Using a Web Application to Obtain Client-Specific Information


An Editor friend and some of my co-workers have taken
occasion to remind me that some people don’t like Internet
Explorer or don’t see why anyone would ever develop Web
applications just for Internet Explorer. Some of these same
smart people have expressed the opinion that they don’t like
ActiveX in Web applications much either. I respect their
opinions. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

I understand. I have read the Cathedral and the Bazaar by
Eric Raymond. I have even exchanged a couple of emails with
him. I understand that some people think open source
software and uniform standards is the way to go. However, I
think about these kinds of issues-open source versus
proprietary solutions and IE-only development versus multi-
browser platform development-differently, from my own

First, IE is the most popular browser and is the most
widely used. Second, I have actually worked on applications
that were Web-based intranet applications and the customer
requested IE only. The latest two applications had multi-
million dollar budgets. If you are targeting the World Wide
Web then IE only development may be short sighted. And, when
it comes to ActiveX I think of all available code and
solutions as possibilities. Most code has pluses and
minuses. My criteria for using something are really just a
matter of does it solve the issue expediently, efficiently,
and cost effectively and are the risks manageable. Other
than that I don’t care where the code comes from, which
language it is in, or what coding standard was applied.

This article is limited to IE web-based development and
just a few odds and bobs that let your JavaScript code
obtain some client/user specific information.

Enabling and Disabling Script Debugging in IE8

Visual Studio 2008 automatically enables script debugging
for Internet Explorer 8 sessions started from Visual Studio.
You know longer have to uncheck this option (Disable script
debugging (Internet Explorer)) in the IE Tools|Options in
the Advanced tab. In fact, regardless of the debugging
settings script debugging will be enabled for IE8 sessions
started from Visual Studio.

There exists a potential for performance problems
associated with script debugging always being on. For a
registry hack that disables script debugging refer to my
DevExpress blog entry here.

Enabling ActiveX in IE8

Internet Explorer security is established by zone. There
are five zones: Internet, Local Intranet, Trusted Sites,
Restricted Sites, and My Computer. The Internet zone is
represented by Web sites on your computer that haven’t been
assigned to another zone. The Local Intranet zone is
represented by network connections established using a UNC
path, Web sites that by-pass the proxy server, or sites that
have not been assigned to the Restricted or Trusted zone.
Also, if you use a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) or IP
address then the site is considered part of the Internet
zone. The Trusted Sites zone is for adding web sites that
you trust, like,,, and the
Restricted Sites zone is for web sites that you don’t trust.
My Computer is exactly what it sounds like.

If you want to enable ActiveX support for desktop
development then you want to adjust the Local Intranet zone.
If you add ActiveX controls to your public web site then
your users will need to adjust the Internet zone.

If you write some JavaScript that uses an ActiveX object
and your browser isn’t configured to permit ActiveX objects
then you will get an error dialog like the one shown in
Figure 1. To configure support for ActiveX controls on your
workstation or laptop, the machine you are developing on,
follow these steps (using Figure 2 as a guide):

  1. In Internet Explorer 8 select Tools|Options

  2. Change to the Security tab and click Local intranet in
    the zones section

  3. Click Custom level

  4. In the Security Settings dialog scroll to the ActiveX
    controls and plug-ins

  5. Change the “Initialize and script ActiveX controls not
    marked as safe for scripting” from Disable to Enable or
    Prompt. (If you want to remember that you have turned on
    ActiveX support then select Prompt)

  6. Click OK to close the Security Settings dialog

  7. Click OK to close the Internet options dialog

Click here for larger image

Figure 1: If you see this dialog then you need to enable
ActiveX objects for the Local Intranet zone.

Figure 2: To let ActiveX objects that you create in script
run on your workstation’s browser set “Initialize and script
ActiveX controls not marked as safe…” to Enable or Prompt.

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