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What to do if CSS is part of your IE 7 Web app plan

Internet Explorer 7 has reached Release Candidate stage. There is important news for those who use Cascading Style Sheets in IE 6 and wish to do so in IE 7.

The Microsoft IE team is trying to narrow the scope of its work in preparation for the IE 7 release. The latest version of the browser has reached the release candidate stage, Microsoft Watch reports here. This means IE 7 is being "locked down" and prepared for general release.

However, it looks like the browser is due to ship with some of those famous "known issues," particularly with the CSS, or Cascading Style Sheet.

The IE Group has published some information to help Web developers and Webmasters that encounter issues. The team fixed more than 200 known bugs that had the browser out of synch with CSS standards, IE Program Manager Markus Mielke writes here in Microsoft's IE blog. For example, the group fixed all but one bug identified on the site www.positioniseverything.net, as well as a variety of parsing bugs, positioning issues and other known problems.

CSS standards are set by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and apply to all Web browsers. Some of the things Microsoft fixed in IE7 to improve compatibility with the latest set of CSS standards ended up causing incompatibility with IE6.

Mielke links to the several Microsoft resources, which offer some clues as to what Web developers can expect when using CSS and IE 7, and when developing for IE in general. Here are three of the most useful resources:

As the "CSS Compatibility" tutorial shows, one should look for that which renders differently in IE 7 than it did in IE 6. Those concerns include the XML prolog, box model changes and a variety of CSS filters. The first two concerns can be addressed by keeping a close eye on a page's content. Filters can be addressed in three ways -- by opting for a simpler, cross-browser design, by using conditional comments for IE-specific issues or by using CSS filters that target old versions of the browser (say, IE 5.5) and thus will not break with IE 7.

CSS behavior is part of a larger debate about IE 7 itself. Mielke admits that IE 7 remains a work in progress. "We understand that we are far from being done and we know we have still a lot of work ahead of us. IE 7 is a stepping stone in our effort to improve our standards compliance (especially around CSS)," he writes.

As it the case with most topics of interest for the .NET developer, stay tuned for details. It does not sound like this is the last we will hear from Microsoft on best practices for IE 7 development.

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