Typical. Within moments of posting my IE11 on Windows 8.1 review, Microsoft released the browser on Windows 7. I did hint it could happen — it was the seventh day of the eleventh month.
Should you download it? Absolutely. Even if you don’t intend switching from your default browser, you’ll still need a version of IE installed. So why not make it the fastest, most stable, standards-compliant version of Internet Explorer since, erm … IE6? (Assuming you can remember its exciting release twelve years ago. Admittedly, things went downhill after that.)
The IE11 blog states the browser is 30% faster. Given my quick benchmark tests, I suspect they’re right. Whether it’s noticeable on your favorite sites is another matter.
Head to windows.microsoft.com/ie and follow the instructions. It’ll take around ten minutes and require a reboot.
There are several differences in the Windows 7 version of IE11. These are mostly Windows 8-specific or touch screen-related features which would not apply to the OS. The unsupported items include:
- The Screen Orientation API and device orientation events
- Drag and drop touch support
- Effects batching and stroke improvements
- Encrypted Media Extensions
- Enhanced Protected Mode (EPM)
- High DPI support
- Hover touch support and link highlighting
- Media Source Extensions
- Phone number format recognition
- Pinned site enhancements
- Scrolling and zooming with touch and other inputs
- Syncing across devices
- TCP Connection Sharing (SPDY)
Note also that the F12 developer tools UI Responsiveness tab may be disabled if your installation of Windows 7 is not up-to-date.
Will Everyone Else Upgrade?
If you’re using IE9 or IE10 on Windows 7, I can’t think of any reason to keep it. You’re unlikely to encounter the legacy application incompatibilities you may have experienced in IE7, 8 or 9. Those using IE10 should eventually receive an automatic update.
Windows Vista users cannot upgrade beyond IE9 but the OS is dying fairly rapidly and is currently used by just 5% of web users.
However, Windows XP retains a 20% OS market share. Around half use Internet Explorer and cannot upgrade beyond version 8. Numbers are dropping and should fall faster when Microsoft ceases support in 2014. XP users can also switch to Chrome, Firefox or Opera although none of the vendors will support XP indefinitely.
Within twelve months, we’re likely to see Internet Explorer’s user base split in two: those with the latest version and those with IE8. Not a perfect scenario but IE8 rarely causes significant development woes. Perhaps those users will fizzle out when they discover they can’t play Grand Theft Call of Duty Birds in their WebGL-less browser!
Presuming you can upgrade, stop reading this and install IE11…
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.