database. The database requires users to login and does not currently provide information on bugs in other versions of IE.
According to Max Stevens, the lead program manager responsible for the user interface of IE, the public bug database itself is being revamped.
"We're working on a release right now so that people do not have to login in order to view bugs -- this should come in the next few months at the latest," Stevens said.
"As for using it for all of our internal IE found bugs, we will continue to use our own tools for this, simply because they are so ingrained into our workflow and development environment right now."
The next public IE 7 Beta 2 build is expected to be made available sometime before the end of the second quarter this year.