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Microsoft Improves Enterprise Mode Tools for IE

Microsoft added a few enhancements this month to help organizations better address their Internet Explorer app compatibility woes.

The clock is ticking for organizations still using browsers older than Internet Explorer 11. Microsoft introduced its Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer last year to help organizations emulate older browser technologies (down to IE 5) for their "legacy" Web sites and applications, while also having the IE 11 browser available for use in other cases. This month, Microsoft announced some Enterprise Mode updates to better ease these browser compatibility issues.

One improvement released this month is a new Web Application Compatibility Lab Kit. It can be downloaded as a full (21GB) version or as a "lite" (180MB) version. The Lab Kit comes bundled with evaluation editions of Windows 7 and Windows 10, plus a couple of tools. One of the tools, called "Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit," is used to find the document modes and ActiveX controls that are used per Web site, which can be useful information for IT pros when they are deciding on browser compatibility support issues. The "Enterprise Mode Site List Manager" tool, also included in the Lab Kit, is used to create lists of sites that may require an older IE emulation mode to work optimally.

The new Lab Kit was designed using "best practices from Microsoft Services and partners in testing and fixing Web apps using Enterprise Mode," according to Microsoft's announcement.

Microsoft also improved Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer by allowing port numbers to be specified in URLs. It's written like this, per Microsoft's example: http://contoso.com:8080 vs. http://contoso.com:8090.

Lastly, Microsoft's announcement indicated that the schema for Enterprise Mode when used with Windows 10 was updated to be "simpler" and "scalable." No details were provided about what was changed, but Microsoft plans to deliver these same improvements to Enterprise Mode for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 sometime next year.

Next year is not exactly optimal timing for many organizations, largely due to Microsoft's upping of the browser upgrade pace. Most organizations using Windows are facing a sharp Jan. 12, 2016 deadline to move to IE 11. If the deadline isn't met, organizations face potential security risks.

The Jan. 12, 2016 deadline stems from a policy change that Microsoft announced last year. The old IE support model was associated with the Windows product lifecycle. Instead, with its new policy change, Microsoft set a more arbitrary cutoff date and specified that organizations need to move to the most current IE browser per supported Windows version by that date. Windows 7 users, for instance, have until Jan. 12, 2016 to move to IE 11, which is the most current browser for that Windows operating system. Failing to meet this deadline means that those older IE browsers will no longer get security updates from Microsoft.

The Edge browser in Windows 10 is still Microsoft's leading edge browser, going forward. It has the capability to use existing Enterprise Mode lists to switch to older IE technologies, if needed. End users get a message in Edge with a link that will let them to switch over to the IE browser.

Microsoft wants organizations to use the newest browser with the idea it's potentially safer. For instance, IE 11 is considered to be "7 times less likely to have malware" than IE 8, per calculations by Chris Jackson, Microsoft's worldwide lead for application compatibility.

Resources to get to IE 11, including details about using Enterprise Mode, can be found at this TechNet page.

About the Author

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

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