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Enterprise Mode for IE Gets Some Compatibility Enhancements

Microsoft this week announced a couple of improvements to its Internet Explorer browser compatibility solutions for organizations.

The improvements include an update to Microsoft's Enterprise Mode browser compatibility solution, along with an option to use XML output with a site discovery tool. The improvements are a bit obscure, but Microsoft has been changing its browser compatibility tools based on the best practices it sees with its customers. That point was explained back in August by Chris Jackson, worldwide lead for application compatibility at Microsoft.

Microsoft's Enterprise Mode solution is browser compatibility technology that was introduced with IE 11. It's designed to help organizations run Microsoft's latest browser while not breaking their custom Web apps or intranet sites that were built using older IE browser technologies. Enterprise Mode will let end users automatically switch to using older IE technologies, ranging from IE 10 to IE 5, when things don't work well in IE 11.

IE7 Enterprise Mode Option
Microsoft's April update to IE 11's Enterprise Mode now includes a new "IE7 Enterprise Mode" option, which can be selected from the Site List Manager interface when managing the Enterprise Mode solution. If selected, the IE7 Enterprise Mode option turns on the Compatibility View option for IE 11 browsers. The Compatibility View option will render a Web page with IE 7 technology if the site contains a DOCTYPE tag, but it will render the page with IE 5 technology if no DOCTYPE tag is detected.

Microsoft added this IE7 Enterprise Mode option because using Compatibility View with Enterprise Mode was considered to be a good solution for some of its customers, although it was considered "difficult" to set this up. There's also now an "IE8 Enterprise Mode" option selectable from the Site List Manager, but it's not new -- it's the renamed Enterprise Mode option that previously was the default option, Microsoft explained. Organizations now have "two high-fidelity emulation modes" (IE7 and IE8) with Compatibility View that are selectable options in Enterprise Mode's Site List Manager interface, Microsoft's announcement explained.

Discovery Toolkit XML Support
Microsoft also improved its Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit with its April updates. This toolkit is used with Enterprise mode to discover the Web sites that end users visit. It tracks performance data so that IT pros can prioritize their remediation tasks. With the April update in place, the Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit can now use "XML as an output option" when devising such remediation inventories. The XML output can be "used exclusively or in conjunction with the existing WMI output and enables management via group policy," Microsoft explained.

Organizations using the Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit should obtain about a month's worth of data to get a picture of Web site use by end users, Microsoft advises, in this TechNet article. The tool doesn't warn end users about the tracking, though, so Microsoft suggests consulting "local laws and regulatory requirements" before using it.

January 2016 IE Deadline
Microsoft's update tools may address a real pain point for organizations. They typically must try to keep pace with Microsoft's new browser releases while also maintaining "legacy" Web apps and the intranet sites that depend on older IE browser technologies. However, organizations still face a new IE product lifecycle formulation deadline that Microsoft announced back in August.

This new browser-support policy takes effect after Jan. 12, 2016. Under this new policy, an organization will have to use the most current browser for a particular supported Windows version. If they fail to do that, then they face losing future patch support for that browser.

In effect, this new policy accelerates the timeline for organizations to move to the current flagship IE browser, such as IE 11. Normally, the product lifecycle of IE would be tied to the product lifecycle of Windows, but the new policy changed that circumstance. For instance, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 users will have to move to IE 11 or the latest supported browser by Jan. 12, 2016. That's four years sooner than the Jan. 14, 2020 product lifecycle support end date for Windows 7 SP1.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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