Though Google Toolbar 7 for Firefox launched several months ago, the Internet Explorer version (download) went live just this week. It brings Google Instant to the popular toolbar, along with more robust privacy options and a cleaner interface.
Although the support for Google Instant search is the most notable feature improvement in version 7, what appears most interesting is the way that the toolbar lets you know that features like Instant, which require tracking to work, actually do track you. While this might not be news to some, it's a strong reminder that many of the data-rich features that people love do come at a cost to personal privacy.
Enabling the features is easy. After installation, which unfortunately requires a reboot of all your open browsers, the toolbar walks you through activating Instant and opens a tab with Google's toolbar tutorial video. If you choose to install without activating Instant, you can do it later by going to the Options menu. The Option menu is now accessible from the Wrench icon, just as it is in Chrome. The Options menu is also where you can toggle privacy features after installing, under the Privacy tab. A new hot-key combo, Alt+G, will jump you directly into the toolbar's search box.
For people who want to have a different default search engine in Internet Explorer, this can be a clever way to have two search engines accessible directly from the keyboard.
Along with the Wrench icon, much of the toolbar's look has been tweaked to make it look more like Chrome. App icons are identical to those used for Chrome extensions, and the vertical tab choices in the Options menu also resemble the current Chrome menu.
One excellent feature in Internet Explorer 9 is that it tells you what kind of performance impact your add-ons have on the browser. My installation of Google Toolbar 7 impacted browser start time by zero seconds, according to IE's add-on management window. That is a massive improvement for a toolbar's reputation, when most are notorious for slowing down the browser launch.
It's important to note that the Internet Explorer Google Toolbar installer will also install the Google Toolbar for Firefox. You must later go into Firefox and disable it, if you only want it in one browser.