Configuring the emulation mode of an Internet Explorer WebBrowser control

Occasionally I need to embed HTML in my applications. If it is just to display some simple layout with basic interactions, I might use a component such as HtmlRenderer. In most cases however, I need a more complex layout, JavaScript or I might want to display real pages from the internet - in which case I'm lumbered with the WebBrowser control.

I'm aware other embeddable browsers exist, but the idea of shipping additional multi-MB dependencies doesn't make sense unless an application makes heavy use of HTML interfaces

The WebBrowser control annoys me in myriad ways, but it does get the job done. One of the things that occasionally frustrates me is that by default it is essentially an embedded version of Internet Explorer 7 - or enabling Compatibility Mode in a modern IE session. Not so good as more and more sites use HTML5 and other goodies.

Rather fortunately however, Microsoft provide the ability to configure the emulation mode your application will use. It's not as simple as setting some properties on a control as it involves setting some registry values and other caveats, but it is still a reasonable process.

About browser emulation versions

The table below (source) lists the currently supported emulation versions at the time of writing. As you can see, it's possible to emulate all "recent" versions of Internet Explorer in one of two ways - either by forcing a standards mode, or allowing !DOCTYPE directives to control the mode. The exception to this dual behaviour is version 7 which is as is.

According to the documentation the IE8 (8000) and IE9 (9000) modes will switch to IE10 (10000) mode if installed. The documentation doesn't mention if this is still the case regarding IE11 so I'm not sure on the behaviour in that regard.

Value Description
11001Internet Explorer 11. Webpages are displayed in IE11 edge mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
11000IE11. Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE11 edge mode. Default value for IE11.
10001Internet Explorer 10. Webpages are displayed in IE10 Standards mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
10000Internet Explorer 10. Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE10 Standards mode. Default value for Internet Explorer 10.
9999Windows Internet Explorer 9. Webpages are displayed in IE9 Standards mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
9000Internet Explorer 9. Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE9 mode. Default value for Internet Explorer 9.
8888Webpages are displayed in IE8 Standards mode, regardless of the !DOCTYPE directive.
8000Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE8 mode. Default value for Internet Explorer 8
7000Webpages containing standards-based !DOCTYPE directives are displayed in IE7 Standards mode. Default value for applications hosting the WebBrowser Control.

Setting the browser emulation version

Setting the emulation version is very straightforward - add a value to the registry in the below key containing the name of your executable file and a value from the table above.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (or HKEY_CURRENT_USER)
   SOFTWARE
      Microsoft
         Internet Explorer
            Main
               FeatureControl
                  FEATURE_BROWSER_EMULATION
                     yourapp.exe = (DWORD) version

Note: If you do this from an application you're debugging using Visual Studio and the Visual Studio Hosting Process option is enabled you'll find the executable name may not be what you expect. When enabled, a stub process with a slightly modified name is used instead. For example, if your application is named calc.exe, you'll need to add the value calc.vshost.exe in order to set the emulated version for the correct process.

Getting the Internet Explorer version

As it makes more sense to detect the version of IE installed on the user's computer and set the emulation version to match, first we need a way of detecting the IE version.

There are various ways of getting the installed IE version, but the sensible method is reading the value from the registry as everything else we are doing in this article involves the registry in some fashion.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
   SOFTWARE
      Microsoft
         Internet Explorer
            svcVersion or Version

Older versions of IE used the Version value, while newer versions use svcVersion. In either case, this value contains the version string.

We can use the following version to pull out the major digit.

private const string InternetExplorerRootKey = @"Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer";

public static int GetInternetExplorerMajorVersion()
{
  int result;

  result = 0;

  try
  {
    RegistryKey key;

    key = Registry.LocalMachine.OpenSubKey(InternetExplorerRootKey);

    if (key != null)
    {
      object value;

      value = key.GetValue("svcVersion", null) ?? key.GetValue("Version", null);

      if (value != null)
      {
        string version;
        int separator;

        version = value.ToString();
        separator = version.IndexOf('.');
        if (separator != -1)
        {
          int.TryParse(version.Substring(0, separator), out result);
        }
      }
    }
  }
  catch (SecurityException)
  {
    // The user does not have the permissions required to read from the registry key.
  }
  catch (UnauthorizedAccessException)
  {
    // The user does not have the necessary registry rights.
  }

  return result;
}

Points to note:

  • I'm returning an int with the major version component rather a Version class. In this example, I don't need a full version to start with and it avoids crashes if the version string is invalid
  • For the same reason, I'm explicitly catching (and ignoring) SecurityException and UnauthorizedAccessException exceptions which will be thrown if the user doesn't have permission to access those keys. Again, I don't really want the function crashing for those reasons.

You can always remove the try block to have all exceptions thrown instead of the access exceptions being ignored.

Getting the browser emulation version

The functions to get and set the emulation version are using HKEY_CURRENT_USER to make them per user rather than for the entire machine.

