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Developing Web Applications for Internet Explorer Mobile 6 on Windows Mobile 6.5

4/7/2010

Richard Grimes, www.contentmaster.com

June 2009

Microsoft® Internet Explorer® 6 for Windows® phones provides functionality until now only found on desktop computers running Windows. Internet Explorer Mobile provides scripting, and multimedia controls and Microsoft DirectX® transforms enable developers to create a rich user experience.

Windows Mobile 6.5

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides many features that Web developers can use to provide a rich user experience on a mobile device. However the form factor of mobile devices and the way that devices access the network mean that developers should make special considerations for Windows phone Web applications. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides all the facilities for developers to customize code for mobile devices.

Because Windows phones come in different form factors, there are different mechanisms to provide input. These input mechanisms differ from the mechanisms for input into Internet Explorer on the developer workstation, and developers targeting mobile devices should be aware of these differences. Some phones, such as Windows Mobile® Professional devices, have a touch-sensitive screen, so Web page navigation is through touches on the screen and through gestures. The user scrolls a Web page by dragging a finger across the page, and follows hyperlinks by touching them. Other phones, such as Windows Mobile Standard devices, do not have a touch-sensitive screen, and instead have a directional pad (D-pad). The user scrolls a Web page by pressing the d-pad arrow keys and follows a hyperlink by pressing the center key, also called SELECT key.

Internet Explorer Mobile on a Windows phone supports Wireless Markup Language (WML). WML is a standard XML-based markup similar to HTML, but designed specifically for mobile devices. WML decks provide access to device features such as phone and mail capabilities.

The following code example shows how they are stored and accessed from a Web server similarly to HTML Web pages.

<wml>
   <card id="base" title="Pizza Search">
      <p><strong>Pizza Search Results</strong></p>
      <p>There are 2 pizza suppliers near you:</p>
      <p><a href="#karl">Karl's Pizzas</a></p>
      <p><a href="#juan">Juan's Pizzas</a></p>
   </card>

   <card id="karl" title="Karl's Pizzas">
      <p><strong>Karl's Pizzas</strong></p>
      <p>1 Main Street, Maintown.</p>
      <p>Delivers 6pm to 2am</p>
      <p><a href="wtai://wp/mc;11231234567">Call Karl's Pizza</a></p>
   </card>

   <card id="juan" title="Juan's Pizzas">
      <p><strong>Juan's Pizzas</strong></p>
      <p>100 Side Street, Maintown.</p>
      <p>Delivers 10pm to 1am</p>
      <p><a href="wtai://wp/mc;11235556666">Call Juan's Pizza</a></p>
   </card>
</wml>

In this code, there is a deck of three cards. When this WML file is first loaded by Internet Explorer Mobile 6, the first card, base, is displayed. This lists the two results from a Web site for a search of pizza delivery businesses in the area. Each result has a separate card and the main results link to each card with an <a> element. When the user clicks the anchored text, the linked card is displayed. Each page in the result list gives information about the specific business and gives a link to call the telephone number using Wireless Telephony Application Interface (WTAI). The link indicates that the make call (mc) function of the public WTAI library (wp) should be executed with the data given after the semicolon.

Mobile devices have small screens and use mobile phone networks for network access, and the concise format of WML reduces the number of network accesses.

Internet Explorer 6 also supports rendering HTML 4.01 and the full support of XHTML 1.0 standard. This means that Internet Explorer Mobile 6 can access and render pages from most sites on the Web. The 100 most popular sites on the Web work without any changes.

The following code example shows an HTML Web page equivalent to the earlier WML example.

<html>
<head>
   <script src="code.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
</head>
<body>
   <div id="base" style="display:block">
      <p><strong>Pizza Search Results</strong></p>
      <p>There are 2 pizza suppliers near you:</p>
      <p><div onclick="showDiv('karl');" 
              style="text-decoration:underline">Karl's Pizzas</div></p>
      <p><div onclick="showDiv('juan');" 
              style="text-decoration:underline">Juan's Pizzas</div></p>
   </div>

   <div id="karl"  style="display:none">
      <p><strong>Karl's Pizzas</strong></p>
      <p>1 Main Street, Maintown.</p>
      <p>Delivers 6pm to 2am</p>
      <p><a href="tel:11231234567">Call Karl's Pizza</a></p>
   </div>

   <div id="juan"  style="display:none">
      <p><strong>Juan's Pizzas</strong></p>
      <p>100 Side Street, Maintown.</p>
      <p>Delivers 10pm to 1am</p>
      <p><a href="tel:11235556666">Call Juan's Pizza</a></p>
   </div>
</body>
</html>

The data is provided by three <div> elements, only one of which will be shown at any time. The first <div> element gives a list of the results from the Web application, and when the user clicks on the links, one of the other <div> elements is displayed. These elements give an anchor element to enable the user to call the selected business by using the tel: protocol handler, which starts the phone dialer on the device.

