Neil Turner's Blog

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XP SP2 Review: Postscript II

After reading an overview of what’s new in IE from jeffdav, one of the IE developers, I realised I’d missed another change in IE. Sites can no longer automatically prompt you to install software – you have to click on a link to be able to download it. Otherwise, the prompt is blocked, like ActiveX components and popups are.

As you can see, that screenshot was from Sourceforge. A great many download sites serve up downloads in this way (Download.com, Snapfiles, MajorGeeks… many others) and to be sure of not alienating their users they’ll probably need to change.
The download prompt has also changed, with the emphasis on ensuring that the user really wanted to download the file. The warning will always show if you are downloading files which can be executed, including .msi files (though not .zip files), but can be optional for less harmful types like Word documents. The bottom part of the dialog also offers advice about whether the file is safe or not.

Notice how the default button is ‘Cancel’ – that way people cannot accidently download a file should a dialog appear.
The download process itself hasn’t changed – Firefox’s download manager is still fields ahead of it. You can’t pause or resume downloads, nor can you restart failed downloads. And it still uses a separate dialog for each download and doesn’t store a history like Firefox does.
All in all, the improvements are welcome, but there’s going to be pressure on several site owners to modify their sites so that their files will actually download. And the improvements to the actual download process could have gone further.
You can read the original SP2 review here, which includes the other changes to IE. Tony Schreiner also has some useful information about new features in this release of IE.

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