IE7Pro beefs up Internet Explorer

The Internet Explorer browser doesn't have nearly as many cool add-ons as its open-source competitor Firefox, but a powerful plug-in called IE7Pro offers a bevy of crucial browser customizations and now works with IE6 as well.

IE7Pro (Credit: CNET Networks)

Mozilla Firefox gets a lot of praise for the countless third-party extensions that add features like FTP, download management, and tab customization to the open-source browser. The most popular browser on the market, Internet Explorer, also has its fair share of add-ons, but nowhere near the number or quality of its competitor.

One new download for Internet Explorer, however, adds a number of valuable features that are only replicated in numerous different Firefox extensions. Among its many enhancements, IE7Pro adds tab management, ad blocking, Flash blocking, crash recovery, and the ability to re-open closed tabs to the Microsoft browser. Even cooler, it allows user-based scripts much like Greasemonkey for Firefox. Again, the scripts aren't nearly as impressive as Greasemonkey, but the idea is a good one.

IE7Pro user scripts

User scripts in IE7Pro let you download Flash video, skin Gmail, or preview links in Google.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Despite the name, the latest version of IE7Pro now supports both Internet Explorer 6 as well as Internet Explorer 7. I can't understand why anyone would continue to use IE6 by choice, but I also know personally many people who have switched back from version 7, so it's great to see IE7Pro support it.

As mentioned, a lot of the functionality in IE7Pro already exists in Mozilla Firefox or can be duplicated with extensions. IE7Pro adds a few new powers to tab management, such as the ability to retrieve closed tabs via a "tab history" interface and close tabs by double-clicking, but Tab Mix Plus for Firefox blows it away when it comes to customizing the appearance and behavior of your browser tabs.

An ad blocker in IE7Pro comes with a large number of default filters for blocking advertisements from Web pages, and the ability to create your own filter with domain names and wild cards. Adblock Plus for Firefox offers a very similar feature, with the further ability to block out specific images or domains directly from Web pages. However, in my testing, the two were equally effective in filtering out advertisements from mainstream commercial Web sites.

The "Greasemonkey-like" user scripts in IE7Pro appear to have a lot of potential, but they're definitely kludgey. In particular, the Gmail CSS skin, which is supposed to clean up the appearance of the already spartan Gmail interface, caused severe instability and a few full crashes. Stability in general was compromised in Internet Explorer 7 whenever I ran any of the user-based scripts.

IE7 Pro AccuWeather plug-in compared with ForecastFox

Compare the AccuWeather plug-in for IE7Pro (above) with ForecastFox (below) in this split-screen image.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

There are a few additional plug-ins for IE7Pro that add even more features, but they're limited right now to three types of additional content in your IE status bar: AccuWeather forecasts; Alexarank and Google pagerank for any Web site; and Web server info for visited sites. When compared to ForecastFox for Firefox, however, the AccuWeather interface in IE7Pro leaves much to be desired.

For me, the coolest unique feature in IE7Pro is the ability to quickly snap screenshots of your browser windows, including full Web pages, even if they stretch far below the edge of your browser interface. The Firefox add-on Snapper provides similar functionality, but it hasn't been updated for Firefox 2.0. I'll likely disable all of the scripts and plug-ins for IE7Pro, but the screenshot and tab-history features definitely make it worth keeping it installed for now.

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