Recent Changes to IE Content on MSDN

Do you read about Internet Explorer and related technologies on MSDN? We’ve recently reorganized the table of contents for the HTML/DHTML Overviews. We would like your feedback.

Hi! My name is Lance Leonard; I'm a Programmer/Writer on the Internet Explorer Developer Content team. I'm part of the team that’s responsible for the content on MSDN that relates to Internet Explorer, specifically HTML and CSS and Internet Explorer Development.

You may have noticed that we've added a lot of new content describing Internet Explorer 8 and how it impacts the way you develop your Web sites. I wanted to let you know that we're also working to improve the content we've previously published.

Case in point, we've recently reorganized the HTML/DHTML Overviews. Previously, we had nearly 100 articles collected in one location. It was hard to locate specific articles and even harder to understand how separate articles were related.

To clarify this, we've separated the overviews into sections that are similar to the lifecycle of a Web site.

  • The Creating Web Sites section contains articles related the basics of Web page construction.
  • Content Design and Presentation deals with issues involving layout, positioning, and CSS.
  • The Data Storage and Cookies section includes persistence and other data management concepts.
  • Integrating Sites and Services provides information related to Accelerators, AJAX, Open Search and others related topics.
  • Quick Reference Guides collects summary articles designed to help you find specific facts quickly.
  • Security Considerations outline the concepts and ideas to help protect Web sites from malicious behavior.
  • The Testing Web Sites section covers the Internet Explorer Developer Tools, the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit for deploying Internet Explorer, the Mark of the Web, and other information useful for troubleshooting rendering issues and markup problems.

In turn, each section contains relevant subsections. For example, Creating Web Sites contains subcategories related to DHTML Tutorials, Scripting Internet Explorer, Tables and Forms, and so on.

The basic idea is to group related articles together, so you can find the information you're looking for more quickly... even if you don't know precisely what you're looking for.

I'd like to know your thoughts about the new organization. Give it a spin, kick the tires, and let me know what you think.

Lance Leonard
Internet Explorer Developer Content

Comments (22)

  1. Student says:

    I don’t like it since there is no easy way to download parts of the MSDN Library. Also, navigating tables of contents is hard since there is no next and previous link at the top or bottom of each topic and not a keyboard shortcut for these common tasks of changing to the next and previous topic. You have to hunt your place in the table of contents continuously. I cannot even suggest changes or even update things that are wrong and usually sending feedback through the edit box at the top changes nothing, since I have sent feedback many times and errors are still there after years. Finally MSDN is so so boring to read. It is not like the rest of the web that offers tutorial-like guides. Go to Firefox’s extentions page. Tutorials, ready code to use, easy 5 pages overview, any student for example can follow. MSDN has all specifics even minor details. But if I want to write a simple something, MSDN has a long reading curve as it were. I have to read staff that I don’t care about. Where is the tutorial-like nature of things. At my university, nobody likes it.

  2. Mike says:

    Well at least it has been updated. Although I will probably only ever use it to find out why IE is behaving differently to every other browser on the market.

    Is it really necessary to waste so much space at the top for the search bar, languages etc, signing in etc. Changing language does very little as all the developer information is in English anyway.

    It seems microsoft just wants to constantly get me to sign in, search the web using their search etc. If I want hotmail I will go to that page.

    Why not just have a nice clear website for developers.  

  3. Glen Fingerholz says:

    Nice article. Learned about two things I didn’t know IE could do (saveSnapshot, The Internet Explorer cache is case-sensitive).

    You might consider providing the low-bandwidth version in a link. I find it’s faster and less visually distracting.


    The low bandwidth version is less annoying in that respect. I will warn you that once you visit a URL with (loband), all the other MSDN urls you visit will be in lo-band mode. You can opt back out with the "Switch off low bandwidth view" link in the top right corner.

  4. Richard says:

    I’d just like to see documentation of the IE8 command line options.

    Nowhere to be found…

  5. All that matters says:

    All that matters is that where IE deviates from the specs, it IS CLEARLY DOCUMENTED!!

    e.g. If viewing the Element.setAttribute(name, value) method… it better damn well explain that until version 8 of IE (running in Standards mode) that this implementation was HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY BROKEN!


  6. kh says:


    A major problem that I seemed to be overlooked in terms of windows and the performance are antivirus software. Antivirus software can slow down the PC and web experince very much.

    There is huge difference between antivirus programs and their impact on performance on Windows.

    See, for example in the free AVG antivirus and Eset antivirus 4.

    The free AVG antivirus, and others extremely slow down PC and Web browsing on older PC and are Netbook. While Eset antivirus 4 has almost no influence in practical use.  

