Sunday, January 22, 2012

Love Internet Explorer 7? There's hope. Stuff it full of Chrome.

Chrome Frame brings the best of the modern web to older browsers.
Image Source:
Even though I moved on from Internet Explorer in the early 2000's, first to Firefox and now to Chrome, many of my colleagues and schools that I work with continue to use Internet Explore 7 (released in 2006) or Internet Explorer 8 (released in 2009). Seeing that it is now 2012 I would love to encourage that they all upgrade to a browser developed in this decade, but alas Internet Explorer 9 is only available on computers running Windows 7. In my building and in most of the schools that I support Windows XP still rules the day making this upgrade an impossibility. And while I could campaign for wider adoption of a modern browser that works on Windows XP, one that automatically installs updates and plays well with the modern internet (...ahem - CHROME!), it has been my experience that folks like what they like or in some case are not allowed to install or use "alternative" browsers. There are also instances where legacy software that schools run on dictates the use of older versions of Internet Explorer.

I could live with this browser based digital divide except for the fact that nearly everyone I work with and many of the schools I support have started using Google Docs. If you have ever opened Google Docs in an older version of IE then you have likely seen, and ignored, the little yellow warning stating that your browser does not fully support Google Docs. Ignoring this message generally results in parts of the web page not opening properly and features not working. In my experience, in spite of the warning, people don't realize that the problems they are experiencing is due to their browser, so they continue to hack at their computers until they cry out in frustration "I give up, Google Docs doesn't work". Believe me, I have seen this scenario more than I care to tell.

This problem led me recently to an open-source plug-in for Internet Explorer called Chrome Frame that essentially takes over whenever you browse to a website that was created using newer web technologies such as HTML5. The free download takes only seconds to load and does not require administrative rights to be installed. VoilĂ ! The modern web all wrapped up in a browser that is still in love with Brangelina and Donald Rumsfeld.

Now for the caveat.  I'm working with my IT department to test Chrome Frame a bit further before I extoll its virtues to the people who write my pay check. We want to check it against some of the legacy software we run and to run it in some test cases with users who don't freak out the moment a problem shows up. I'd suggest the you do the same before installing Chrome Frame. And if you need to uninstall here is how.

If you have any experience using Chrome Frame in your schools or at home I'd love to hear what issues you found or success stories if you have them.