Version 7 of Microsoft's dominant Web browser packs in interface changes, many new features, and plenty of under-the-hood updates. It also arrived just days before version 2 of the up-and-coming Firefox browser, which is final starting today. So which new browser is your best bet?
Firefox 2 offers no radical changes compared with version 1.5, which came out a year ago. It's a measured step, purposely non-jarring for current Firefox users. A built-in antiphishing tool makes its first appearance, but most other changes simply refine many of the same features that are new to IE 7. Version 2 polishes tabbed browsing, newsfeed support, and add-on management. Regrettably, you'll still find some sites written specifically for IE that don't look right in Firefox 2. However, you can add a plug-in that will let you view a site in IE to get around the problem; my favorite is IE View. You can download the final version of Firefox 2 today. Existing users of the browser will receive a notice about version 2 once Mozilla has made a minor update to version 1.5, which will happen a few weeks after version 2 is out.
Microsoft had further to go to bring IE up to par with the competition (IE 6 was released in 2001), and so IE 7 is a more thorough overhaul of its predecessor. You can't miss the new user interface, with tabbed browsing, integrated searching, and newsfeed support. Microsoft also added an antiphishing tool and boosted IE 7's security in response to seemingly never-ending IE 6 holes. Over a few months, the company will prod users to get version 7 via Automatic Updates; you can also download it at any time. (A final version for Windows Vista will ship with Vista early in 2007.)
For this story, we evaluated feature-complete release candidates of both browsers, IE7 RC1 and Firefox 2 RC2, just prior to their final release.
(Use the menu dragdown below to see what PC World thinks of the features in each browser.)