Working with Internet Explorer

Building HTA desktop apps with Internet Explorer is a real treat for a web developer. You get to work with desktop features such as native drag and drop, system icons, reading and writing files, encrypted SQL server embedded databases, and chrome-less, non-rectangular windows (even with HTML!). You also have access to all of the features of Windows, the most popular operating system in the world, like audio and video, sound transforms, uploads and downloads, byte arrays, cryptography, and loads more. Best of all, you get to have a single target environment, in Internet Explorer — JavaScript expressions in CSS, VML and HTML+TIME, and no compatibility issues with other browsers. It’ll also work out of the box on nearly 90% of the computers in the world without installing anything else — no “runtimes”, no “installers”, no extra code required. Just do it. Does this sound like a stupid thing to say? Then it sounds just as stupid when people say it about Adobe AIR. Of course it’s easier to develop HTML apps when you have only one target environment. The problem is that that environment is still controlled by one company. Those of you about to say “but, but, but, AIR is cross-platform! fight the evil that is Windows!”, feel free to replace “Internet Explorer” and “HTA” above with “Firefox” and “xulrunner” or “Prism”. Update: it has been correctly pointed out to me that this post was a bit harsh. I had a headache and was up early, is my excuse. While I absolutely stand by the points made here (AIR is no more the Open Web than Internet Explorer HTAs are; why do people who hate HTAs love AIR?), I should have been more gentlemanly about the point. Throwing bricks helps no-one. My apologies, Mike.

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