    Microsoft has plans whith a free antivirus called Morro a continuation of OneCare.

    Therefore Microsoft should do a lot more work in marketing and telling people how much influence the antivirus on performance on PCs and webbrowsing.

    I really hope that Morro from microsoft become just as fast as Eset antivirus 4, whith small footprint as posible.

  7. kh says:

    A major problem that seemed to be overlooked in terms of windows and the performance, are antivirus software. Antivirus software can slow down the PC and web experince.

    There is a huge difference between antivirus programs and their impact on performance on Windows and webbrowsing.

    See, for example the free AVG antivirus and Eset antivirus 4.

    The free AVG antivirus, and others antivirus slow down PC and Web browsing on older PC and are Netbook extremely. While Eset antivirus 4 has almost no influence in perfomance in practical use.  

    Microsoft has plans whith a free antivirus called Morro a continuation of OneCare.

    Therefore Microsoft should do a lot more work in marketing and telling pc users how much influence the antivirus has on performance on PCs and webbrowsing.

    I really hope that Morro from Microsoft become just as fast as Eset antivirus 4, whith just as small footprint.

  8. @Lance Leonard [MSFT]

    Every single webpage of documentation at MSDN

    – has many validation markup errors, even webpages claiming, boasting that IE 8 is now CSS 2.1 compliant, complies better with web standards, etc.

    – has many code examples which make use of invalid elements or attributes which would fail markup validation and/or CSS validation

    – would have more validation markup errors if the doctype declaration was declaring a strict DTD

    – have code examples which are clearly and utterly outdated, which promote bad or not-recommendable coding practices in all sorts of ways (regarding accessibility, validity, usability, compliance, forward-compatibility, cross-browser, code maintainability, etc). In many cases, this was done years ago, was part of the browsers war era and it was deliberate from Microsoft (document.all, code to access form elements, id-ed elements, etc) MSDN webpages are the promoting backward-compatibility, breaking the web, living in the past.

    – have code examples which rely on proprietary attributes and methods: ie document.all, id-ed elements in global namespace, etc.

    E.g.: 4 significant coding errors in 2 instructions taken from one MSDN webpage:


    For example, the assignments below are the same—they both set the font size to 72 pixels. = "72"; = 72;

    taken from



    – have very rarely links to outside documentation about HTML, CSS, javascript, DOM, etc.

    – have a DHTML drop-down list for changing the language and country. So it works with javascript support enabled and will rely and use user system resources, just to change language. How often within a month would a normal, average person need to change language and country? (Lance Leonard, how many languages do you speak, understand, read and write?) Besides, if the content is not translated ("We were unable to locate this content in"), why do you need to provide such feature? MSDN should just provide a select which could work without javascript support.

    MSDN webpages now do the same with about *_anything_* (ie providing feedback) without any kind of analysis of a benefits vs drawbacks analysis or usability study. Those DHTML drop-down, popups interfere (hog CPU, require RAM, fast video card, etc) more than they actually help the users, at least users with modest user system resources. This annoying DHTML effect has been expanded to other Microsoft webpages: IE beta feedback for instance. Lots of people have been complaining about it during a whole year and it’s still there.

    Same thing with annoying me everywhere and all the time about downloading and installing Silverlight. How often do I have to tell your MSDN/Microsoft webpages that I do not want to download Silverlight??

    – have no useful, relevant, helpful info on compatibility (browser version) otherwise such info is highly suspect or plain wrong or misleading. You see, we know and you know very well that each and all of your CSS properties had bugs, many bugs before IE 8 was released. Ordinary web developers who may visit MSDN reference just do not know how bad your support was.

    – promote and over-use inline style, "Get IE 7" promotion buttons, utterly misunderstand some elements (label), lack good interactive examples, etc.

    To me, MSDN documentation webpages is like a desert in the middle of an island, where all kinds of things are happening, almost disconnected from reality, at least today’s reality, where there is no communication with the outside world.

    Gérard Talbot

  9. @Lance Leonard [MSFT]

    Every single webpage of documentation at MSDN

    – that cover or explain the label element mis-explain it or misunderstand it: there is an implicit form of label and there is an explicit form of associating a label to its form control. There is no such thing as intrinsic controls, at least in HTML 4.01 specification. So why introduce a concept that is not defined anywhere? Why not use the concept which is already well defined and explained in HTML 4.01 specification, and this, since 1999?

    – that uses a form element in fact misuses the form element. Whenever a form element is defined, there must be an action attribute specification. A form element is there to submit data to a server, otherwise your code misuses form elements .. and that happens very often in MSDN webpages, examples, code snippets.

