We all hate Internet Explorer 6.0 as a web browser because it is slow and clunky and unfriendly. Unfortunately, most of the world uses Internet Explorer because it is bundled for free with Windows and so we, as content providers, must deal with that horrible fact of how we are experienced throughout the world. 


Over 77 percent of the people who read this blog use Internet Explorer.
I currently use Firefox 1.5 and it is a fine browser with lots of ways to enhance its bare-bones features.
I recently upgraded to a ThinkPad T43p and for the past week or so I’ve been living a schizophrenic experience with Internet Explorer 6.0 and Firefox 1.5.
Images in Firefox look beautiful and in Internet Explorer they look chalky and dithered and incredibly ugly!
My laptop color depth is set to 32-bit High Color and my gamma correction is just fine.

I never use Internet Explorer for anything, so when I fired up my old Toshiba Qosmio
and saw the same schizophrenic quality of images where Firefox was
rendering everything beautifully and Internet Explorer was rendering
the images like something from Mosaic on SpryNet in 1987 — I knew
something unwelcome was up.
I did some web sleuthing and discovered Internet Explorer, by default,
plays around with your web images and the end result is not pretty!

If
you are using Internet Explorer and the images you view do not look
good to your eye, or if they appear more awful compared to the same
page viewed in Firefox, here’s the fix:
Choose TOOLS from your menu bar.
Pick INTERNET OPTIONS.
Click on the ADVANCED tab.
Scroll down and find the section that deals with MULTIMEDIA.

UNcheck the default ENABLE AUTOMATIC IMAGE RESIZING.
Click OK and reload a page with images.
You should get immediate image improvement 95 percent of the time over
what you were seeing before. You can use my pre-existing House of Wax Review
to compare the difference between the settings. With the default
Internet Explorer setting enabled the large images in the review look
terrible.

Turn off the default setting and the images immediately
improve. That review has high quality images that need no resizing by
Internet Explorer. The images in that review look just dandy in a
default Firefox 1.5 installation without any messing around with Images
settings.
If the images in that review still look chalky to you in Internet
Explorer 6.0 after this setting correction then you are likely in the 5
percent who have a gamma problem with your monitor and video card and a
program like Adobe PhotoShop can help you resolve that issue on your
machine.

Are there any other fixes we should all be making in our default
Internet Explorer 6.0 setup? If so, what are they and how do we
implement them? If you would like to just contribute confirmation of
your shared hatred of Internet Explorer, we welcome that, too.

44 Comments

  1. I use both Firefox 1.5 and IE 6.0. At work, I can’t download and install anything, so I’m stuck with IE, unless I can convince a tech to authorize installation on my computer.
    At home, I love having 5 or 6 tabs open when I’m surfing, so I always use Firefox. It’s so much nicer than having all of the open windows.
    It’s probably smarter to use Firefox also, since many threats seem to be directed at MS products. Just the other day, I downloaded patches for my home computer to fix some sort of security issue Microsoft was having.
    While you are thinking Firefox, don’t forget their email reader, Thunderbird, as well. It just had an update recently and looks and runs nice. Plus, it isn’t a MS product, so there probably aren’t as many internet threats being directed at it.

  2. Hi Chris —
    Does work let you manipulate the Options for IE or are you completely stuck with a locked-in default install?
    It is interesting so many IT departments require IE when it is so vulnerable. I realize Firefox has had security issues in the past as well but they usually get fixed pretty fast.
    I agree Firefox Tabs are wonderful! IE will have tabs in the next version. I tried out a tabbed browsing add-in for IE from MSFT and I found it to be less than effective.
    I am an Outlook 2003 creature by habit but not want. How does Thunderbird compare to Outlook? In what ways is it superior?

