Feeds

Microsoft: Old Internet Explorer is terrible and 'we want to help'

New tools help web devs find problem spots

High performance access to file storage

As every web developer knows, one of the biggest headaches of building modern, standards-compliant web pages is getting them to look and work right in Internet Explorer. Well, coders, apparently Microsoft feels your pain, because it has released a new set of free tools to help you do just that.

The tools, collectively dubbed modern.IE, offer various ways of testing websites to verify compatibility with versions of Internet Explorer new and old, going all the way back to the dreaded IE6.

"We recognize that customers on older versions of IE continue to be a real challenge for developers testing their sites, particularly for those developers on non-Windows devices," wrote Ryan Gavin, Redmond's GM for Internet Explorer, in a blog post announcing the tools. "We want to help."

The top modern.IE tool is a free online code scanner that will parse a site's HTML and issue alerts for any outstanding problems that could affect how it renders, both in older versions of IE and in modern browsers.

Issues flagged by the scanner include code that trips known old-IE quirks, code that causes newer versions of IE to revert to Compatibility Mode, outdated JavaScript frameworks and libraries that could be incompatible with newer browsers, and sites that lack a proper DocType, which can cause them to render incorrectly.

The tool also recommends ways in which developers can redesign their sites to better support newer screen sizes and device form factors ­– including phones, fondleslabs, and large widescreen displays – by using responsive web design techniques.

And last but not least, it also offers a friendly suggestion that devs make sure to tweak their websites to work the Microsoft Way™ – including replacing Flash with HTML5, making sure pages are touch-friendly, and adding Windows 8 Start Screen tiles to sites so they're easier to navigate to from Microsoft's latest OS.

"The wizard doesn't offer a complete checklist for coding the modern web, but it is intended to focus on the things that can make a real difference in the overall user experience," Gavin observed.

Developers who are looking for more thorough testing can also benefit from the modern.IE effort. In addition to the code scanner, Microsoft is promoting two methods coders can use to verify their sites against actual browsers running inside virtual machines.

For developers who have the wherewithal to manage their own virtual test beds, Redmond has made available a set of virtual machine images containing prebuilt test environments for various versions of IE running on Windows.

So, for example, developers can test their sites against IE6 running on Windows XP, IE7 running on Windows Vista, or IE8 running on Windows 7, without the hassle of installing the OS and downloading all of the relevant Service Packs and updates.

For now, the VMs are only compatible with Microsoft's own Hyper-V virtualization technology for Windows Server and Windows 8 Pro, but the modern.IE site says VMs for Linux and OS X are coming soon.

Developers who want even more comprehensive virtualization-based testing have one further option. Microsoft has partnered with BrowserStack to offer three free months of the company's online service, which lets coders test their sites against a comprehensive set of desktop and mobile browsers using a single, web-based UI. The catch? You have to sign in with your Facebook account to activate your free trial.

In addition to these tools, the modern.IE website includes a variety of tips and suggestions on how to code websites the modern way – not to mention plugs for IE10, the latest version of Microsoft's browser, which Redmond swears has given up its old, sinful ways and is all about web standards now.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, however, the web-surfing public may have been burned one too many times by older versions of IE. According to StatCounter, Internet Explorer lost its status as the world's most widely used browser sometime in 2012, and its market share still appears to be in decline.

The new King of the Web? Google Chrome – a browser that has been tooting the horn of web standards compliance from the very beginning. The phrase "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" comes to mind. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.