    – that uses a button element in fact miscodes the button element. The default type of the button element is submit. So, creating a command button, a push button to execute a script of some sort without explicitly specifying the attribute type="button" is a markup compliance mistake. And MSDN webpages do this everywhere. Even the Windows Internet Explorer Testing Center ( ietestcenter/frame_holder.htm )

    does this and we’ve explained that this was a markup compliance error.

    – uses a too small font size for a large majority of people in my opinion.

    Top 10 Reasons Why Big Type Is Good Business

    Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005: 1. Legibility Problems

    "For this year’s list of worst design mistakes, (…) I asked readers of my newsletter to nominate the usability problems they found the most irritating. (…) About two-thirds of the voters complained about small font sizes or frozen font sizes;"

    "Most sites I’ve been to that purport to understand and/or evangelize accessibility themselves make their main content 80% or less of the visitor’s default. You cannot be making people struggle to read reduced size or low contrast text and call it accessible. Quite simply, to be legible, text needs enough contrast, and enough size. "

    The fact that font size is widespread accessibility issue on MSDN does not surprise me; F. Miata lists Microsoft in his Hall of shame webpage. None of the accessibility advocates on font-size (Felix Miata, Lighthouse,, Chris Beal) is echoed in any way/shape/manner in any of the MSDN webpages. MSDN contributes to and promotes unconsciously, unintentionally the inaccessible web we have today.

    Gérard Talbot

  10. Ralph says:

    Gerard makes many, many good points.  As the "central" source for info for developers looking to see what IE supports it should be VERY accurate, standards compliant, and be VERY forthcoming with IE’s lack of standards compliance in the past.  Do not make developers hunt for the details about where and how and under what conditions IE breaks the rules or does not support things.

  11. It will save web developers a lot of headache if IE8 can fix the bugs IE7 has in rendering websites. Developers are forced to make a fix in their CSS files specifically for IE7. Microsoft needs to follow the standard format that other popular Gecko-based browsers use.

  12. Hugh says:

    I am not a developer. I am a browser and e-mail user. IE-8 takes much longer to load; I don’t need that.

  13. Will Peavy says:

    @Quality Directory – The version of Trident used in IE8 standards mode appears to be more CSS 2.1 compliant than Gecko 1.9.

  14. MSDN has always been bloated and slow IMO. I only visit it to trouble-shoot WIE’s esoteric problems or find alternatives to its lack of support for major parts of the W3C DOM. In particular, that tree menu is ugly, has scrollbars, and it’s really slow to respond on my computer. When I search MSDN, I never use that thing; instead, I perform a new Google search for everything I want from MSDN.

    Looking at the page in low-bandwidth mode, MSDN is clean, but the design and readability is awful… You could do better than that after taking an entry-level design class.

    As for your table of contents, it still looks incoherent. It would probably be better to start from scratch and organize that; all I see is a huge expanse of text and nothing sticks out. You also need to free up some more screen space; the header and menu areas take up a third of the screen real-estate, if not more (I have my font sizes forced to 18px in Firefox for readability) for stuff that’s either useless or could be reorganized so that it takes up less space.

  15. angela_aberdeen says:

    The more HTML and CSS compliant IE becomes, the better. I’m interested to see the browser grow and get back the lost followers.

  16. billybob says:

    You might have updated the menu, but the content is from some dark and distant past…

    "Handling form submissions requires knowledge of a programming language such as Perl, C++, or server-side scripting and Active Server Pages (ASP)."


    Why not delete all of the docs that you have and start again?  Preferably without the awful MSDN shell.

  17. richard says:

    Not exactly on topic, but: are the IE app compat images going to be updated? They apparently expire on the 30th of April.

  18. lenen lening says:

    Well lets just say its al little improvement, Gr Lenen

  19. Oliver says:

    As Richard pointed out above. The "Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Images" all expired today. So far there is no sign of new images.

    I have to test my web-app in ie6, 7, and 8. Please please please upload new images. My income suffers when people sign up for my app and leave right away because they are using IE8 and there are unresolved oddities with that browser that cause parts of my web-app to vanish.

    I need to be able to test and fix my JS/CSS for IE8. For that I need an IE8 image (and ie7 and ie6). Thank-you.

  20. ieblog says:

    @Oliver: The latest VPC images are always located here: //

    The content team assures me that the new images are currently publishing.

  21. jiangsheng says:

    And what about developer documentation?


    Note  This interface is available as of Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 and is subject to change.

    And we have KB articles like this

    WebApp.exe Enables User to Move WebBrowser Ctrl

    Move a WebBrowser Control? Nowhere near what the article is for.

    And why the IE team broke their own compiler? Or Visual C++ wizards are broken because they use the web browser control to begin with? Is there any other web browser control feature need to op-out to maintain a behavior consistent with IE7?

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