A Report on Internet Explorer Five

by Russell Kay

Friday, March 22, 2002

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 We have beta copies of Office 2000; they come with a new version of Internet Explorer. Some of us use older programs based on Visual Basic 2, and requiring VBRUN200 as a run-time DLL to make the program work. Those programs work fine under IE4, but Russell found problems when he installed the beta of IE5. I have opened a new page for this. Russell was one of the technical editors of BYTE, and has considerable experience in these matters...

Roger Smith comments.

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Hi Jerry,

You asked for a recap of my problems with Microsoft Office 2000 killing Galahad, the off-line reader I use to access BIX, which is my primary (albeit non-POP3) email address. Anyway, here's the sequence of events.

I'm running Win98 on a Pentium 233MMX, 64MB ram.

I installed the latest beta of Office 2000 (Word, Excel, PPoint, Outlook) and started playing with it. Along with Office 2000, you also have to install a "pre-release" version of Internet Explorer 5.0, so I did this, replacing my IE4. The O2K installation gives you the option of keeping your old Office 97 (or earlier) installation, as well as your old IE installation. I kept them, and I'm glad I did.

Then I tried to access Bix, which is my primary email address, using Galahad. The sequence would start, I'd connect to my ISP, and send BSquire off via the Internet connection to get my mail. I'd see it find the IP address and connect, then there would be a message that BSquire had commited a fatal error (page fault in VBRUN200.DLL). Clicking on "ignore" did nothing, and close closed the program. I tried connecting through a dial-up connection, and the same thing happened (though not the IP address, of course).

I thought my BSquire file had somehow been corrupted (no, I don't know how I thought this might have happened, but work around computers long enough and you develop sufficient paranoia to believe almost anything), so I tried copying the .EXE file from another disk. Same thing. I tried reinstalling Galahad; same problems with both versions 1.3 and 2beta. I tried different copies of VBRUN200. No progress. I ran file compares on my executables vs. the distribution files, and there were no differences.

Finally, my brain kicked back into gear and I started thinking about when the problem started and what I had done just prior to that. Aha! I installed this new Microsoft product, didn't I?

So I uninstalled O2K. The problem was still there. No Galahad. I looked around my desktop and noticed that IE5 was still there. I uninstalled that (and the process automatically restored my IE4 with the right settings) and, with some trepidation, tried Galahad again. This time it worked. Just like old times.

I'm sufficiently out of my technical depth to refrain from speculating about what it was that IE5 did to screw up Galahad. But I think the sequence of events proved that it surely did something....


Russell Kay ? Kay &; Kaboodle ? Technical Writing &; Editing

8 Tupelo Road ? Worcester, MA 01606

508-852-5433 ?


This is potentially a serious problem. Thanks!


Roger G. Smith []


Regarding Russell Kay's experience with Office 2000 beta's IEv5 breaking his application, is this something new? Reports of program breakage with IE4 installation started when it was also in beta, (although I have tried in vain to find old refereces to this). I recall at least one software developer's reported shock at the discovery that IE4 broke his application by changing connectivity and communications function at what I would consider the operating system level.


This is my problem with Internet Explorer. Not that it is written by Microsoft, not that it isn't a good enough browser, but that Microsoft apparently designs functioality into a web browser that belongs in the operating system. Windows 9x is an operating system[1], a web browser is not. Recall that when Microsoft added GUI functionality to Win95, it installed with IE4, not as an OS update. For a Web Browser to affect the functionality of an unrelated application, as in RK's experience, is obscene.

What a design blunder. Is there an ongoing turf war inside Microsoft? ("turf war" -- as in, "OK, if your group won't support our changes, we'll do it ourselves")

Roger G. Smith

{1] Please accept this assertion for the purpose of argument.


Hi Jerry,

In response to a few comments on Bix, [BIX is the old Byte Information Exchange, which still exists as a text-only highly monitored discussion forum attached to Delphi, with probably the highest signal to noise ratio on the Internet; JEP] here’s a little more insight (?) into why there’s a significant relationship between Office 2000 and IE5.

Having the word processor (or spreadsheet, or whatever) interact with the browser makes sense if you understand what it is Microsoft thinks they're trying to do. They have, in essence, realized (or decided, depending on your perspective) that so much communication is tied into the web these days that the new O2K MS is making HTML an "alternate" (my term) "native" (their term) file format (does that combination constitute an oxymoron?). In practical terms, this means that you can create a highly formatted Word document, fully readable by Office 97, then convert it (in O2K, via Save As) to HTML and publish it. OK, that's not new.

What is claimed (I haven't yet had a chance to test this) is that you can then take the HTML document, convert it BACK to Word 2K, and not lose any formatting at all.

Is this important? Who knows. Is it convenient? Certainly will be to many. In any case, MS certainly remembers all the flack they caught when they changed file formats in O97, so they certainly weren't going to disable backwards compatibility by yet another format change.

The result will be easy native viewing of documents -- spreadsheets, text, and powerpoint presentations -- in the browser without the need for a separate viewer or the original application.

Anyway, Microsoft's message is that the Web wins, that HTML is the document format of choice for maximum utility, and with O2K they are advancing that proposition. The Reviewers Guide also notes, BTW, that if O2K encounters any HTML tags that it doesn't understand, it just leaves them alone -- doesn't delete them, doesn't change them. And that's certainly progress.

For the record, I recently encountered a situation where the new O2K approach would have been very helpful. I created a set of PowerPoint slides for one of my clients, who was going to Hong Kong to present it. I used PowerPoint 97 to create the slides, and he was able to view, run, and change them on his Powerbook laptop running Office 98 for the Mac. He got to Hong Kong, had a preliminary meeting with some people, and then spent three hours revising the presentation in light of that first conversation. The next day, where they were meeting, they couldn’t handle projection from a Mac (this was known in advance), so Rick gave them a PC-readable disk. OK, it was PC-readable, but they had an earlier version of PowerPoint, and could not read the PP97/98 format. So he had to make do with the original, and his previous evening was wasted time. That’s one good argument for the new approach that Microsoft seems to be taking.




Russ Kay






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