Windows 7: How to prepare apps for IE8

Summary:Microsoft's Windows compatibility expert, Chris Jackson, says simple changes make many apps ready for Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8

...the app itself. This seems to be obvious, but I've run into people not doing it a lot. Question number one: Do I need support for this app? If the answer is yes, is that version supported? If the answer is no, buy a new one.

Because I need support, so why am I even going to bother testing what I have? If I don't need support I have some options — I can go configure it, I can go into the website and do some coding on it or I can use virtualisation as a stopgap, some gaffer tape to bind it together if there're plans to retire it soon. The ultimate backstop remediation is virtualisation, which is just actually run it on IE6 on a compatible operating system.

So companies can configure IE to avoid changing the code for some of their web apps?
We have nearly 1,500 group policies available to configure IE8. The one with the most impact is the site-to-zone assignment list. The number one biggest challenge I come to when I work with a customer is they have the local intranet as 'intranet.com' — and the browser doesn't know where you work.

It looks at that fully qualified domain and drops you into the internet zone, which opts you into IE8 standards, which opts you in to all the enhanced security we apply in the internet zone. Put your intranet sites into the local intranet zone.

You want to configure your environment to maximise the compatibility of the sites you have today, which means getting them into the compatibility view that is most compatible with your apps.

How realistic is it to use virtualisation to solve these migration problems? Don't you just end up keeping IE6 and losing the IE8 advantage?
MED-V [Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization] provides a really good user experience. When you go and type in the address bar of IE6 or you navigate inside the window to go somewhere that doesn't have a policy defined to use IE6, you go back to IE8.

You have to have enough space [on your PCs] for the VM and you have to have MED-V — which is part of MDOP [the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack you get in Software Assurance]. If you're using XP mode, you have to train users not to go to these sites and hope they're not using the admin account to go to bad sites in IE6.

What do companies do about technologies used in web apps that you just can't migrate to IE8? What about Oracle Forms 6i and the Jinitiator plug-in?
Oracle has come out and said: "We are never making one that works; as long as Microsoft is making money from a new operating system, we'd like some money too." The long- term strategy is to upgrade because Oracle is never going to fix it. In the short term, you can look to virtualisation technologies to keep it running on a supported platform, but no one is going to run Oracle forms unsupported.

It's Oracle; it's SAP. These guys all have compatible versions, but getting to the latest version of Oracle is a 12 to 18-month project costing $3m (£1.95m) and [when I'm upgrading to Windows 7] I'm already in the middle of one 12 to 18-month $3m project — I don't need a second one.

Topics: Windows, Operating Systems

About

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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