Microsoft Details Enterprise Mode For Internet Explorer 11 In Windows 8.1

Many businesses have built internal web applications that rely on Internet Explorer 8.  This was perfectly fine for many years as Windows XP was still being supported.  But as end-of-life for XP is only days away they are upgrading their operating systems and web browsers.  To ease the pain of having to rewrite their web applications, Microsoft has introduced a “Enterprise Mode” within IE11 for Windows 7 and Windows 8.  As Microsoft describes it “A modern, up-to-date browser that helps customers extend their existing investments in older Web apps.”

Some of the areas targeted by Enterprise Mode include:

  • User agent string differences. Many legacy Web apps use browser detection, not today’s best practice of feature detection. By replicating the original Internet Explorer 8 user agent string, Enterprise Mode works for sites that fail if they can’t recognize IE8 as the browser.
  • ActiveX controls and other binaries. Some ActiveX controls silently fail if they query the browser version and get a response they don’t expect, so Enterprise Mode appeases these by mimicking IE8’s responses. In testing, customers report that many of these ActiveX controls “just work” in Enterprise Mode.
  • Deprecated functionality. Internet Explorer 8 still contained some vestiges of proprietary functionality, such as CSS Expressions which was used to place objects dynamically on a page. This functionality was removed in later versions of Internet Explorer, but some legacy Web apps used this to place buttons and other elements. Enterprise Mode brings back some deprecated features, including CSS Expressions.

IE11 Enterprise Mode 8867.sutdwemfie-image2_760x286
A Web app works properly when viewed in Internet Explorer 11 with Enterprise Mode on the right. Note the Enterprise Mode icon, circled in the address bar.

  • Pre-caching and pre-rendering. Many modern browsers like Internet Explorer 11 pre-cache and pre-render pages, to make browsing more fluid. When you click on a pre-cached link, one tab disappears while the pre-rendered content tab appears in its place. To a legacy navigation controls, this behavior is confusing—so Enterprise Mode turns it off.

When Internet Explorer 11 renders a page in Enterprise Mode, numerous configuration and code changes eliminate common compatibility issues in these and other areas. Also, by targeting Internet Explorer 8—and IE8’s Compatibility View—Enterprise Mode also provides some benefit for sites designed for even older versions, such as Internet Explorer 7. This is emulation, not virtualization; Enterprise Mode provides a better emulation of IE8 within IE11.  Microsofr warns that Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11 may not fix all compatibility problems.

Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11 is turned off by default. When configured with a list of legacy Web apps, IE11 will switch in and out of Enterprise Mode dynamically as users surf the Web. 

The IE Blogs explains how to turn on Enterprise Mode:

Two registry keys, which can be set via new Group Policies, enable/disable Enterprise Mode and provide a local link or URL path to the XML list. Different divisions or locations, for example, can be configured to use different lists.

  • Registry Key
  • Function
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWARE PoliciesMicrosoftInternet ExplorerMainEnterpriseMode] “Enable” = “” | {URL:port}
  • This setting lets you decide whether users can turn on Enterprise Mode for Web sites with compatibility issues. Optionally, this policy also lets you specify where to get reports (through POST messages) whenever a user turns on or off Enterprise Mode.
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWARE PoliciesMicrosoftInternet ExplorerMainEnterpriseMode]

“SiteList” = {File or URL}

  • This setting lets you specify where to find the list of Web sites you want opened using Enterprise Mode. This list can be maintained using the new Enterprise Mode Site List Manager tool.

When enabled, a tool menu option enables end-users to force a page into Enterprise Mode. This can be made available to all users, or select users for testing purposes. This same registry key can be used to collect manual overrides. By configuring the “Enable” key with a valid URL and port, Internet Explorer will initiate a simple POST to the supplied address whenever a user enables or disables Enterprise Mode. This effectively helps customers crowd-source lists of compatible Web apps from their own users, which may decrease triage and testing costs.

Source: IE Blog

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