Exclusive: interview with Internet Explorer 6

Last week we got the chance to interview in person Internet Explorer 6, the longest-lasting browser ever! Here is the exclusive transcript for our readers:

IE 6 is old. It's time to retire.
"I just feel old and tired of all this: I think it's time to retire"

AB: Thank you for being with us today, Mr. Explorer 6. How are you?

IE6: I’m glad to be here, Alberto. I’m fine, just a little bit tired.

AB: Tired? You are just 9 years old! You’re still a kid, you should have plenty of energy!

IE6: Well, you know, browsers’ age is not equivalent to humans’. If you consider how fast technology is evolving I already have more than 80 human years.

AB: Really?! I didn’t know that! And you are still working full time, that’s astonishing… Congratulations!

IE6: Thanks. Yes, actually I’m still in business and still have a good share in the browsers market. In 2009, for instance, 15% of the people who visited your website came through me!

AB: This is definitely a relevant percentage! I didn’t know. How is this possible? Why people are still using you and not, for example, your son IE7 or your nephew IE8?

IE6: This is probably due to machines who still run old versions of windows, such as Windows 2000, and cannot upgrade to my most recent releases.

AB: Anyway, that’s not a good excuse: I apologize for being so straight… but there are so many browsers out there that could replace you… so why people don’t upgrade?

IE6: I appreciate your frankness and I agree with you. Anyway, I’m mainly talking about companies, governmental institutions, schools and universities… Sometimes system administrators are just too lazy to perform an upgrade.

AB. Damned system administrators, it’s always their fault… Anyway, it’s good for you, isn’t it?

IE6: Well, at first I loved the idea of being still on the market. But now, to be honest, I start to feel old, sometimes I don’t even have time to sleep. My wife keeps telling me I’m working too much and moreover several important big companies seem to have already cut back on my support.

AB: Are you referring to Digg, Youtube and Facebook?

IE6: Yes, and many more. Last week even Google announced that my support will be discontinued from March 2010

AB: Oh, what a bad news… What was your reaction?

IE6: They literally broke my heart! They have no respect for old men, they could have called me at least to say goodbye after so many years… [A tear drops down Mr. Explorer 6’s eye – AB]

AB: Ehm… I see… So what are you going to do now? Are you planning to fight and increase your competitiveness in order to cope nowadays young browsers?

IE6: Competitiveness!!?? I just feel old and tired of all this: I think it’s time to retire… [Blows his nose -AB]

AB: Retire? Are you serious?

IE6: Absolutely. I had my moment of glory, now I can retire and spend my last years enjoying life and good food…

AB: It’s not such a bad perspective, is it? Are you planning to move on after your retirement?

IE6: Well, actually I was thinking to go to Florida but they told me that there is this lake in Italy called Lake Como, they told me that also George Clooney has a house on its shore. Apparently Italian food and wine are delightful!

AB: You said it! I’d really recommend you to move to Italy if you enjoy good food and wine!
Thank you very much for the interview Mr. Explorer 6. We wish you all the best with your new life!

IE6: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Free facelift for your webpages

sas

A common solution in order to use freely typefaces while designing a web page, is creating graphical representations of the text content;  this solution apparently works well, however it is not efficient and not easy to update when the text content changes, as each text must be written or modified manually through an image manipulation software.

For this reason web designers normally use a narrow range of fonts in their web pages and usually adopt web-safe fonts.

Nevertheless, there are some interesting alternatives. Facelift is an excellent solution in order to use custom fonts in your web pages writing simple text while not dealing with images creation and updating.

Facelift Image Replacement (or FLIR, pronounced fleer) is an image replacement script that dynamically generates image representations of text on your web page in fonts that otherwise might not be visible to your visitors. The generated image will be automatically inserted into your web page via Javascript and visible to all modern browsers. Any element with text can be replaced: from headers (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) to <span> elements and everything in between!

Give a look to these examples!

Facelift is free software released under GNU/GPL license. It requires a quite common web server configuration (PHP along with GD libraries with freetype and PNG support enabled) and can be freely downloaded from the official web page.

The importance of !important in CSS


CSS

In this article I’ll introduce the declaration !important in CSSs and explain how to use it as a “workaround” to avoid adopting IE proprietary code to obtain the max-width effect in your web pages.

When a CSS propriety is specified twice, the browser will commonly use the last one. Let’s see an example:


#main {
width:600px;
width:800px;
}

In this example the browser will assign width 800 pixels to the #main element.

The declaration !important can be used in cascading style sheets to give priority to some parameters.


#main {
width:600px !important;
width:800px;
}

In the example above the browser will give priority to the first declaration and the #main element will be 600 pixels width.

So, what’s the point?
Internet Explorer 6 and previous versions simply ignore the declaration !important (while IE 7 supports them) therefore we can take advantage of this issue to design a “browser-based” CSS.

Let’s consider, for example, the CSS proprieties max-width and min-width: these parameters specify a maximum and minimum width of a web element (such as a table or a DIV container). This is a useful feature which allows to create fluid and dynamic layouts that can be displayed correctly both in low resolutions (e.g. 640×480) and in very high resolutions.
Unfortunately IE 6, among other things, doesn’t even support the max/min width declaration: in order to obtain the same effect under IE6 you can use a proprietary code:

#main {
max-width: 900px;
width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); /* IE proprietary code */
}

In this example the #main element will be rendered with a maximum width of 900px both in Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer.
Please note that the proprietary code width:expression is not a valid CSS declaration, so if you decide to adopt it, your stylesheet won’t respect web standards and won’t be validated.

However, we can use the !important declaration to avoid non-standard CSS expressions. Here is a “workaround” which allows to use max/min width with smart browsers and specify a fixed width for IE 6 users:

#main {
margin: 0 auto 0;
max-width: 900px;
min-width: 770px;
width:auto !important;
width:800px;
}

In the above example (you can see it in action on this website) the declaration !important is used to specify dynamic width attributes to browsers that support them (e.g. Firefox, Netscape, Opera, Safari and IE 7) while the width is fixed to an average value (800 pixels) for IE 6.
This doesn’t solve completely the matter, but can be considered as a workaround to improve your fluid layout appearance avoiding non-standard code.