Web Browser Control – Specifying the IE Version
I use the Internet Explorer Web Browser Control in a lot of my applications to display document type layout. HTML happens to be one of the most common document formats and displaying data in this format – even in desktop applications, is often way easier than using normal desktop technologies.
One issue the Web Browser Control has that it’s perpetually stuck in IE 7 rendering mode by default. Even though IE 8 and now 9 have significantly upgraded the IE rendering engine to be more CSS and HTML compliant by default the Web Browser control will have none of it. IE 9 in particular – with its much improved CSS support and basic HTML 5 support is a big improvement and even though the IE control uses some of IE’s internal rendering technology it’s still stuck in the old IE 7 rendering by default.
This applies whether you’re using the Web Browser control in a WPF application, a WinForms app, a FoxPro or VB classic application using the ActiveX control. Behind the scenes all these UI platforms use the COM interfaces and so you’re stuck by those same rules.
Feature Delegation via Registry Hacks
Fortunately starting with Internet Explore 8 and later there’s a fix for this problem via a registry setting. You can specify a registry key to specify which rendering mode and version of IE should be used by that application. These are not global mind you – they have to be enabled for each application individually by writing a registry value for each specific EXE that is hosting the WebBrowser control.
This setting can be made for all users on local machine registry key or per user in the current user key of the registry.
For the Current User:
I’d recommend using the current user setting, as this setting can be made in one place and doesn’t require admin rights to write to the registry. This means you can actually make this change from within your application even if you don’t use an installer or run under an Admin account.
You do have to restart the app to see the change.
The key to write to is:
Value Key: DWORD YourApplication.exe
Note that the FeatureControl and FEATURE_BROWSER_EMULATION keys may not exist at all prior to installation, so you may have to install that whole branch.
For all Users:
There are two different sets of keys for 32 bit and 64 bit applications.
64 bit or 32 bit only machine:
Value Key: DWORD - YourApplication.exe
32 bit on 64 bit machine:
Value Key: DWORD YourApplication.exe
The value to set this key to is (taken from MSDN here) as decimal values:regi
Internet Explorer 11. Webpages are displayed in IE11 Standards mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
Internet Explorer 11. Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE9 mode.
Internet Explorer 10. Webpages are displayed in IE10 Standards mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
Internet Explorer 10. Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE9 mode.
Internet Explorer 9. Webpages are displayed in IE9 Standards mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
Internet Explorer 9. Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE9 mode.
Webpages are displayed in IE8 Standards mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE8 mode.
Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE7 Standards mode.
The added key looks something like this in the Registry Editor:
Note that the 32 bit and 64 bit settings are significant depending on the type of application you are running. If you are running a 32 bit application on a 64 bit machine you need to use the Wow6432Node key to register this setting. If you’re running a 32 bit application on a 32 bit machine, or 64 bit application on a 64 bit application, then the standard registry key should be used. This means if you’re installing a 32 bit application using an installer you probably will want to set both the Wow64 key and the regular key on the machine.
With this in place my Html Html Help Builder application which has wwhelp.exe as its main executable now works with HTML 5 and CSS 3 documents in the same way that Internet Explorer 9 does.
Incidentally I accidentally added an ‘empty’ DWORD value of 0 to my EXE name and that worked as well giving me IE 9 rendering. Although not documented I suspect 0 (or an invalid value) will default to the installed browser. Don’t have a good way to test this but if somebody could try this with IE 8 installed that would be great:
- What happens when setting 9000 with IE 8 installed?
- What happens when setting 0 with IE 8 installed?
Don’t forget to add Keys for Host Environments
If you’re developing your application in Visual Studio and you run the debugger you may find that your application is still not rendering right, but if you run the actual generated EXE from Explorer or the OS command prompt it works. That’s because when you run the debugger in Visual Studio it wraps your application into a debugging host container. For this reason you might want to also add another registry key for yourapp.vshost.exe on your development machine.
If you’re developing in Visual FoxPro make sure you add a key for vfp9.exe to see the rendering adjustments in the Visual FoxPro development environment.