From impoverishment to enlightenment with Internet Explorer



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Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is acknowledged by web designers to be a special case. The Microsoft juggernaut decided in its own wisdom to just do things differently with IE with the result that coders had to jump hoops to make their work look acceptable when viewed through the quirky prism of IE.

The murky past

Without digging back into the primordial soup, versions 6, 7 and 8 of IE made life extremely difficult for coders. Although these browsers supported CSS, they didn’t match the W3C standard. The ‘broken box model’ was the most notorious ‘feature’ of these early browsers.

IE9 today

Bit by bit, many of these glitches have been ironed out and as of March 2012 IE9 does a pretty reasonable job of implementing W3C standards in general.

However, there are some key CSS3 properties that IE9 doesn’t support, including:

  • text-shadows which optionally give a very subtle drop-shadow to text
  • linear-gradients which optionally enable an area to be painted with a gradient that runs from colour A to colour B (in direction C)
  • border-radius (rounded corners) which optionally allows rectangular areas to have corners that aren’t just 90 degrees sharp

Some of these can be semi-implemented in IE9 by using added-on frameworks such as CSS3PIE, but in general if a designer has taken the trouble to code these design attributes into a page, you won’t see them in IE9.

IE10 sometime tomorrow

IE10 promises to change all this – as if Microsoft has finally seen the light. Indeed, the web design community is pretty excited at the thought that Microsoft are now taking web standards seriously and becoming a serious and inventive player in getting browser technology to leave its troubled past behind.

I welcome this. I’m sure it won’t end the multiple delights of browsers rendering pages with even slight differences. What it may do in general is be the high tide that floats everyone’s boat.

However, until IE10 is released to the public, maybe you could consider using either Firefox or Opera as you main browser. That way, you’ll be sure to be able view websites as their designers intended them to be seen.

[For insight into which browser version supports which web standards, I recommend icanuse.]