Microsoft rolls out IE 5.5 browser

Software giant to post first public beta of new browser Friday -- touting advances in platform, printing and performance.

Microsoft will post the first public beta of its next version of Internet Explorer browser on its Web site Friday so testers can experiment.

Microsoft posted a version of its IE 5.5 Beta 1 to its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) site for members only to download on Wednesday. It also included IE 5.5 Beta 1 in the Beta 2 release of Millennium, the Consumer Windows successor to Windows 98, which the company began sending to a closed group of beta testers this week.

Microsoft is touting IE 5.5's advances in three areas: platform, printing and performance. With the 5.5 update, Microsoft is improving support for DHTML behaviours and support for vertical text. It also is adding support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS 1) and Synchronised Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL). Microsoft says addition of support for these Web standards "will further enable developers to create interactive presentations incorporating broadcast quality audio, video and animation; still photos; and text."

With IE 5.5, Microsoft is adding a print preview feature, which enables users to more easily and quickly print Web content.

Microsoft is not expected to include IE 5.5 as part of its forthcoming Windows 2000 Professional product. Instead, it will include the currently available IE 5.01 version of Internet Explorer in Windows 2000.

One user noted that IE 5.01 does not properly support Microsoft's Windows Update Web site, as Microsoft itself acknowledges in the IE 5.01 ReadMe file. "It was painful, but I had to uninstall IE 5.1, reinstall 4.1 SP 2, update it, then reinstall 5.1 in order to get the Win Update to function," says the user.