  3. Many of the redering issues with Internet Explorer relate to its poor or non-existent support of Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) features. A quick Google for IE and CSS will reveal a panoply of CSS hacks that web desiginers implement to coerce IE into displaying their sites correctly. IE compounds the problem by having a number of different modes that it interprets style sheet (the actual CSS code that defines the graphical layout of a site) code. Knowing the ins and outs of these modes and coercing IE to display everything correctly can be quite a challenge. I spent nearly a week trying to get IE to display my site reasonably though not perfectly, while Firefox displays it superbly. Why Microsoft has been so slow to support web standards, nobody knows? I avoid using it whenever possible. They claim to be working on this problem for Windows Vista.
    For those who can’t install/download software at work on other computers they might use, but can use USB flash drives freely, there is this
    an option.
    Some other important features of Firefox:
    1)
    Extensions
    : integrate a multitude of additional functionalities directly into your browser in a seamless fashion.
    2) Excellent pop-up control/management
    3) Live Bookmarks: RSS feed headlines styled as a bookmark, this allows you to check for updates to your favorite blogs like Urban Semiotic
    4)Firefox integrates well with many of the emerging Web 2.0 tools like Del.icio.us
    Anything else?

  4. I’ve only had the Thunderbird download for a couple of days, so I’ll have to report back later on since I haven’t used it much. It looks a lot like Outlook, but is free, which is a bonus. I usually just use Yahoo’s webmail and have it set to collect all of my email from various places.
    I can change settings for IE at work and my it displays photos well.
    I doubt the tech people would switch to Firefox. I think they want to have everything be uniform, so they won’t allow other types of browsers –or at least at the last time that I asked. They might be thinking that if one person has it, then everyone will want it and they’ll have to install it on everyone’s machine.
    I did notice that one of my bosses brings his own laptop from home to use in addition to the computer provided at work. That is probably the easiest solution.

  5. Jonathan —
    I know the WordPress community is upset that what looks great in Firefox looks awful and broken in IE. To fix it in IE is to make the Firefox version ugly. That’s not a good way to win friends in the design and development communities!
    Thanks for the link to running Firefox from a thumbdrive! Excellent!
    You forgot AdBlock and its G Filter extensions for Firefox!
    I also use these Firefox extentions: IE Tab, Fasterfox, Web Developer, Noscript, Colorful Tabs and Tabbrowser Preferences.
    I also like the Walnut theme for my theme!

  6. Hi Chris —
    Right! I remember you like Yahoo! mail. Are you in the new Mail Beta for Yahoo! yet?
    I’m glad IE is behaving for you at work.
    I agree IT departments like bland and identical. It makes their job easier but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people who use the technology can work better.
    I think using a personal laptop for both work and play is the best way to get what you need but not what you want.
    😉

  7. I was upgraded to the Yahoo Mail Beta whenever it first came out. I pay for the service, so I’m happy they upgraded me right away.
    I’m still getting used to the service.
    It’s a lot like Outlook, from what I can tell. I turned off the mail preview window pane — if I want to read the message, I’ll click on it. I do enjoy the tab feature in Yahoo mail: it makes working with multiple folders quick and easy.

  8. Chris —
    I pay for Yahoo! Mail as well and they made me wait to get into that new Yahoo! Mail Beta preview!
    It is slick but they still have a password corruption problem and I still can’t get certain email accounts to work with the beta service. They are unresponsive to my feedback.

  9. That’s not good when they don’t respond to feedback. Customer service seems to be lacking in many places these days, especially with online services.
    I haven’t had a problem with my non-Yahoo email accounts working with Mail Beta. As a precaution, I do manually check my other mail accounts every so often to make sure nothing was missed.
    I’ll keep my fingers crossed because I’ll probably change my passwords soon and from what you advise, that is when the problems occur. I won’t be very happy if I can’t send email using my own domain names using Mail Beta.

  10. David-
    Thanks for the additions, I didnt have time this morning to compile a list of my favorite extensions. You mentioned most of the same ones I use ;)! Another extension that opens up a whole slew of scripts to modify webapps (Gmail for instance) is GreaseMonkey. Creative coders around the world strive to make our web experience more friendly and accessible, for that I am thankful.

