WebbIE 4.3 – some HTML5 fun

New WebbIE 4 – more support for HTML5 and WAI-ARIA

WebbIE 4.3 has some cool new features based on the latest HTML5 and WAI-ARIA technology.

HTML5 is the latest update to how web pages work. It has a number of things that are helpful for screenreader users:

  • A web page can have a MAIN element. This is good for the Crop function in WebbIE, which will use this to help decide what to crop and what not.
  • Forms have a bit more definition, so email input boxes, sliders and progress bars have appeared. This is good for WebbIE because when you try to set one of these inputs you can get a special custom experience that works with your screenreader. For email address inputs, WebbIE will check that you have typed a correct email address and explain what is wrong. This is useful since it can be hard to correctly type and then fix email addresses with a screenreader, letter by letter. For sliders, WebbIE puts up a pop-up window containing a standard slider with the values all correctly set so your screenreader should recognise and operate it perfectly. WebbIE also presents progress bars sensibly in the text view.
  • WebbIE 4 has always supported the AUDIO and VIDEO elements, so you can play and control music and video in web pages easily.

WAI-ARIA is a mechanism to help screenreader users use complex web pages like Facebook. Facebook uses special WAI-ARIA code to label parts of its page with information – the small flags and images that mouse users can click on.

  • WebbIE supports the aria-label and aria-labelledby attributes, so more elements on a web page will have correct names and text – fewer “link: config.php” type entries.

Of course, this all pre-supposes that web pages use these elements correctly – which as we know is often not the case. Still, where a website has taken the effort, WebbIE will support these features and produce a better experience.

There are other HTML5 elements, but I’ve decided to add support to WebbIE as and when these elements are supported in Internet Explorer. That way WebbIE will be more reliable and perform better. This will be a problem for Windows XP users, who can’t update Internet Explorer past version 8, but I’m afraid that I have to advance WebbIE to keep it relevant so they will have to stay on WebbIE 3 or find that some features do not work as advertised. I’ll always keep WebbIE 3 around, just like I still do WebbIE for Windows ’98 – I just won’t support it any more.

Finally, there are many performance improvements.

  • WebbIE loads much, much faster.
  • Lots of bugfixes: also, WebbIE will no longer report any problems but will soldier on as best it can.
  • Improved support for the HTML “LABEL” element, so more form elements (e.g. input boxes) will have meaningful labels in the text and useful prompts when you try to use them.
  • WebbIE now supports “localhost” as a URL.
  • WebbIE once again defaults to showing the Internet Explorer homepage. People generally expect web browsers to go to a home page on the Internet: loading your Favourites might well be a better mechanism – and it is still there – but it took people by surprise and caused confusion. This only applies to new WebbIE installations: people running WebbIE 4 already will have to change their settings to suit.

Do try out the latest WebbIE and let me know what you think.