Tutorial Thursday

Both Mozilla and Microsoft will both be releasing their new web browsers in the coming weeks (IE 7 was just released yesterday but won’t be available as an Automatic Update for a few weeks) and the thing we have to prepare for the most is incompatible websites. I have experienced some problematic sites in both Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 but there are only a handful from the ones that I visit.

This problem can often be fixed on your end by adjusting the user agent to match a browser that works with the site. It is really easy to adjust the user agent string in Firefox 2 and pretty easy to do in Internet Explorer 7, although IE users will have to download a small utility that Microsoft offers.

–Firefox 2 Users (changing the user agent to Firefox 1.5)–

  1. Start Firefox.
  2. In the Address Bar type about:config and press Enter.
  3. Find the option that is named general.useragent.extra.firefox and double-click on it.
    Firefox User Agent
  4. You will now be prompted with the window to change the value of the user agent. Instead of having it say Firefox/2.0 you might want to change it to Firefox/1.5 or Firefox/ to make the websites think that you are using a version of Firefox from the 1.5 branch.

    Firefox User Agent

  5. Restart Firefox.


–Internet Explorer 7 Users (changing the user agent to IE 6)–

Microsoft has put together this quick utility that you can download (I provided a direct link with no WGA validation needed) and install which will let you change the user agent in IE 7 to match the one in IE 6. That means any site that you visit will think that you’re still using IE 6 and will render the page accordingly.

After you install the program you will see a shortcut on your desktop and if you execute it you should be prompted with a window similar to this one:

Internet Explorer User Agent String Utility Screenshot

As you can see in the screenshot you’ll be given the choice to only change the settings or to change the settings and email Microsoft about the compatibility problem. They are doing this because they are afraid that webmasters will not be adjusting their sites to ensure that they work properly with IE 7.


I know all of us would rather now have to deal with these hassles but they seem inevitable each time a new browser is released. Many sites that appear not to work actually work just fine but they haven’t been updated to officially support the browser. So probably for the next few months it may not be a terrible idea to use these settings until the webmasters actually realize that a new browser has been released and fix what is necessary.