Yet another new eXPerience

Jake Howlett, 22 January 2002

Category: Miscellaneous; Keywords: XP Scrollbar Button IE6

Any of you who have been coming here long enough probably know about my apparent love affair with Microsoft. Not the company but the products. Ok, so they have their faults but, most importantly, they work.

I am also a big Linux fan but can't see the day it will become the new Windows until they make it an awful lot easier to install/use.

The latest OS from the MS stable is of course XP. I had held off installing until now as I wanted to see what "eXPerience" others had. With nothing too bad reported (Lotus may not "support" R5 on XP but it works) I installed it yesterday. I love it.

One of the first things you see is of course the Start menu. At this point my initial thought was that they are starting to treat us like kids. After a while I was getting used to it though. Notice the Lotus Notes link at the top of the grab below. On a clean install this defaults to Outlook Express but, because I upgraded and had Notes as my default mail client, Microsoft was nice enough (quite out of character really) to add the Notes link instead.

I remember at university in 1995 I saw a fellow student with a sticker on his folder saying "Windows 95 = Mac 86". At the time I had no idea what this meant. Starting to get the jist of it now though...


What's this got to do with Domino? Well not much really; it's more to do with the subtle changes that have been made to the implementation of IE6 that XP ships with.


Some of the not-so-subtle changes are in the dialog boxes. Here's the old and boring login prompt.


And here is the new one. A definite improvement, I'm sure you'll agree.

Similarly with the JavaScript Confirm prompt:


Out with the old:


In with the new:

And now for something worth reading (maybe):

That's all very well but that has nothing to do with me as a Domino developer. Wait, the changes go further and actually alter the appearance of forms in the browser. An example:


And the same form in IE 5.0:


I like this new XP look. I never liked the old one much so I have always found myself using CSS like that below to try and improve the appearance (like on this site):

@media all{
input, textarea, select{
border-top : solid 1px #847D71;
border-right : solid 1px #CCCCCC;
border-left : solid 1px #847D71;
border-bottom : solid 1px #CCCCCC;
color : #666666;
font : normal 11px verdana;

The problem with this is that if you use this CSS on XP it will use it in preference over the new nicer look. This leaves us with the decision of what to do. Use CSS so it looks nice for non-XP users or leave out CSS for those using XP who like the new look?

A compromise:

The solution to the above quandry is of course to only use CSS when it's not XP. We can do this by adding a field called HTTP_User_Agent to all our forms. You can then parse its value to determine the type of browser. Here's the content of the CGI Variable for my browser:
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; Q312461)

In the HTML Head Contents for our form we can now add a formula like this:

"<link rel=\"stylesheet\" href=\"" + @If(@Contains(HTTP_User_Agent; "Windows NT 5.1"); "xp-y"; "xp-x" ) + ".css\">"

Is this a good idea?

Hmm, good question. Don't think I'll be going down this route. Where does it end? When the next Windows is released do we add more checks and more stylesheets? Better off to simply decide on one approach to all situations. Personally, I am yet to decide which one I will use.

Apologies to those who feel slightly disappointed in this article. Not my usual type of content I admit, but it's still something we need to know about. After all, forms are probably one of the most common applications of Domino in the browser.