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Headsup: Explorer Upgrade May Break Interfaces

Will IE7 affect your software?

When Microsoft releases a major new version of the browser that still boasts 85 percent market share, Web managers around the world take note. Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) is more standards-compliant than its predecessor, but like all browsers, it has its foibles. Perhaps more importantly, it's not IE6, a finicky browser for which software developers built special work-arounds that may now break or need revision under the new version.

Will IE7 affect your software? Here are some known content management systems (CMS) and portal problems:

Active X: Many commercial CMS packages still use ActiveX controls as rich-text editors or as the entire interface; these need to be updated. Among other things, Microsoft's new security emphasis mandates an "opt-in" approach in which ActiveX controls need to be reregistered and perhaps reinstalled under new security settings. Vendors have had to modify some features of the controls.

Cascading Style Sheets: This is the big one. IE7 fixes most (though not all) of the bugs in CSS standards support. This is a good thing but creates problems when apps lack upgrades for work-arounds developed for IE6, particularly when browser sniffers look for "IE6 or greater" and serve a mangled page. Many portal and CMS interfaces are CSS-driven, so this could become a major support challenge.

Unknowns: Nobody knows quite what IE7 will do to an application until they test it. Based on past experience, heavy use of DHTML and JavaScript could present glitches, though few concrete problems have emerged to date. Because of the relative dearth of testing thus far among vendors, it is customers who will eventually expose incompatibilities. --Tony Byrne and Janus Boye, CMS Watch

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