  11. Chris —
    I agree being in touch with an end user in crisis is important for a company’s long term well-being.
    I am glad to hear your non-Yahoo email accounts are fine. My problem happened when I tried to set up an external account and the Yahoo! verification code sent to confirm I actually owned the mail account was not recognized by Yahoo!: They generated the code but they could not recognize it. Harumph Around and around we went and go and there’s no solution in sight. This is 100% their problem.
    Don’t change passwords! You’ll risk gaining misery!

  12. Just a quick message for Chris : I do not believe that Firefox requires admin privilege to install. I’ve installed it around our offices and I don’t have any admin rights on any machines.
    Unless of course you don’t even have write access to “My Documents” or something…
    David, you make a good point about IE being generally crap with images. However I have automatic image resizing checked and your House of Wax post looks fine…
    -Fruey (user of Firefox since back when it was called Phoenix).

  13. fruey —
    In America many companies — especially law offices, universities and hospitals — only provide bare-bones network boxes for end users now and all the programs are run from a main secure server offsite.
    Security is a big thing now and many companies are overreacting. End users “take what they get” and that means you are not allowed to install or change any program. You can write and save to your reserved space on the server for email and documents but that’s it. You don’t have any program control.
    Many universities are so paranoid about security now that you cannot FTP to their site for any reason unless you’re on their IP address and that rules out remote networking or even a VPN connection. They want you on campus if you’re connecting in that manner because it means you are secured in a campus-owned building and you can be traced and locked down and logged if you cause any trouble. It’s a real hassle for website designers and others who contract out university work.
    The medical schools and hospitals have even tighter security restrictions with HIPAA now the law of the day but HIPAA is a good kind of hardcore protection that was severely needed:
    http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/
    What kind of monitor are you using? Tube or TFT or Plasma or…

  14. David
    I can see that corporate networks have now been totally locked down in some places in the US. It will happen to me soon I suppose, since my company has been taken over by a US group.
    As for my monitor, I’m variously using an LG LCD 1600×1200@32bpp or a regular Viewsonic CRT @ 1152×864@32bpp.
    -Fruey

  15. fruey —
    Yes, the lockdown is coming!
    Good luck trying to have any kind of enjoyment or inspiration under the new “security rules us and not common sense” where all things “networky” are padlocked and hardened within millimeters of getting anything productive done and it’s being done only because it can be done not because it has any application in threats in the real world.
    Thanks for the news on your monitor setup! I thought maybe we were reliving this hunk o’ fun:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/11/14/optical-illusion/

  16. David-
    The networking lockdown at universities is troubling and would seem rather detrimental to the spirit and purpose of academia. I have not experienced this at UC Berkeley, where I was a student and now work. However, network restructions may apply to non-research facilities within the university. Academic labs own their own computers and are free to adminisrate their own LANs. The University only controls IP address allocation. Information and the free-exchange of it is the lifeblood of academic research. In science, there is a ongoing movement for increased access to journals with PLOS leading the movement for publicly viewable, open-access journals.

  17. Hi Jonathan —
    I think your situation is unique. Are you able to install any program you wish on a university owned computer?
    UCDavis uses slim network boxes with programs residing on remote servers.
    Rutgers generally allows you to install what you wish as long as no one knows about it and if you are caught there are ramifications. Once all the computers are brought together under a single administrative overseer there will be no opportunity to install what you wish.
    Rutgers Law is completely locked down. You get a slimline “node” with Lotus Notes, the Office Suite and Netscape and that’s it. You may not install anything. You really only have a monitor and a keyboard and a mouse. That’s it.
    UMDNJ, because of HIPPA concerns, is completely locked down and insecure boxes are not allowed on the network and an insecure box is one that university computing has not installed and cleared. You just can’t “plug in” to the network without hoop-jumping and lots of signing-offs…
    NJIT, mainly because of consistent virus attacks, does not allow any individual installations on official university computers unless you have Admin privileges and that right is tersely restricted. You can get VPN access if you are a faculty member but you are restricted in time and activity (no SMTP access whatsoever) and every action you take is logged.
    Hospitals and law offices are also clamping down because of phishing schemes and other nasty evildoers who see all that computing power and raw bandwidth and want to either exploit it or bring it down.

