Tue 08 Apr
During the Internet boom, I counted myself among the many legions who switched over entirely from Netscape — then at version 4.something and a disaster of a Web browser — to Microsoft Internet Explorer. With its monstrous and seemingly unstoppable marketshare, IE became a de facto standard, and it just struck me as being so much easier to design Web pages for IE than to strive for cross-browser compatibility. Now, I see the error of my ways.
The past few days I have been working on a new redesign for Subtraction.com, with the goal of full CSS- and XHTML-compliance. One thing that I’ve discovered is that writing CSS for Safari and the newer versions of Netscape (on both Mac and Windows) is a very predictable process. Writing CSS for Internet Explorer, especially on the Windows platform, is ridiculously unpredictable and requires plenty of fudges and code tweaks. It’s a very unenjoyable process. Granted, I’m a novice still, but it shouldn’t be this difficult.
Here’s one example. I’m trying to create a hanging field label, where the label exists in a <div> that has the property ‘float:left.’ The idea is that the text block to the right, which exists in its own <div> with the property ‘margin- left: 100,’ will ‘wrap‘ around it, thus creating the hanging label effect. This is the same principle employed in creating CSS-based columns, though more often than not, the columns are fairly equal. In this case, because the label is so short, its theoretical column is also short, causing a strange wrapping effect in IE.
You’ll notice that in the IE example (above left) that there is an ever so slight indentation, at the little arrow, where the text in the right column is wrapping around the label text. It’s three pixels wide and it’s an infuriating IE bug that drove me crazy for hours before I realized that it could be fairly easily corrected by assigning a fixed width to the the right <div>. Netscape didn’t require this fix at all, as shown above right, and neither did Safari — both rendered faithfully, predictably and just like one another.
Every time I dive back into creating my own Web pages by hand, I begin to daydream of eradicating at least one of the major Web browsers, wiping every instance of it completely from every computer on the Earth. For a long time, I longed to get rid of Netscape that way — all versions of it, actually, but expecially the 4.x versions. So it’s a real surprise to even me that I’m now finding that I like Netscape even better than IE in many ways, and it’s IE that I want to see banished. If only…