As you probably know by now, Dean Hachamovitch announced this morning that Internet Explorer 7 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) is ready for download.

So what is the difference between a 'Release Candidate' (RC) and a 'Beta'? Here's the short answer from Dean's post:

"A release candidate is fundamentally different from a beta. With the exception of a very short list of issues we’re aware of and working on, we think the product is done. We’re looking to enthusiasts, developers, and IT Pros to tell us if this build has any critical, must-fix before we ship issues. The real world is much richer than our test environment and I appreciate the feedback that has helped us make the product better."

In a follow-up post on the IE7 team blog, John Hrvatin points out a few of the changes made to the installation process for the Release Candidate. Example:

"If installation detects a previous version of IE7, it begins uninstall for you so you don’t have to dig through ‘Add/Remove Programs’."

Seth McLaughlin, also from the IE7 team then posted the A Quick Reference Sheet for IE7.

"We’ve created this sheet to bring together keyboard shortcuts and directions for common tasks in one, easy to access location. Rather than provide an exhaustive listing of ALL the IE shortcuts (there are a lot!), we focused on outlining only the ones that perform the most popular actions within the browser."

I like this one: 'Open the website address that is typed in the Address Bar in new tab  ALT+ENTER'.

You can the rest of these tips here.

Some quick links / quotes / reactions from around the web:

Ed Bott;

"The most interesting part of today's announcement that an IE7 release candidate is now available is the almost complete lack of news. No new features, a few bug fixes since the last beta release. And now the march is on to fix remaining bugs and compatibility problems."

Paul Thurrott:

"Internet Explorer 7 RC1 is faster, more stable, and better looking than previous IE 7 betas, so it's a required update for any users who installed IE 7 Beta 3 or earlier. As for IE 6 users, I think it's both safe and prudent to migrate to IE 7 now: "

Regarding CSS, Joe Wilcox says the IE team still has a way to go:

"Absolutely, way, way many more Websites properly load in IE 7 than do not, and Microsoft at least deserves some of the credit for that. The company has done a terrific job communicating what it's doing with the browser, and Microsoft put IE 7 into protracted beta, which facilitated broad testing by many Web developers. So, Microsoft has made great strides, just not enough to reach the goal."

dev/nononsense also comments on the progress made regarding CSS:

"In my opinion it’s fantastic that the IE team have made so many improvements to the CSS engine in Internet Explorer 7 - almost all of the rendering bugs I’ve had to combat in various web designs seem to be fixed, and many more bugs I wasn’t expecting to be looked at.

...I think the team have done a good job in picking some very common CSS issues - hopefully they’ll move on in future releases to even greater compatibility."

Not surprisingly, CSS issues have been a long-running theme throughout IE7's development and today is no different. If you have any interest in this area, you should check out last week's post by Richard MacManus where he wrote up his interview with the Group Program Manager of IE7, Chris Wilson, all about the topic of IE7, CSS and web standards.

Update:

I should have included a link to this post by the IE team: Details on our CSS changes for IE7 (posted by Markus Mielke, Aug 22).