The ActiveX effect

In my current job, Microsoft Sharepoint rules. The decision was made long before my time to employ it as the common document repository, and for most people it works reasonably well. I have to force myself to use it though, and I can distil the reasons down to one root cause: ActiveX controls.

In its vanilla, static-page form, Sharepoint is barely functional. It takes a minimum of four clicks (open, edit, modify, save) to change a radio-button option. Checking files in and out is a pain – it’s easier to just overwrite. And I’ve never managed to attach a file to a list entry. To make it really useable, you need to run IE.

Oh wait, you’re using a Mac. Well you can just piss off then.

It’s interesting that Microsoft poured thousands of programmer-hours into developing an alternative to JavaScript and not one of the other browsers makes any attempt to support the resulting spec – this in a world of Mono, Samba, Moonlight and OpenOffice. MS dropped IE support on the Mac but keep pushing ActiveX in their server products. I’m no expert, but the only thing I see ActiveX doing that JS can’t is installing software updates without bothering the user with dialog boxes. Which is a good indication of why nobody else will touch it with a barge pole.

The problem is not confined to Sharepoint. The motivation for this post was finding that Microsoft’s certificate management server requires scripting to be turned on (it doesn’t say what sort of scripting, but it isn’t JS) in order to process a simple form that could have been written in 1995. In this case there was no option but to boot up the VM and use IE.

So what to do? Struggle manfully with Sharepoint’s prehistoric static interface or retreat into the VM, cut off from my usual editing suite – Office X for Mac. Somebody somewhere is no doubt enjoying this juicy irony. But it’s not me.

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4 thoughts on “The ActiveX effect

  1. Andrew, I hear you well – Sharepoint at its current set up is barely useable – I understand that it can be used better with MSIE – but in the company where 40% (?) of people do not touch Windows – it was not the best choice.

    Have you tried http://www.kronenberg.org/ies4osx/ ? They work pretty ok – but I am not sure how they will behave with Sharepoint.

  2. M$ is well known to impose their own standards, and you’re right, it’s a pain. I’ve tried ies4osx and didn’t get any good result: I had one of these graphic issue. Don’t know if it was due to ies4osx or Darwine…
    Sharepoint is one thing, but there are also these sites which have been designed for IE, such as citylink: no IE => no bus ticket.

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