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 supports scripting with JavaScript. The following code example shows the contents of the code.js file, referenced earlier, used to hide and display the <div> elements.

function toggle(id, on){
   var elem = document.getElementById(id);
   elem.style.display = (on ? "block" : "none");
}
function hideAll(){
   toggle("base", false);
   toggle("karl", false);
   toggle("juan", false);
}
function showDiv(item){
   hideAll();
   toggle(item, true);
}

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 is based on the desktop version of Internet Explorer 6 with additional mobile features. This means that Internet Explorer Mobile 6 can render Web pages intended for desktop browsers and Web pages intended for mobile devices. The user chooses whether to view a desktop or mobile version through the View menu. If the user chooses to view desktop pages, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides values in the User-Agent header of the GET HTTP request sent to the Web site that are identical to those that would be sent by a desktop browser.

The following code example shows the values in the User-Agent header.

User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; 
   Windows Phone 6.5)

If the user chooses to view pages customized for mobile devices, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides a User-Agent HTTP header equivalent to earlier versions of Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile. The following code example shows the User-Agent header sent when the user requests mobile pages.

User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows CE; 
   IEMobile 8.12; MSIEMobile 6.0)

Typically, server-side Web applications check the value in the User-Agent header and customize the returned page for the client browser, and usually return low-bandwidth, small-dimension pages for mobile devices. By using the desktop View option, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 can show full Web pages, and the device user can zoom the page to see the text at a comfortable size and use the panning facility to move around the page. This View option brings to Windows phones the wealth of Web pages not customized to mobile devices.

In addition, both for requests for mobile and desktop pages, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides custom headers that indicate the capabilities of the device. The following table lists the custom headers sent to the Web server.

Header Description

UA-color

The color depth of the devices, such as color16.

UA-CPU

An identifier for the processor type, such as ARM.

UA-OS

The operating system on the devices, such as Windows CE (Pocket PC) - Version 5.2.

UA-pixels

The dimensions of the device screen, such as 240x320.

UA-Voice

A Boolean value indicating if the device has a microphone, such as TRUE.

The server-side Web application may use the values of these headers to customize the response for the device, for example, to provide different graphics files for different color depth values. The following code example shows ASP.NET code that uses one of these user agent headers.

string image = String.Format("image_{0}.jpg", 
   Request.Headers["UA-color"]);

You can then provide a series of images called image_color4.jpg, image_color8.jpg, image_color16.jpg, and so on, for the devices that you support.

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides scripting through Microsoft Jscript® 5.8 development software. This means that Web developers can create applications with client-side code to be executed on the device. Client-side scripting with Dynamic HTML (DHTML) enables developers to create rich, innovative applications, and furthermore, by using code to update the user interface, round trips to the server can be avoided. Reducing network calls is a key design feature for mobile devices.

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 also enables developers to use the XMLHttpRequest object. This object provides a mechanism for applications to download data from the network as raw data, or as data that can be parsed by using the XML DOM. The XMLHttpRequest object can be used to download data synchronously. But because any network access leads to an unavoidable delay, the best practice is to call the object asynchronously and provide scripting code that is called to update the user interface when the data is returned. These features—scripting, asynchronous downloads, and user interface with HTML and CSS—form the core of AJAX development. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 supports AJAX development.

The XMLHttpRequest object on Internet Explorer Mobile 6 can be accessed as a property of the window object so that developers do not have to use ActiveX code to activate this object. Internet Explorer Mobile 6 security applies the same origin policy, which means that the XMLHttpRequest object can access any page and any Web service on the server, as long as the host name, protocol, and port are the same as the origin of the page where the code is executed. The following code example shows how to use the XMLHttpRequest object to obtain additional data from the Web site. This example is located on a page on the same Web site, http://www.example.com/default.htm.


<script type="text/javascript">
   function getData()
   {
      var name = document.getElementById("idName").value;
      window.XMLHttpRequest.open(
         "GET", "http://www.example.com/data?name=" + name);
      window.XMLHttpRequest.send();
      idResult.innerText = window.XMLHttpRequest.responseText;
   }
</script>

This code makes a call back to a Web service called data passing the name given by a control on the Web page that has the ID idName. When the send method is called, a synchronous call is made to the Web service. This means that the call blocks until the response is received. When the call returns, the raw data is used to populate the contents of a control with the ID of idResult.

