David Millington

Microsofts update to Active Content in IE


I was going to post this a while ago but I thought I would give it some time to see if a decent solutions was released by Microsoft or Adobe/Macromedia. Recently Microsoft released an update for Internet Explorer which disables active content until the user directly interacts with it. This covers a range of areas although the only one to affect me so far is Flash based content. As far as I know the update isnt in their "high risk" zone so on the most part it will only be applied by people who perform a manual Windows Update and select everything.

So what does it do that's so irratating?
When you view a html page with a shockwave file embedded you can see it animate but you cannot interact with it. If you mouse over it you will see a border appear and a message stating that you must "Click to activate and use this control". So it sounds as simple as that but in reality it can leave your pages looking like crap. Say you have 5 flash objects in the left column, 3 in the center one and 2 in the header. Their all there purely for visual looks and are not supposed to be interactive. As you scroll the window they will appear corrupted. The corruption manifests itself in numerous ways. Sometimes it will just appear that the flash object has not kept up with the scrolling and appears above or below itself so in actual fact chunks of it get cut-off from the display. Other times it will appear to overlap itself. The worst part about this is that it happens each and every time you view the page.

For interactive applications where the keyboard is used it means alot of messages have to be changed. Before users had to click onto the flash object to give it keyboard focus so it was common to see messages such as "Click on flash file to enable typing", however now users will have to click twice, one to activate the control and once to give it keyboard focus. "So thats no big deal.." well for many computer defitiant people it may well be a big deal as they will be left scratching their heads. Another downside for interactive applications is that its a pain in the ass to have to keep re-activating the same control over and over each time you want to use it. Thats got to be my biggest gripe with this new system.

So what's being done about it?
Microsoft have posted this page with the update in question if you want to manually download it.

Adobe/Macromedia have posted this one which they vow to keep updated with their latest workarounds to the patch. Towards the bottom of the page they maintain links back to Microsoft where they show their recommended workaround. To sum that one up its simply to use Microsoft JScript to document.write the html for your content. Thats a pretty crappy solution in my eyes so I'm going to keep waiting for an updated Flash player. If you read through the Microsoft docs you will see that they push the work onto the plugin developers by saying that they will have to provide better solutions themselves which in this case means Adobe/Macromedia.

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