Explorer 4

Last minor update: 15 July 2003

Explorer 4 was Microsoft's first good browser. In fact, it was the best browser of its day.

Multiple Explorers on one computer.

Fact sheet:

With Explorer 4, Microsoft finally produced a good browser. It was much slower in loading pages than Netscape 4, but far more stable and with far better CSS capabilities. Admittedly, at first I did not see these qualities, being a Netscapie at heart and still dazzled by the heady promise of Netscape 4. Nonetheless Explorer 4 is a better browser than Netscape 4, at least on Windows.

That's not to say that Explorer is perfect. Far from it. As soon as you start doing DHTML with absolutely positioned elements, you'll notice that Explorer 4 has the gravest difficulties with anything but a <DIV> tag.

It is sadly impossible to do a {display: block} in Explorer 4, which is why my navigation looks so bad in this browser. This is partially balanced by the fact that it was the first browser to support a:hover, one of my favourites among the CSS declarations.

I heard, but did not test, that Explorer 4 can crash on the CSS declaration clear: both.

Its JavaScript is good for a Version 4 browser. Of course it only supports its proprietary document.all DOM. A definite downside of Explorer 4 is the incomprehensible JavaScript Error Messages it produces. If you're tweaking a bit of code for Explorer 4 by means of the error messages, you're out of luck because chances are you'll never find out exactly what is wrong.


Unfortunately, Explorer 4 for the Mac is worse than the Windows variant. Especially its style sheets are downright buggy. It has grave trouble with width declarations of elements inside other elements. For instance, if you want something to span an entire table and give it width: 100%, Explorer 4 on Mac interprets this as '100 % of the entire page', stretching it up to the width of the page and creating a horrible effect.

Its JavaScript is OK, although there are some minor glitches. To make up for this, there are serious problems with the Flash implementation. I once read (but did not try) that Flash movies should always be in the same directory as the referring page to prevent slashes in the Flash path.

Nonetheless, Microsoft is slowly learning to make a good browser for the Mac. Some problems that I noted earlier have disappeared now that I test this site on Explorer 4 on Mac again. In former times, the navigation on the left was hideous on the Mac, but all of a sudden it almost looks as on Windows, except that the paragraphs are too close to each other. Progress indeed.

Windows CE

The Windows CE PDA's have Pocket Internet Explorer installed on them. This browser is roughly compatible with Explorer 4. I haven't yet studied it, but I found a link to a short JScript introduction at the MSDN site. PIE does not support VBScript because of memory considerations.