Typically, AJAX code makes asynchronous calls by providing a callback function for the onreadystatechange property of the XMLHttpRequest object. In this situation, the send method returns immediately when it is called, and the callback function is called when the asynchronous call is completed. The results can be harvested from the XMLHttpRequest object.

Web applications typically use DHTML to update the user interface according to the user actions and the data obtained asynchronously. This reduces the number of server round trips to update the user interface. However, it still means that some initial calls are made to download the original HTML, CSS, and script files.

AJAX is a mature technology with a vibrant and experienced community of developers. The AJAX features of Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provide an opportunity for a new, talented group of developers to target Windows phones.

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 enables users to enjoy Flash content through the Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 control. This is an optional plug-in designed to work with Internet Explorer Mobile 6 to bring Flash applications to Windows phones. Adobe Flash 3.1 supports most Flash 9 code, but there is no support for ActionScript 3.

The following code example shows how to use a Flash application on a Web page, in this case, to view a Flash movie.

<object width="212" height="172">
  <param name="movie" 
         value="http://www.youtube.com/v/rIjNJZpRtj8&hl=en&fs=1"> 
  </param>
  <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
  <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param>
  <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/rIjNJZpRtj8&hl=en&fs=1" 
         type="application/x-shockwave-flash"
         allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" 
         width="212" height="172">
  </embed>
</object>

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 also supports ActiveX® controls through the <object> element. However, there is a restriction: controls must already be installed on the device, because there is no facility for downloading or updating a control through the codebase attribute. This means that Web pages can embed the Windows Media Player control. The following code example shows how to use the Windows Media Player control to play an audio file on the mobile device.

<object classid="CLSID:6BF52A52-394A-11D3-B153-00C04F79FAA6"
        type="application/x-oleobject" width="400" height="380">
  <param name="url" value="file://\storage card\plugins\niceday.wmv">
  <param name="ShowControls" value="1">        
  <param name="volume" value="100">      
</object>

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 enables developers to apply image filters and transforms through styles.

DirectX image filters and transforms enable Web developers to apply creative effects to Web content. For example, in the following code, the contents of the <span> element are displayed as red text on a blue background with a radial gradient applied.

<span 
   style="filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.Alpha( 
             style=2, opacity=25, finishOpacity=100, startX=0,
             finishX=100, startY=100, finishY=0); 
          width: 200px; color: darkred; background-color: skyblue"
   <div>
      This text will appear as dark red text on a sky blue background
      with a radial gradient centered on the center of the SPAN.
   </div>
</span>

Image filters and transforms can be scripted, which means that animations can be created that are simple, but visually impressive.

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides alpha channel support in Portable Network Graphics (PNG) files. There is no native <img> element support for the alpha channel in .png files so that an image transform can be used instead. The following code example shows how to display a .png file that uses an alpha channel.

<img src="blank.gif" style="width: 163px; height: 77px; 
  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.AlphaImageLoader(
    src='moon.png', sizingMethod='scale')" />

As mentioned earlier, the user can choose to view Web pages designed for desktop computers or pages designed for mobile devices, and this request is sent to the server through the User-Agent header, together with details about the device screen capabilities through the UA-color and UA-pixels headers. The server may use this information to customize the Web page for the device.

By default, the dimensions of a Web page are 1024 x 768. This reflects the accepted view of the minimum screen size to view Web content: SVGA. The following code example shows how to access the size of the screen. When it is run on Internet Explorer Mobile 6, this code returns the width 1024 and height 768.

width = document.documentElement.clientWidth;
height = document.documentElement.clientHeight;

This width and height affects graphics and text positioned by using DHTML or positioning elements like <center>. The following code example shows the HTML code to draw the word centered in the center of a page of the width 1024 pixels.

<center>centered</center>

If the device has a screen with a width of 240 pixels, this word appears beyond the right edge of the screen. The mobile device user can pan the screen with a gesture of "dragging" the screen to the left or right. The following screen shot shows panning in action.

Dd938878.791de64a-186a-4947-a649-face413ab4fa(en-us,MSDN.10).png

The shaded transparent rectangle in the lower right gives the dimensions of the page, and the white rectangle shows the current view of that page; in this case the user is viewing the center part of the page. Panning and the ability of Internet Explorer Mobile 6 to zoom the page enable users to view Web pages intended for desktop computers on a screen that is a fraction of the size of a desktop computer.

If the page does not use positioning elements on text, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 automatically wraps text to the screen width, regardless of the width of the page. The following illustration shows a long line of text that is the only content of the <body> element.

