META Tag ‘MSThemeCompatible’

Okay, so this one’s a little old, and I just found it while looking at some of Microsoft Update’s HTML source, it appears to be relevant for MSIE6 and newer and may be responsible for some interesting styling and behaviour of form components.

A quick search for it turns up lots of discussions about other browers such as Firefox being effected if the value is not defined… as such it’s likely a good idea to define it in your pages to be sure.

An old MSDN entry reads…

When running on Windows XP, Internet Explorer 6 and the content displayed in it sports a look and feel that matches the Windows XP platform. You can opt to have your HTML content not take on the same look as the operating system for elements such as buttons and scroll bars, by adding the following META tag:
<meta http-equiv="MSThemeCompatible" content="no" />

Setting this will disable theme support for the document. Some background on this, Windows XP (MSIE6) allows for the use of themes for the operating system to change the general color scheme of many elements.
As such, many HTML components (such as SELECT dropdowns, BUTTONS and INPUT fields ‘MAY’ also be effected if you don’t explicitly prevent it in your code.

There was some support for this in Mozilla Firefox builds for Windows, as such, while I’d normally recommend using a conditional comment, I’m torn in this case.


MSIE browser testing

Testing web applications with various versions of MSIE (Internet Explorer) often proves problematic as it’s generally not possible to have more than one version installed on a single Windows installation. There are various approaches, such as:

  • Having an entire test lab with different browser configurations.
  • More often, it’s also possible to run a set of virtual machines on a single desktop.
  • Another option is to find a package that ‘hacks’ around some of the Windows limitations and installs (at least partially) the browser rendering capabilities.

NOTE: the final method above has some quirks, but you can generally use it for preliminary testing by developers as it’s obviously easier to maintain.

Here are a few common packages that I’m aware of:

Happy testing!