Add-on Management Improvements in Internet Explorer 8

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Add-on Management Improvements in Internet Explorer 8

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One of our goals with Internet Explorer 8 was to improve the experience of managing add-ons by bringing more types of add-ons into the management experience, and to make that experience more usable. Originally introduced in Windows XP Service Pack 2, we’ve updated the management UI in a big way for IE8.

Here’s a screen shot of the new UI:

IE8 Add-ons User Interface

A familiar interface…

When you look at the Manage Add-ons UI, you’ll probably feel comfortable with it quickly – it looks a lot like a Windows File Explorer window or the Control Panel in Windows Vista. You choose a category of object types from the left to view that list on the right. Select any item in the list and the details pane at the bottom will display information about the selected add-on.

Most changes you make in Manage Add-ons take effect immediately, although some (like disabling a toolbar or explorer bar) might still require you to restart Internet Explorer.

… with lots of improvements over IE7

You can resize the window to fit your screen resolution and personal preference, and can choose custom columns, grouping, and sorting order. These preferences will be remembered the next time you open Manage Add-ons.

Additionally:

  • You can select multiple Add-ons from the list (CTRL+click or drag to multi-select)
  • The list supports right-click context menu actions
  • Details about add-ons can be copied to the Windows clipboard and into email, a document editor, or a spreadsheet so you can share the list with tech support (or friends or family) more easily

No updates are required to existing controls to show up in this list

Developers do not need to make changes to existing controls to continue to be managed in IE8. However, with the richer set of information and controls put in the hands of the user in IE8, control authors might wish to provide more detailed information with their controls. While the same set of information (such as publisher or version) is available in IE8 as was available in IE7, now it’s easier for users to view it. Add-ons without sufficient information (like an empty publisher name or version number) are often removed or disabled by users.

Add-on developers should read this article and this blog post about ActiveX best practices for more information on how to properly develop IE add-ons.

It’s easier to get information about installed add-ons and find new add-ons with IE8

More detailed information about installed add-ons is available at a glance with IE8. We’ve also added links to make it easy to accomplish common tasks:

  • Find more add-ons with a single click. Just click “Find more add-ons…”
  • Don’t know what an add-on does? Click “Search for this add-on via default search provider” and we’ll help you find information about it online via your current default search provider
  • Want to know more about add-ons in general? Click “Learn more about add-ons”
  • Clicking “More information” displays more detailed technical information about installed add-ons, including file names, versions, and other properties. You can even view or clear the list of websites that ActiveX controls are allowed to run on for per-site installed ActiveX controls
  • Right-click any add-on to get easy access to common actions (like enable or disable)

New types to manage

In Internet Explorer 8, the list of add-ons you can manage has been expanded to include Explorer Bars, Search Providers, and Activities.

Explorer Bars

Explorer Bars are an extensibility type like toolbars that are supported by previous versions of Internet Explorer and IE8, but not listed in Manage Add-ons prior to IE8. With IE8 they are available so you have more control over what’s running in your browser.

IE8 Explorer Bar

Search Providers

In IE7 we added support for OpenSearch Search Providers, but they had their own, separate management window. We’ve kept the functionality of the management experience for Search Providers in IE8, but moved it here. IE8 helps you to quickly see what Search Providers are installed, which is your default, and where it is sending information when you submit a search. Additionally, you can change the order that Search Providers are listed (IE7 always sorted them alphabetically).

Search Providers Within Manage Add-ons

Internet Explorer 8 continues to support the OpenSearch standard for Search Providers. You can read more about OpenSearch here.

Activities

Activities, which are new to IE8, are also managed from the Manage Add-ons window. Just like Search Providers, you can view, manage, and remove installed Activities, find new Activities, and learn more about Activities directly from this window.

Managing Add-ons in No Add-ons Mode

IE7 and IE8 support “No Add-ons Mode,” a troubleshooting mode. When you run IE this way, no 3rd party code runs, which allows you to do things like disable troublesome controls or repair Windows via Windows Update (which is why that control is allowed to run in this mode). You can start No Add-ons Mode in a few ways:

  • Type iexplore –extoff in the Run box on the Start menu
  • Click “Internet Explorer (No Add-ons)” under All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools
  • Right-clicking the IE icon on the Start Menu (if IE is your default browser) and selecting “Browse Without Add-Ons”

In IE7 you couldn’t run Manage Add-ons while in No Add-ons Mode, but in IE8, you can. In fact, if you click the information bar that appears when you’re running in No Add-ons Mode, it offers a quick and convenient access point to Manage Add-ons:

Managing Add-ons in No Add-ons Mode

Remember, No Add-ons Mode is designed for troubleshooting IE. It’s probably not the way you want to experience websites all the time, as a lot of important functionality is often provided via add-ons.

To exit No Add-ons Mode, simply close that browser window.

In Summary

We designed the Manage Add-ons interface to be more comprehensive in the types of objects it manages and the types of actions you can take. I’m interested in hearing any questions and feedback about this new management experience. Just leave a comment in the blog and I’ll read it!

Thanks!

Christopher Vaughan
Program Manager

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