IE 6 Features and Bugs

As often happens when I mention that a component upgrade is available, I've received a lot of email from people who report that Internet Explorer (IE) 6 is unstable. The emails express two separate complaints. First, some users had to replace several of the DLLs that IE 6 installs with the previous DLL versions from IE 5.5 to get IE 6 to behave properly. Second, Web pages with embedded Java code and video caused a progressive slowdown of the computer (with a corresponding increase in memory usage) until users had to kill the offending IE session.

Unfortunately, none of the emails identified how the users performed the IE 6 upgrade (e.g., from 5, 5.5, 5.5 Service Pack 1—SP1, or 5.5 SP2). Because this key piece of information might be the cause of the problem on those user machines, I'm at a loss to help. I try to answer as many emails as possible, but when you report bugs to me or ask for assistance, I need all the details you can provide. A handful of coworkers and I have worked with IE 6 (upgraded from IE 5.5 SP2) for a week and have encountered no obvious problems.

One IE 6 feature I really like is the ability to resize a picture to fit within the IE display area. This feature is handy when you visit a site and open an image that an inexperienced digital camera user has taken—a user who doesn't understand that he doesn't have to display photos at the full resolution his camera can capture. I guess the advantage of a fast Internet connection is that you don't notice when you're downloading a 1MB or 2MB image, but when you open the image, it's annoying to have to scroll in every direction to view it. Unfortunately, this resizing feature doesn't work if the image is contained within a frame on a Web page, which negates a lot of the feature's value.

Windows XP tries to deal with image-size problems when you email an image. By default, when you select an image, then click the File and Folder Task "E-mail this file," the system prompts you to "Make all my pictures smaller" or "Keep the original sizes." If you select "Show more options," you can select from common screen sizes labeled small (640 x 480), medium (800 x 600), or large (1024 x 768). XP will resize the image per your selection to fit in the selected window size. To test this feature, I grabbed a 533KB JPEG photo and selected the large option for the emailed file. The original file was 1667 x 1095, 8 bits per pixel, 300 dpi, and used 141,907 colors. The resized file was 480 x 315, 8 bits per pixel, 300 dpi, 43,255 colors, and only 23KB—a reduction of almost 23:1. The resulting picture is suitable for quick snapshots or catalog-type photos. I hope this feature helps reduce the number of 2.4MB baby pictures I get in my email (not that each baby isn't the cutest I've ever seen).

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