SolutionBase: Get IE7 features today with Maxthon

Internet Explorer 7 will add many new features for IE users; however, it's not out yet and it won't run on all versions of Windows when it does arrive. Here's how you can get IE7 features today using the Maxthon browser.

Internet Explorer 6 is currently the king of the browser hill, but a new king is coming: Internet Explorer 7. It promises to bring new features to Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2. But what do you do if you don't want to wait for IE7 or have an operating system that can't support it?

You can get IE7 features today using the Maxthon browser. In this article, I'll show you how it works.

What's Maxthon and why would I want it?

Maxthon is a free Web browser created by Maxthon International. Maxthon includes many features not found in Internet Explorer 6, but planned for IE 7 and already included in IE alternatives such as Firefox. Some of these new features include:

  • Ad Blocking
  • Customized Skinning
  • Enhanced Privacy Protection
  • Mouse Gestures
  • RSS Reader
  • Tabbed Browsing

Unlike Firefox, Maxthon is based on the Internet Explorer engine. That means that Maxthon will correctly render Web sites that are specially designed for Internet Explorer. Maxthon will also support the same ActiveX controls that IE does. Firefox is incapable of using ActiveX. If you're concerned about security weaknesses from ActiveX support, Maxthon also includes an ActiveX filter to keep you from running dangerous controls.

Obtaining and installing Maxthon

You can get Maxthon from the Maxthon Web site. Click the Downloads link to go to the download page. On this page, you can select from either the Maxthon Combo or Maxthon Standard.

The two versions of Maxthon are identical. The only major differences are the extras that come with the Combo version that aren't included in the Standard version. The Combo version includes the following additional plug-ins:

  • AIRoboform
  • FlashSave
  • ViewSource
  • EnableRightClick
  • Up a Level
  • Weather

Maxthon Combo also includes a set of skins you can use to change the way Maxthon looks. Maxthon Standard doesn't include any skins. For the purposes of this article, I'll be working with Maxthon Combo.

The file you'll download, Mcombo.exe, is only 4.91MB in size, so it won't take very long to download. After you've downloaded the file, run the executable to install it.

The installation is fairly straight-forward. It works just about like any other Windows install you've ever run. One of the major things to watch for is Plug-In installation screen shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Watch out for this spot in the installation.

On this screen you'll see that you can choose to install WeatherBug and RoboForm plug-ins for Maxthon. I can't recommend that you select these choices. WeatherBug, although not technically spyware, can severely impact your system's performance. Roboform isn't spyware either, but it does keep track of passwords on your system. This can be handy, but it can also create a security problem if your system is lost or stolen. Therefore, I recommend you leave these selections blank.

After you finish the basic installation, the installer asks if you want to launch Maxthon. Doing so will begin the Configuration Wizard. This too is fairly straightforward. The most important choice here is shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Decide how you want Maxthon to appear.

The Feature Rich selection makes the screen fairly busy. Therefore, I recommend either the Simple or Advanced selection.

Using Maxthon

When you start Maxthon, it asks if you want to make it the default browser. It will share your Favorites with Internet Explorer, so you don't have to worry about migrating Web sites from one browser to another. Maxthon initially looks and works just like IE. Enter an address into the browser and the site will load.

To use the Tab feature, press [Ctrl][T]. When you do, a blank tab will appear. You can also load a link in a new tab by right clicking the link on one page and selecting Open In New Window. If you click Window | View Horizontal, you can see the pages side-by-side as see in Figure C.

Figure C

You can load multiple sites up in tabs.

To close a tab, press [Ctrl][W].

When you visit a Web site, you might notice an orange window appear in the lower right hand corner of the screen announcing that an RSS feed exists for the site. You can subscribe to the site by clicking the sunburst from the bottom toolbar. When you do, you'll see the screen shown in Figure D.

Figure D

You can sign up for RSS feeds right inside of Maxthon.

Maxthon and More

This just touches on some of the features you'll find in Maxthon. Maxthon is a powerful browser that brings many features that won't be available until IE 7 ships. Even then, because Maxthon runs on older operating systems such as Windows 98 and Windows 2000 Professional, it's a great way to extend the life of older operating systems.