Dd938878.3b525722-0fa1-457d-8138-1b21afe0b492(en-us,MSDN.10).png

In this example, the page width could be many times the width of the screen, but automatic text wrapping has rendered the text so that the user does not need to use panning.

Internet Explorer Mobile 6 provides support for two <meta> tags that relay information to the device about the suitability of the page for mobile devices. The following code example shows how to use the mobileoptimized tag.

<meta name="mobileoptimized" content="0" />

When Internet Explorer Mobile 6 displays a page that has this tag, it makes the page width equal to the value given in the content attribute; a value of 0 means that the page width is the same as the size of the screen. This means that positioning elements are relative to the screen width, so that the page earlier, with the <center> element, displays the text in the center of the screen and panning is not enabled, because the width of the page will be shown. If the value of content is larger than the width of the screen, panning is enabled and positioning elements use this width.

The following code example shows how to use the viewport tag.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=2000, height=3000">

Here, the content attribute enables you to define both the width and the height of the page. Again, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 applies automatic text wrapping to the actual screen width for text that does not have positioning elements, and text wrapping may mean that the displayed page height is actually larger than the value given in the <meta> tag.

Windows phones have restrictions that should be addressed in correctly designed Web applications. The three principle restrictions are the screen size, the fairly slow processing power of the device, and the fact that network access is through a phone connection, which incurs call charges to the user.

Developers should follow best Web programming practices, that is, the application should be separated into files for code and for markup. The code should be provided in JavaScript files, and the markup should be provided in HTML files and CSS files. Care should be taken to make sure that these files only contain script and style codes that will be used. Therefore, it is much better for the server-side code to use the user agent headers in the HTTP GET request to receive information about the browser capabilities and only provide code that runs on the device, instead of detecting the device capabilities in the script by using the navigator object.

Applications should not make assumptions about the rendered screen size and should not assume that the browser resizes media like images and video. The user agent headers in the HTTP GET request provides information about the screen size and color depth so that an application should make good use of these values to customize the code returned to the device. Additionally, the Web application should choose bit rates for streamed media that are appropriate for the network being used, because this helps reduce stalls and improves the user's experience.

Internet Explorer 6 supports scripting and a wealth of objects that can be scripted. Therefore, developers should prefer writing code that updates the user interface with DHTML instead of round trips to the server. However, ActiveX object downloads are not supported through the browser. Therefore, script should only use objects that are guaranteed to exist on the device. Windows Mobile 6.5 provides a separate installation mechanism for ActiveX controls. But the installation requires docking with a desktop computer.

Internet Explorer 6 security maintains a same-source policy for scripting code, so that the XMLHttpRequest object may only obtain data from the same site as the page.

The following table summarizes best practices for development of Internet Explorer 6 applications.

Principle Guidance

Detect Internet Explorer Mobile 6

If, on the View menu, the Desktop option is enabled, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 sends:

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; Windows Phone 6.5)

If, on the View menu, the Mobile option is enabled, Internet Explorer Mobile 6 sends:

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows CE; IEMobile 8.12; MSIEMobile 6.0)

Fit to content screen width

Use one of the following code lines:

  • <meta name=“mobileoptimized” content=“240”>
    Only specifies width. Special value of content= “0” for auto width.
  • <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD XHTML Mobile 1.2//EN" "http://www.openmobilealliance.org/tech/DTD/xhtml-mobile12.dtd">
    Any DOCTYPE with Mobile in the name works. The width will be auto width.
  • <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, height=device-height, initial-scale=1.0">

Script processing is expensive

  • Use Separate HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files.
  • Load JavaScript that is not important for the layout at the end: the browser will block downloading it.
  • Remove unimportant CSS and script: Windows Mobile 6.5 has both EDGE and 3G devices. It is not worth downloading data that is not used.

Customize media to mobile

  • Resolutions vary between 240x320 and 480x800.
  • Do not ask the browser to resize images by using the width and height attributes of the <img> tag.
  • Video dimensions should not be streamed larger than the screen resolution.
  • Choose the correct bit rate for EDGE and 3G networks.

Internet Explorer 6 for Windows Mobile 6.5 provides features that were previously found only on desktop computers. These new features provide support for scripting, support for Flash and ActiveX objects, and support for asynchronous downloads and DirectX transforms and filters. All these features bring rich AJAX development to the Windows phone platform.

Author Bio

Richard Grimes works with Content Master, part of CM Group Ltd. He writes and teaches Windows and Internet development with .NET and with C++. He is the author of the Microsoft Press® book Programming With Managed Extensions For Microsoft Visual C++ .NET. Content Master is a Microsoft Premier Vendor and Gold Certified Partner specializing in developing technical content.

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