Saying goodbye to Internet Explorer can be trickier than you think
Say goodbye to Internet Explorer. After more than 25 years it is finally discontinued and from August 2021 will no longer be supported by Microsoft 365, it will disappear from our offices in 2022. Well, it is for certain values to “disappear”, because Internet Explorer elements hang inside the new Chromium-based Edge as a compatibility mode.
Even so, it will be strange to see IE disappear, as it has been a part of Windows internal components for almost as long as it has existed, with its Trident engine powering tools like Outlook’s browser view and the help system. Windows. Even on systems where the new Edge is set as default, opening an email from Outlook in browser view opens it in Internet Explorer.
This is because Outlook uses a technique that wraps HTML and all image resources in a single file. MHTML, “MIME encapsulation of aggregated HTML documents,” was designed for a world where web pages provide interactivity with applets or ActiveX or Flash controls, and where designers want this dynamic content to be part of an email message. . It is a useful tool for creating formatted emails, using familiar HTML authoring tools, but consolidating all the necessary resources into a single archive attached to a message.
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It’s an old technique, but it’s still in use. And with IE on the verge of disappearing, can you view these messages in a modern browser like Edge? The answer to this question is complicated. If you set file associations in Windows 10 to support Outlook’s MHTML, emails will open in Edge, but only display as text (often with scrambled URLs where images would have summer) and without active links. There is MHTML support in Chromium, but no longer as an authoring and archiving tool, saving page content in MHTML format.
So how can we use Edge to show MHTML and remove message content from Outlook limited viewing pane? The answer lies in this Internet Explorer compatibility feature in Edge, a full version of IE’s Trident engine that runs in the context of an Edge tab. What we need is a way to force this view for our messages, replacing Internet Explorer as the registered viewer for these types of files, while forcing them to open with Trident.
Microsoft recently released a help document which provides a way to activate this feature. It’s not particularly easy, it requires either creating a set of policies for managed PCs or applying a registry file to personal devices. It’s also already out of date, written for Edge 90, and needing tweaking for Edge 91 and later. Even so, there is a lot here to help you prepare PCs. Here is how I used it to update my PCs.
Since I was working with personal machines, I used the .reg file approach. You will need to add the location of your Edge installation to the file provided by Microsoft. Copy it to Notepad or VS code and save it with a .reg extension. Helpfully, VS Code now offers a language server for registry scripts, so you can use colors to make sure your code is correct. Remember to replace “” in the directory path with “” because registry tools force you to escape reserved characters in strings.
Double-click on your edited .reg file to open Regedit and apply your registry changes. It is a good idea to restart your PC once this has been done to make sure they are loaded for the next step.
This is where the undocumented trick comes in. If you use Edge 91 or later without changing the behavior of browser IE mode, it will just continue to display unformatted text when attempting to render MHTML content. Open Edge settings and go to the default browser. You will see a section here for working with Internet Explorer compatibility. Select the option “Allow reloading of sites in Internet Explorer mode”. This will force automatic loading of incompatible content, in this case MHTML, using Trident.
If everything is correct, you can now open a message and use the actions menu to view it in a browser. Outlook will save an email.mht file to its cache and pass the location to Edge. The file will then open and display using Edge’s IE mode.
With support for IE in Microsoft 365 ending in a few months, Microsoft needs to make this a lot easier. Having Group Policy is great for businesses that can create and distribute policies, but the current remote working environment makes this difficult and there are no instructions for using modern management tools through Intune. . Likewise, creating and testing a registry file is not intended for the average home user.
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What the Edge team and the Office team need is to sit down and identify every place in Office that uses (or rather uses) Internet Explorer. They should then modify both the Edge and Office installers to make the appropriate registry changes, so that the Edge update replaces Internet Explorer as the default viewer with Edge’s. running in IE mode. Users shouldn’t have to do anything, all they’ll see are emails opened in a browser in Edge rather than IE.
In the longer term, of course, Microsoft needs to move away from MHTML altogether. There is still a need for a web page archive format, which should be supported by all browsers. If you choose Chrome, the email content should open in Chrome, the same for Firefox and Safari. But is there a place to build such a standard, and who should be its stewards?
These are complex questions, possibly more complex than creating a policy or modifying the Windows registry. And so, for now, these are our only options.