Geoff Chappell - Software Analyst
For best viewing of this website, particularly to navigate it with an expandable table of contents (TOC), a few things are expected of your browser. A quick summary is that this site:
It may happen, of course, that those scripts do not work as intended. Whatever browser you use and in whatever configuration, if you find the presentation unsatisfactory, then disable scripts. If you don’t run scripts, you won’t need frames. Though I believe the scripts and frames greatly improve the site’s usability, I really do mean them to be merely optional.
This website does not make your browser fetch anything from any other domain—not scripts, not even images—except if you choose to follow a link or click on an icon. This is true even of the experimental support for sharing your thoughts about this site via Facebook (if I currently have it enabled): until you click on the Facebook icon, no contact with Facebook is made. This website does not store cookies on your computer. Nor does it download code, such as ActiveX controls, for execution on your computer. If you see any attempt at any such mischief, then please alert me to it so that I can investigate it and correct it.
Except for an experimental facility to search the site, there is no magic on the server side: everything that is done here is entirely open to your inspection. In part, this is because I prefer not to depend on such magic. Not only does the server run on an operating system that I don’t know in any detail, but the nature of the hosting means I anyway have no access to it for debugging. The greater part, however, is the philosophy of this website. That software on your computer is open to your inspection, albeit with difficulty, is primarily what this site is about. That business on the Internet would move us to a world in which ever more of the software to which we trust our data will instead be on their computers, and not at all open to our inspection, is a game that I urge you not to join eagerly.
This website will always look better and behave better in Internet Explorer. That is the browser that I targeted when I first coded scripts for the site and it is the browser that I use on my own intranet when I consult my own material from which the website you are now browsing is extracted. It is therefore the browser that I have most experience with and through which I am most likely to discover faulty behaviour in ordinary use. Through the early years of this website, when scripts and styles were developed, Internet Explorer was also by far the browser that was most used for visits to the site by real-world readers. It’s therefore also the one whose demand on my limited time for browser support always seemed greatest.
That I choose Internet Explorer for my ordinary use has nothing to do with any assessment of it as a browser in comparison with others. That’s a question I really can’t see as something I should want to care about. I use Internet Explorer partly because it’s already there but mostly for the very practical reason that it’s a potential source of material for this site: anything I notice about it through everyday exposure to it might usefully be studied and written up.
Most other browsers that the server logs show as significant have at least been looked at to check that the site presents acceptably. Of course, my observation of these browsers is no more than cursory and I do not intend to keep up to date with the ridiculously numerous new versions. This website is for presenting the results of original research into highly technical issues of what Windows actually does. Mucking around with multiple browsers takes time away from discovery and leaves even less time for writing up.
For any browser, if the behaviour of this website seems deficient to you, then write to me with an explanation of what is wrong and what might be done about it, and I will at least look at accommodating your solution.
As for specific versions of Internet Explorer, my intention is to support version 6.0 and higher. However, this increasingly means just that I try to avoid writing anything that requires more recent versions. Only rarely do I actually look at the site using any Internet Explorer version older than 7.0.
I also don’t expect ever to get round to checking every later version for all the ever multiplying combinations of compatibility modes. Every page at this site is deliberately written without a Document Type Definition (DTD). Future versions of Internet Explorer should render these pages in so-called quirks mode by default. If you want to view them in any other mode, you’re on your own. My thinking, rightly or wrongly, is that quirks mode ended up as the distillation of many years of experience by countless people before standards were settled on and is arguably known more definitely than are all the sometimes very different interpretations that various browsers have of the supposedly definite standards. Since nobody with even slightly sensible notions of backwards compatibility would imagine that all the Internet’s many pages that have no DTD should all be updated for strict standards compliance, I don’t see support for pre-standards quirks disappearing even when all browsers eventually agree on what the standards mean.
Mozilla Firefox versions 3.0.10, 7.0.1 and 9.0.1 have been at least looked at, from time to time, to check that the website presents acceptably. Quick observation of the oldest and newest in that list shows no serious problem with the substantial script revisions of December 2011, except for the long-standing one of having no colour in the space between frames. If you know how to get Firefox to display flat coloured borders between frames, then please write to me with the solution.
It has long puzzled me that although this website is directed entirely at Microsoft’s operating systems for PCs, a small but persistent proportion of readers browse this site from one sort or another of Apple computer. I’m in no position to test that experience, but I have looked at versions 3.2.3 and 5.1.2 of Apple Safari for Windows to check that the website presents acceptably. Again, quick inspection shows no very serious problem with these versions even after substantial revision of the scripts in December 2011. As with Firefox, there is a long-standing problem with space between frames, and it’s worse for Safari because its borders provide no means to resize the frames. If you know how to get Safari to display flat coloured interactive borders between frames, then please write to me with the solution.
Opera versions 9.64 and 11.60 have also been looked at, but the earlier version presented small difficulties even before the substantial script revisions in December 2011. The scripts used to run tolerably for version 9.64, but not recommendably, most notably for my not seeing how I might correctly handle clicks on list-item markers in the TOC. A brief test shows that the latest script revisions do not work successfully with either of these versions. If Opera does allow frames to be built dynamically, I may eventually find what different technique it requires. Meanwhile, I have left in place some fall-back code so that the effect is much as if the scripts had not run.
Most likely, however, is that I shan’t ever attend better to any Opera browser. Opera’s debugger (Dragonfly) keeps trying to connect to Opera’s website on the Internet while I try to observe this browser on my intranet. This is either suspect behaviour or a very unsatisfactory design, at least as I see it, and I won’t indulge it while I don’t have to. Indeed, I’ll go further and say that while the Opera website describes Dragonfly as “built right into the browser” and as needing “no additional installation or setup” even though the design is plainly that you should fetch additional support from Opera’s server, I can’t regard Opera the company as trustworthy and I recommend that you don’t either.
Google’s browser leaves me similarly unenthused about ever getting another version to test. Call me hopelessly old-fashioned, but I expect that any software on my computers can easily be made to install and run without phoning home. Though there does exist a stand-alone installer, its existence is certainly not made prominent by Google. After downloading and installing, Chrome seems to demand external support much more than do other browsers and to provide less ready ways of turning this behaviour off. This is rude software. If that’s not apparent from its being the only one of these browsers to install a desktop icon without asking, then it certainly is from the way that installation finishes with a window whose close box has been disabled to force you to choose a search engine there and then. This browser too is one I’m disinclined to indulge if I don’t really have to. Even though Chrome has more recently become the most popular browser even for this website, the preceding experience from 2011 hardly encourages me to try again.
That said, quick observation of version 16.0.912.75 shows no very serious problem with this site’s scripts from late 2011. As far as concerns its presentation of this website, Chrome looks strikingly similar to Firefox and Safari. For the specific matter of frames, it’s more like Safari: if you know how to get Chrome to display flat coloured interactive borders between frames, then please write to me with the solution.
The browser requirements for best viewing are explained in some detail separately, with a brief history in case you care to know how the site came to its expectations.
If you visit this site more than occasionally, you may gain from knowing a little more about the intended user interface, e.g., for keyboard shortcuts.
Even without the browser requirements for best viewing, the site should deliver you a static TOC as long as your browser supports CSS. The static TOC is also meant to be straightforward, at least after you work out how to coordinate it with a document in a separate window. If you have trouble with this static TOC, then please read about the alternate user interface.
Some known problems remain, even for Internet Explorer but especially for other browsers. I will try to get these written up or resolved.