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Archive: 17 October 2005

IE7 and IE7

As noted on the WaSP site, the IE team is asking developers to clean up their CSS hacks because they’re causing sites to break in IE7 builds.

I have to admit that this call elicited an arid little chuckle from me, because it’s a case of chickens coming home to more than one roost.  There’s the fact that bugs in older versions of IE led us to use hacks, and so they’re making life harder for the IE team.  And then there’s the fact that the use of hacks is an inherently risky and fragile process, so the release of IE7 will make life harder for those who used them.  No smug self-superiority should be read into that second point, by the way: I quite firmly include myself in that crowd.

So—now what?  Personally, I’m not going to make a move until an IE7 beta with new CSS behavior is released.  Why change hacks just to have to hack more?  Put another way, if the ground is going to start shifting, there isn’t much sense in trying to guess how.  Wait until it does, and then adjust your footing.

Still, it might pay to consider ways to cope once the ground shifts.  This leads to something I’ve been pondering for a bit, and now’s a good time to bring it up.  When IE7 (the browser) comes out, it will make IE7 (the script) even more useful than it is now.

Here’s why: all the stuff that IE7 (the script) does, IE7 (the browser) is supposed to do as well.  That is to say, the script can bring IE6 up to par with IE7 the day IE7 is released.  See where I’m headed with this?  Instead of being chained to the fat tail of IE6 installs while being unable to use parser hacks in IE7, we can clear away the hacks and have IE6 and IE7 act basically the same.

They will of course not act exactly the same, and yes, there are drawbacks.  IE6 users will have to download the extra script, and those with JavaScript disabled will have problems.  Not every site will be able to accept those costs—but I’d wager the vast majority will.

In the main, it will be a lot less painful to clear out the hacks with IE7 (the script) available than without it.  A lot.

Oh, and before people start exhorting the use of conditional comments instead, it’s still too soon to know how good an idea that might be.  Doubtless they’ll come into play, but exactly how is completely unpredictable until we know what IE7 actually does.  Perhaps we’ll start using conditionals around the call to IE7 (the script).  Perhaps not.  Time will tell.

As I said before, it’s too soon to know which hacks to clear away or how to rework our code, but thanks to Dean Edwards’ efforts, I’m feeling a distinct lack of stress over the impending shifts.

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