[Whitepaper] Internet Explorer Mobile 6: Features
By on October 7th, 2009

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Internet Explorer Mobile

  • User Agent String Setting
  • Views
  • Text Wrap
  • Tool Bar
  • Default Home page
  • Address Bar
  • User Interaction Model
  • Back Behavior
  • History
  • Favorites
  • Adobe Flash Lite
  • Internet Explorer Mobile 6 Home Screen Plug-in


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User Agent String Setting
Content providers create mobile Web sites that are tailored for mobile phones. For example, a mobile version of MSN exists at http://mobile.MSN.com. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 can display both types of Web sites.

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When a user requests a page from a content provider, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 sends a user agent string to the content provider. Two possible user agent strings can be sent, a string that identifies Internet Explorer Mobile 6 as a desktop browser or a string that identifies Internet Explorer Mobile 6 as a mobile browser. The page that the content provider returns to the browser depends on the content server, the user agent string, and the specific URL that is requested. Any time that a mobile user string is sent, the content provider returns a mobile page if one is available. If no mobile page is available, the content provider returns a desktop page. These user agent strings will show up in the HTTP headers. You can also retrieve this information by using script and the navigator.

The browser has two possible user agent (UA) strings:

  • If View>Desktop is enabled, Internet Explorer Mobile sends the following: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
  • If View>Mobile is enabled, Internet Explorer Mobile sends the following: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows CE; IEMobile 8.12; MSIEMobile 6.0)

The default user agent string identifies Internet Explorer Mobile 6 as a desktop browser. OEMs and mobile operators can change the default value through a registry key. Users can change the default user agent string through the main menu by selecting View and then selecting Mobile or Desktop. This option helps users control their data consumption (mobile pages are less data intensive than desktop pages) and allows them to define their own preference for Web site viewing.

Views
The default viewing mode for Internet Explorer Mobile 6 has changed from mobile mode to desktop mode. Scroll bars have been removed to maximize the viewable content area. A miniature document map is now available to provide orientation when the user scrolls the page. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 supports two browsing modes: Reading view and Zoom view.

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Reading View
You can customize the default reading view and zoom level. By default, Reading view displays content at a 1:1 zoom ratio and is interactive. Web pages that are optimized for mobile devices load in the default reading view. Web pages that are not optimized for mobile devices load as desktop pages in zoomed out view.

Zoom View
In Zoom view, the user can view and navigate through a complete Web page. Continuous zoom is now supported, thereby providing a fine level of user control, and OEMs can set the maximum zoom levels. By design, the page is not interactive, ensuring that users do not inadvertently navigate away from the current page. For Windows Mobile Standard, the soft keys are Zoom In and Zoom Out.

Users can exit Zoom view by:

  • Tapping the screen
  • Performing an action on the D-pad
  • Performing a ―hit back‖ (Windows Mobile Standard devices only)

The Zoom view is a page preview mode and is not part of the page history that is accessed by the ―back‖ function. For Windows Mobile Professional, instead of using soft keys, the user can zoom in and out using the zoom icon on the tool bar at the bottom of the screen. In Zoom view, the user can display content at variable zoom levels.

Text Wrap
Text wrap allows users to more easily read desktop Web sites on mobile devices. Web sites frequently contain lines of text that display beyond the width of mobile device screens. To read the text on those pages, a mobile user would have to scroll horizontally. With text wrap, the text is wrapped to the width of the screen while the rest of the layout is kept true to the original. This improved view allows the user to read text as a simple single column that does not require horizontal scrolling for each new line of content. The text wrap view is the default, automatic view in Internet Explorer Mobile 6, and presents a significant improvement to the overall mobile Web browsing and reading experience.

Tool Bar
Windows Mobile Professional has a tool bar at the bottom of the screen. The main Internet Explorer Mobile 6 page has icons for the following actions:
Back/stop
Favorites
SIP
Zoom
Menu
The Favorites screen has icons for the following actions:
Cancel
Add a favorite
Add a folder
Edit a favorite
Delete a favorite

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Default Home page
When Internet Explorer Mobile 6 is first opened on a Windows Mobile device, it loads the default home page. The default home page is set by Microsoft, the OEM, or mobile operator through the home page option registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftInternet ExplorerAboutURLshome_%LANGID%. The home page can also be changed by the user, although the OEM can configure the browser to prevent the user from doing so.

