Microsoft, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

Most people who know me well understand that I am an acknowledged Apple fanboy. But I don’t simply hate Microsoft because I love Apple. There may be more truth to the fact that I love Apple because I hate Microsoft.*

At any rate, it’s clear that I hate Microsoft, and for reasons that are much more concrete, tangible, and, in the context of this article, quantifiable.

As you may know (if you know me, and probably wouldn’t if you don’t, but you do now… get it?), I make my living building websites, which means that I am forced to deal with both Windows and Internet Explorer, like it or not. (Not.) I do my work on Macs, and my day-to-day web browser is Firefox. But everything I do needs to be tested in the Microsoft world, since that’s the context in which 95% of my audience will be viewing my work.

At least once every month or two, I am forced to bring my work to a grinding halt while I attempt to diagnose some obscure Internet Explorer problem I’ve just run into. It is usually some trivial function that I take for granted, but for some mysterious reason simply does not work in Internet Explorer under a particular set of conditions. So I spend a day or so fruitlessly searching Google to find others who’ve experienced the same problem. Eventually I resign myself to the fact that there is no logical explanation for the problem and I will never discover a real solution to it. So, the only alternative is to concoct a hokey workaround that Internet Explorer can accept. These weak victories are always bittersweet: at least I’ve found a way to move on and get back to the real tasks at hand, but my work is forever tainted by Microsoft lameness, without even giving me the satisfaction of a glimmer of understanding as to why I’ve just undergone a day of torture.

Finally, I’ve had enough. I know that as long as I work in this field, I will always have to deal with this problem, but I’m no longer going to silently submit to the whims of mediocre software. I will catalog my woes here for the world to see, so when I finally jump off a bridge with a thousand Windows Vista CD-ROMs tied around my waist, people won’t wonder why.

* For the record, I don’t unequivocally hate everything Microsoft does. I own, and enjoy immensely, an XBOX game console.

The mysterious window.print() problem

It seems an easy task: print the damn window. But no, nothing is ever as easy as it seems with Microsoft. In this particular case, I have a pop-up window which contains a frameset. The frameset consists of a left frame with a tree of page links, and a right frame containing the body of the page linked from the left frame. Within the body of the page in the right frame there are links to allow you to print the frame. So far, so good. But there’s also a special link that opens a new page that contains the full content of all of the pages, so you can basically print the whole lot at once instead of one page at a time.

As expected, all of this works just fine in other browsers, but not in Internet Explorer. It handles the regular single-page window.print() just fine, but when you go to the full page, nothing. No printing, no JavaScript errors, nothing. It’s like it’s just a dead link. With the exact same code as what works on the other pages. And, if you open the page from the frame in a new window by itself, it prints just fine. So, we have some pages printing just fine in the frame, and another page that prints just fine when it’s by itself, but it won’t print if it’s in the same frame that the other pages print fine in, using the same code. You can see why this is driving me insane, can’t you?

Nothing I find anywhere online suggests that this problem exists. So eventually I resort to the only option that’s available… open the troublesome page in its own pop-up (yes, a pop-up opening a pop-up… always a great idea), where window.print() works just fine.

Thanks again, Microsoft!