New kids on the block

Microsoft’s recommendation for web developers who need to test their sites against IE8 is to not use “user-agent” string detection, but rather to test for metatags or the http header information. Another nice feature of IE8 is client-side debugging, which is built in a way similar to Google’s Chrome: this can be of great help to developers, but it won’t win many smiles from ordinary users.

New kids on the block

One of the ongoing arguments about Ajax web applications is the proper behaviour of the browser’s Back button and what it should do. Should it take the user back to the previous stage of the application or to the web page before the application’s launch page? A developer has to make this decision often, and IE8 supports an extra trick to help – window.location.hash enables previous URLs to be loaded, so that the browser’s Back button will behave as required in an Ajax application. Another feature, which at first looks equally useful to developers, is that IE8 is able to inform your web application if it loses the network connection: however, the fact is that so long as your PC can see your router it will think it still has an internet connection, which makes this feature about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

I’ll wait until IE8 is out of beta before I try to break it in earnest. The reason for these beta versions is to allow developers to test their code before the final version of the new browser is released, so make sure your website is able to handle these two new browsers, which are destined to become as popular as the current leaders.

ReMix UK 08

If, like me, you use Visual Studio a lot, you might be interested in Sara Ford’s Weblog “Tip of the Day” at Sara gave a very interesting presentation at ReMix UK 08 on these tips, and I came away with many useful tricks and time-savers, and now have her RSS feed logged into my reader.

Also at ReMix UK 08, the keynote presentations were by Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in the Microsoft Developer Division at Microsoft US, and Bill Buxton, a noted industrial designer who’s been employed as a senior researcher at Microsoft since December 2005.

I hadn’t heard Bill Buxton speak before and, as a jaded journalist, I wasn’t expecting what turned out to be a truly inspirational talk on the very important place designers should have in the software industry. The idea that “everyone is a designer” is to him like saying “everyone is a mathematician” just because we can all count our loose change.

Buxton is considered an authority on industrial design, and as regards his work at Microsoft he told me that he’s never worked with a company that has made his job so easy. It seems that Microsoft is getting very serious about the role of the designer in the next generation of applications.

Take a look at Bill’s keynote speech at, and next time you’re involved in a project perhaps you may heed his words: “Don’t try putting lipstick on the proverbial pig …Don’t copy, innovate!” I found his views truly a breath of fresh air, and if what he says is going to happen does happen then we’re in for some interesting times from Microsoft.

Clasping the ASP

In my last column, I moaned about the lack of IntelliSense support for classic ASP in Visual Studio, but no sooner had my deadline passed than Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1 appeared and restored ASP IntelliSense, as well as improving CSS IntelliSense.

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