Address Bar
An address bar is always displayed at the top of the screen on Windows Mob
ile Professional devices. The progress bar has been incorporated into the address bar. The address bar also functions as a built-in search bar that has touch-friendly autocompletion. The autocomplete engine includes addresses from History and Favorites, as well as common Web site suffixes such as .com. The OEM can use the following registry key to customize the suffix that is automatically added to a URL in the address bar: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftInternet ExplorerURLUrlSuffix. To use the search functionality, a user types the search terms directly into the address bar, and then taps the Return key to generate a page of search results. Alternatively, the user can click the Search for <term> option at the bottom of the auto-suggest list.

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User Interaction Model
The user interaction model for mobile devices is different than the desktop model. Two models are supported on mobile devices: non-touch interaction and touch interaction. Mobile devices that have a touch screen support both non-touch and touch interaction methods. Mobile devices without a touch screen support the non-touch interaction method only.

Non-Touch Interaction
For non-touch interaction, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 uses the mouse cursor interaction model. In this model, a cursor displays onscreen. The hardware buttons control the position and actions of the cursor. The cursor can snap to hyperlinks.

Touch Interaction
Touch-based navigation is controlled by either finger or stylus. A new Windows Mobile 6.5 gesture and physics engine provides the following:

  • Pan and flick gestures for page navigation on wireless markup language (WML) pages used in a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) environment.
  • Bounce animation at the document extremes.
  • Pan and flick in the HTML viewer with pan locking.

Back Behavior
Internet Explorer Mobile 6 has a simple Back behavior: when the user taps the Back soft key, the previous page is reloaded. The reloaded content is delivered from the cache as much as possible, and reconnects for elements marked by the server as being non-cacheable and purged by cache management. On Windows Mobile Standard, if the user clicked on a hyperlink to a separate application, pressing Back reloads the previous application. For example, if the user clicked on a link within an e-mail message that launched the browser, clicking Back returns the user to the e-mail message.

History
The user can view and navigate to previously visited URLs that are stored in a History list. The History persists between Internet sessions. The most recently visited sites are at the top.

Favorites
Favorites support retrieving and displaying Web site Favorite icons. The Favorites dialog box now allows touch-friendly access to favorites. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 supports creating, deleting, and editing Favorites. Through the top-level menu of the browser window, users can add and manage their favorite links and can add new Favorites folders. Favorites are displayed in alphabetical order.

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Adobe Flash Lite
There are new features with Adobe Flash 3.1.6, such as auto-rotating a video to the portrait or landscape orientation to maximize screen space. Adobe Flash Lite version 3.1.6 is available for use with Internet Explorer Mobile 6 as an optional royalty-free plug-in to OEMs. Adobe Flash Lite is a plug-in that is designed to work with Internet Explorer Mobile 6. It is not a standalone Adobe Flash application. The ActiveX control plug-in supports most Web-based content that is compatible with Flash Player 9 or earlier. Flash Lite 3.1.6 does not support ActionScript 3.0. Adobe Flash Lite supports viewing YouTube videos in desktop browser mode only. To support viewing videos from YouTube’s mobile site, H.264 codec is necessary. OEMs are responsible for licensing codecs.

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Internet Explorer Mobile 6 Home Screen Plug-in
The Internet Explorer Mobile 6 Home screen plug-in lets the user select Internet Explorer Mobile 6 favorites directly from the new Home screen. This feature provides a quicker, easier and more compelling experience for a user accessing Internet Explorer Mobile on a Windows Mobile device. This plug-in places access to the browser and a subset of browser favorites on the Home screen, from the Home screen.

The plug-in functions just like other existing plug-ins on the Home screen, with panels that are accessible with the left and right D-pad keys. On Windows Mobile Professional, users can flick and pan vertically, and can flick side to side.

Author: Abhishek Baxi
Abhishek Baxi is an independent technology columnist for several international publications and a digital consultant. He speaks incessantly on Twitter (@baxiabhishek) and dons the role of Editor-in-Chief here at Techie Buzz.

Abhishek Baxi has written and can be contacted at abhishek@techie-buzz.com.

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