February 25, 2006

IE 7 CSS Hackery Ends Here

At the end of January, Microsoft released a public beta of the next version of Internet Explorer [download | readme | tour].

IE 7b2 offers more stringent security measures and other improvements including tabbed-browsing, updated CSS, RSS support and better printing. We may expect an official release towards the end of the year but I'm already seeing IE 7b traffic on sites I monitor. For instance, this site has seen 1.2% of IE 7bx visits so far for the month of February.

Important news for development shops is that oft-used CSS hacks to target IE rendering differences no longer work in this release. IE 7bx users visiting sites relying on such hacks may find that pages do not display as intended, and if your sites have employed such workarounds, expect to hear from the more techie-inclined clients and users that layouts appear broken.

At some point your team and clients will want to fix their sites. Determining when to schedule these fixes will depend on the typical factors, budget, time, and priority. One seemingly obvious way to assess priority is to monitor your stats for IE 7 visits up to and continuing through the official release date. Prioritization should include the stakeholders in your project -- an IT group, charged as they often are with keeping up with the latest in tech, is far more likely to note problems than the marketing group of the same organization. Clients in the technical industry may be more sensitive to IE 7 support, etc.

While it is too early to spend a lot of time on IE 7b issues, after all, some bugs in beta 2 have already been fixed and new issues may arise before release, there are a few things we can and should do, both for existing sites and projects in the works.

Project managers and designers should grab a PC and download the beta. Take it for a spin around your sites and note the problem areas. Anything atrocious? Consult with your developer, maybe it's a known bug with an easy fix, or perhaps it's an unknown bug, in which case you should report it. Remember to roll back to IE 6 afterwards unless you like living dangerously and have other machines on which you can continue to test the official release.

Developers should consider using Conditional Comments going forward instead of hacks. This is Microsoft's preferred solution and allows for a clean way to target CSS to specific versions of Win IE.

Keep up with the latest IE 7 news. Microsoft's IEBlog is the official voice but Eric Meyer's CSS-D list Wiki is an excellent hub for private IE 7b testing and research, including feedback from the Microsoft team on which bugs have already been fixed in internal builds. A good start is Position is Everything's article on common hacks and their behavior under IE7.

Posted by Lewis Francis at February 25, 2006 6:17 PM

Oh great, now that I have a handle on CSS hackery, it changes again. Get me off this treadmill!!!

Posted by: Allan Evans at March 2, 2006 11:19 PM
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