It was better in every way and I had no noticed any lens distortion during my testing. It wasn't until I was in a more linear environment (my house) that I noticed it. However, I paid a lot less for the 17-40mm than the I would have for the 17-55mm. I paid $600 for it which is about half the price. It's ridiculous to say I'm foolish for not paying twice the price that did not compete. The aperture is not something I tested with the lens when I compared the two, I was in a controlled lighting environment. On top of that, I already own a f/1.4 50mm which I mentioned several pages ago. The 2.8 is enough for indoors for me. No need to act condescending and rude about it, dude.
As for your other suggestions, they are very good and I'll consider trying them. I wish I could afford TS lenses, but that's for later on.
I wasn't intending on being condescending and or rude, I was just seeking clarification about how you said you had it, tested it, and loved it and then "just got it" the other and are having buyers remorse. Do keep in mind regarding distortion... this lens is designed as a 17-40 on a full frame camera... 17mm on any camera will have some level of distortion... Same as the 17-55 in some regards on the 17 end, as well as lets say the tokina lens and the 16-35 I or II... The full frame will show the distortion more than crops, but it's still there. Shooting parallel will help diminish the distortion however if you are wanting no distortion, post production will be a must. Some lenses to keep in consideration that will have fast(er) speeds and keep distortion in check (20mm 2.8, 24mm 1.4, 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.4, they are all within the range of the 17-40, should keep distortion better in check, and 2.8 or faster) It's a great outdoors/travel/walk-around lens, but indoors, you will need to have a fast prime if you really want to shoot handhold. I do architecture (one of my specialties) and real estate photos... I shoot with the 10-20 and 17-40... But then again I shoot low apertures, tripod always, and they are static. Sometimes if I cant shoot tripod I still use low ISO but throw in off camera flash or strobe. Light will always be an issue indoors so either use a faster lens or use a flash (ideally either strobe or off camera flash). The 7D has a great commander feature if you can pick up some 580's or 430's... scatter them around the scene out of view from the camera and you never have to worry about lack of light.
I never said it was foolish not getting the 17-55... I said I liked the 17-40 personally, however you need to really and fully know it's capabilities and limitations to get the most out of it. By going in a shoot fully educated on your gears limits will allow you to forward think so you know how to counter the limitations and push the limits to get awesome shots. Also remember the 17-40 can be used by the 7d and 5d whereas the 17-55 can only be used on crop cameras. Regarding your expectations of high ISO, check out the link i posted earlier... it'll give you a good idea of what this camera can do not only against itself but competitors.