Microsoft turns Windows 7 up to Internet Explorer 11

IE11 Windows 7 demo
Convenience is in store for W7 IE11

Microsoft made its first Internet Explorer 11 developer preview for Windows 7 available today in an effort to bring its previous operating system's browser up to speed with Windows 8.1.

Making the jump from IE10 to IE11 is now possible without having to transition from to the newer Windows, the latter of which comes packed with a similar Internet Explorer 11 browser.

"IE11 for Windows 7 [has] all of the performance, security, and under-the-hood changes that enable a compatible web experience," said Microsoft in an official blog post.

"Browsing feels fast, fluid and perfect for touch with many tabs, richer suggestions, organized favorites and side-by-side experiences for comparing sites."

That speed boost is partially attributed to IE11 being the first browser to natively decode JPG images in real-time and render text on the GPU, allowing pages to load faster and use less memory.

IE11 Test Drive

As we saw in the Windows 8.1 preview, Internet Explorer 11 is also the first browser to include the W3C Resource Priorities standard, which lets developers load the most important parts of a page first.

Microsoft is also getting out in front of page loads times by including HTML5 link prefetching and pre-rendering support. That way developers can help the browser anticipate where you'll go next.

IE11 brings together the use of accelerated HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, and it can all be demoed by developers on Microsoft's new IE Test Drive site.

"You can experience IE11's leading performance first hand with new demos on the IE Test Drive site," encouraged Microsoft.

"[It has] examples of real world website patterns for graphically rich, interactive, and 3D experiences such as Levitation and Lawnmark."

The road to 700 million Windows users

Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 is still a developer preview and doesn't contain everything found in the Microsoft's newer Windows 8.1 operating system.

As expected, it's missing the "Metro" look and feel that made its debut with Windows 8 and has been refined in W8.1.

This specific developer preview is missing cryptography and adaptive bitrate support, noticed Paul Thurrott, so watching a Netflix movie without a plug-in is a no go on W7 despite the fact that it works on W8.1.

Internet Explorer 11 is faster, supports the necessary standards Microsoft refused to back in the past like WebGL, and is more developer-friendly thanks to redesigned F12 tools.

The IE11 developer preview for Windows 7 puts the previously maligned browser in the hands of testers for now, and on the road to the 700 million people that Microsoft touts as "Windows users."

Matt Swider