MS Web Accessories for IE5

This page is rather out of date, as it relates to add-ons for IE version 5 only.
But I still find it an interesting principle.

In one of those curious co-incidences that happen on Usenet, I was rabbitting on when someone mentioned a package of goodies that was available at the MSIE web site. Having not heard about these before, I went hunting, and was pleasantly surprised to discover a page - later moved to Web Accessories for Internet Explorer 5.

Having first had a good grumble about MS's unwavering belief that my carefully selected comfortably-readable text size must be too large so they need to reduce it, I applied my own compensation to get it back again, and was then able to read about what they were offering (do you suppose that web page designers will ever be willing to trust their readers' judgment about what text size they find comfortable to read? - but I digress...).

Anyhow, I was then able to read their description of add-ons which provide a number of browser features that come as standard in certain other browsers, as well as several less-usual conveniences.

I'm still missing anything like an "Overview mode", however, in spite of the fact a function of this kind is available in MS Word (in current versions it's called a "Document Map"). Why does one find such a convenient (and I thought "obvious") feature in only a few minority browsers?.

I downloaded the package and installed it, and I'm generally pleased with the results. Even better, thanks to advice from Jim Ley on a UK usenet group, I located the source code of the Jscript that does the work for these tools - it's in files called Web\*.htm below the Windows installation directory (in my case that was C:\WinNT\Web\*.htm). So the code can be inspected, and edited to taste (I'm not so sure how to conveniently debug any errors introduced into the JScript in this context, however).

Links List

The Links List, from a reader's point of view, can be a handy tool when applied to a well-designed web page, to get a summary of the links available in the page. From an author's point of view it can also serve as a salutary caution against the dreaded "Click here" disease, and related misuses of link text.

However, as Jim pointed out, it fails to do anything useful with the alt attribute when an img is used as a link: instead it merely displays the URL of the anchor's destination in the links list. We've exchanged some mail on this topic, and discussed enhancements of this script as well as some other possible accessories along similar lines.

I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that in short order, I got rid of the explicit pt sizing for the text in this window, as well as various other presentational ballast in the generated HTML. But leaving aside those niggles, it's a useful facility.

Supplementary idea - link rel/rev

Jim suggested that this would also be a useful way to implement support for the link rel/rev tags, something which is missing from all of the mass-market browsers, although it's been in HTML since at least HTML2.0/RFC1866 and support for it has shown up sporadically in minority browsers throughout the life of HTML (it would even have been in NCSA WinMosaic 3, if that hadn't been abandoned before it reached a release version). I hacked something together on the basis of what Jim had suggested, as a proof of concept, although I'm afraid it never got polished to the point where it would be fit to distribute. And I gather that IE5WA itself does not easily migrate to later IE versions (6.*). Jim has an alternative, more-portable, approach based on an ActiveX object, but I haven't got involved in that (one rather doubts that the average IE user would be too keen on installing third-party ActiveX objects, but I could be wrong...).

[Postscript:] Mozilla (version 1.2 for example) includes support for link rel/rev, although it comes switched off by default. Use the menu View -> Show/Hide -> Site Navigation Bar to enable it.


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