  18. David-
    Interesting. There are thin clients in the libraries that are locked down. There are also general use student computers that are fairly restricted, though a wide variety of software is installed on them so the restrictions aren’t usually much of a problem. People who work on the business/administrative end of the university likely experience heavy restrictions.
    Any computer in a academic lab is completely under control of the lab. We can install whatever we want. There are security guidelines, however there are no university sysadmins that oversee how labs run their computers. Teaching computers are primarily Unix/Linux workstations that can by SSH’d or SFTP’d into even when outside of the University Domain. Not all computers have externally valid IP addresses, though they are reachable through gateways. Most labs have either a Linux or OS X system, both of which SSH’d into.

  19. Heya Jonathan —
    Fascinating!
    I know SSH is forbidden at NJIT, NYU and Rutgers — consider yourself lucky!
    You have a great setup. Let’s hope your future PhD program will allow you install and use what you wish on their computers.

  20. Hi David,
    I recently upgraded from Firefix 1.0.7 to Firefox 1.5 and to my horror find that buttons and images on Yahoo mail do not display! What do I do, short of right-clicking and “show image” on each image? Help!

  21. Hi Kall —
    I don’t have any problem using Yahoo mail with Firefox 1.5. Are you using any AdBlock or image blocking programs? If so, you might need Whitelist Yahoo mail.
    I just updated Firefox to 1.5.0.1 — see if that update solves your problems.

  22. A little late, and a little off-topic, but I’ve had a chance to test drive IE 7, and it’s pretty darn cool. On the other hand, I used Firefox for a while, and to be honest, I really didn’t like it all that well. I am the only person on the planet who doesn’t like tabbed browsing…

  23. Yes, unfortunately tabbed is the new black, and tabbed is IE7. I don’t know why I don’t like it. It’s a purely personal thing. I guess I’m just not cool and hip enough. Sigh. 🙂

  24. It’s really not coyness at all — just something that I can’t explain to anyone’s satisfaction. Least of all my own. After all, I’m one of those multiple windows open at the same time people, so you wouldn think I would love tabbed browsing. And yet I don’t. Go figure.

  25. This topic leaves me like “…”. Images in IE look the same than in any other browser. There is nothing to “fix” and there is no error or lack of any program. It is simply that huge images get resized to the size of the window so you can see them completely. This shouldn’t be a problem if your computer’s resolution is set to 1280×800 for widescreen, or 1280×1024 for normal monitors or above. There is nothing to fix at all. You just point at the image and click on the button to resize it to its full size, simple as that. And if you save the image to your computer, it will look at its maximum size. I personally dont see any color difference or quality difference between IE6 and Firefox. I am testing IE7 on XP and I tested it on Windows Vista 5308, and it is a lot better than Firefox. Get the Beta, you need a legitimate Windows though: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.mspx
    By the way, with my connection speed, images and many other filetypes load faster in IE. The only thing that makes Firefox seem faster is because it is more responsive and things such as windows and tabs pop up on the screen instantly, however, images dont download as fast.

  26. Okay guys, just one thing. Stop using hacks for IE. When it’s ugly in IE (but still working when it is not too much trouble), leave it that way so users of your sites can see the difference between browsers. Place a note on your website that it will looking better in other browsers like firefox, chrome or safari so they cannot blame you. Let your users know there are alternatives (not only the blue e that is associated with internet). Users must see the difference, don’t use hacks to get the same look, that’s stupid and that’s the fault. They don’t see your pain to get it compatible with this horrible piece of shit. Don’t use images when you can do it with CSS, that’s the difference between browsers.

    Developers can break IE if they want but every developer on the planet must do this. When we do it all together and the user of the website can see the difference, there is an reason to switch. When user cannot see the difference there is no reason for them to switch!

    Stop IE hacks and inform your clients about alternatives, it’s free and not bad,almost it’s better. When every developer do this it can change the world of browsing. Site visitors must not blame you about the looks, the must blame Microsoft but they have to be informed that there are alternatives to use and that is really better and matters.

    Stop IE Hacks now!