First we'll create an enumeration to handle the different versions described above so that we don't have to deal with magic numbers.

public enum BrowserEmulationVersion
{
  Default = 0,
  Version7 = 7000,
  Version8 = 8000,
  Version8Standards = 8888,
  Version9 = 9000,
  Version9Standards = 9999,
  Version10 = 10000,
  Version10Standards = 10001,
  Version11 = 11000,
  Version11Edge = 11001
}

Next, a function to detect the current emulation version in use by our application, and another to quickly tell if an emulation version has previously been set.

private const string BrowserEmulationKey = InternetExplorerRootKey + @"\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_BROWSER_EMULATION";

public static BrowserEmulationVersion GetBrowserEmulationVersion()
{
  BrowserEmulationVersion result;

  result = BrowserEmulationVersion.Default;

  try
  {
    RegistryKey key;

    key = Registry.CurrentUser.OpenSubKey(BrowserEmulationKey, true);
    if (key != null)
    {
      string programName;
      object value;

      programName = Path.GetFileName(Environment.GetCommandLineArgs()[0]);
      value = key.GetValue(programName, null);

      if (value != null)
      {
        result = (BrowserEmulationVersion)Convert.ToInt32(value);
      }
    }
  }
  catch (SecurityException)
  {
    // The user does not have the permissions required to read from the registry key.
  }
  catch (UnauthorizedAccessException)
  {
    // The user does not have the necessary registry rights.
  }

  return result;
}

public static bool IsBrowserEmulationSet()
{
  return GetBrowserEmulationVersion() != BrowserEmulationVersion.Default;
}

Setting the emulation version

And finally, we need to be able to set the emulation version. I've provided two functions for doing this, one which allows you to explicitly set a value, and another that uses the best matching value for the installed version of Internet Explorer.

public static bool SetBrowserEmulationVersion(BrowserEmulationVersion browserEmulationVersion)
{
  bool result;

  result = false;

  try
  {
    RegistryKey key;

    key = Registry.CurrentUser.OpenSubKey(BrowserEmulationKey, true);

    if (key != null)
    {
      string programName;

      programName = Path.GetFileName(Environment.GetCommandLineArgs()[0]);

      if (browserEmulationVersion != BrowserEmulationVersion.Default)
      {
        // if it's a valid value, update or create the value
        key.SetValue(programName, (int)browserEmulationVersion, RegistryValueKind.DWord);
      }
      else
      {
        // otherwise, remove the existing value
        key.DeleteValue(programName, false);
      }

      result = true;
    }
  }
  catch (SecurityException)
  {
    // The user does not have the permissions required to read from the registry key.
  }
  catch (UnauthorizedAccessException)
  {
    // The user does not have the necessary registry rights.
  }

  return result;
}

public static bool SetBrowserEmulationVersion()
{
  int ieVersion;
  BrowserEmulationVersion emulationCode;

  ieVersion = GetInternetExplorerMajorVersion();

  if (ieVersion >= 11)
  {
    emulationCode = BrowserEmulationVersion.Version11;
  }
  else
  {
    switch (ieVersion)
    {
      case 10:
        emulationCode = BrowserEmulationVersion.Version10;
        break;
      case 9:
        emulationCode = BrowserEmulationVersion.Version9;
        break;
      case 8:
        emulationCode = BrowserEmulationVersion.Version8;
        break;
      default:
        emulationCode = BrowserEmulationVersion.Version7;
        break;
    }
  }

  return SetBrowserEmulationVersion(emulationCode);
}

As mentioned previously, I don't really want these functions crashing for anticipated reasons, so these functions will also catch and ignore SecurityException and UnauthorizedAccessException exceptions. The SetBrowserEmulationVersion function will return true if a value was updated.

Simple Usage

If you just want "fire and forget" updating of the browser emulation version, you can use the following lines.

if (!InternetExplorerBrowserEmulation.IsBrowserEmulationSet())
{
  InternetExplorerBrowserEmulation.SetBrowserEmulationVersion();
}

This will apply the best matching IE version if an emulation version isn't set. However, it means if the user updates their copy if IE to something newer, your application will potentially continue to use the older version. I shall leave that as an exercise for another day!

Caveats and points to note

Changing the emulation version while your application is running

While experimenting with this code, I did hit a major caveat.

In the original application this code was written for, I was applying the emulation version just before the first window containing a WebBrowser control was loaded, and this worked perfectly well.

However, setting the emulation version doesn't seem to work if an instance of the WebBrowser control has already been created in your application. I tried various things such as recreating the WebBrowser control or reloading the Form the control was hosted on, but couldn't get the new instance to honour the setting without an application restart.

The attached demonstration program has gone with the "restart after making a selection" hack - please don't do this in production applications!

Should I change the emulation version of my application?

You should carefully consider where or not to change the emulation version of your application. If it's currently working fine, then it's probably better to leave it as is. If however, you wish to make use of modern standards compliant HTML, CSS or JavaScript then setting the appropriate emulation version will save you a lot of trouble.

Further Reading

The are a lot of different options you can apply to Internet Explorer and the WebBrowser control. These options allow you to change behaviours, supported features and quite a few more. This article has touched upon one of the more common requirements, but there are a number of other options that are worth looking at for advanced application scenarios.

An index of all available configuration options can be found on MSDN.

Downloads

Filename Description Version Release Date
IeBrowserEmulation.zip
  • md5: 565fb8296871228bd35c3b3daa58d187

Sample file for the article configuring the emulation mode of an Internet Explorer WebBrowser control

28/06/2014 Download

About The Author

Gravatar

The founder of Cyotek, Richard enjoys creating new blog content for the site. Much more though, he likes to develop programs, and can often found writing reams of code. A long term gamer, he has aspirations in one day creating an epic video game. Until that time, he is mostly content with adding new bugs to WebCopy and the other Cyotek products.

Leave a Comment

While we appreciate comments from our users, please follow our posting guidelines. Have you tried the Cyotek Forums for support from Cyotek and the community?

Styling with Markdown is supported

Comments

MAHESH NARAYANAN V V

# Reply

Great...... Its Working Smoothly.... Thank you for your Post

İbrahim Uludağ

# Reply

Very Thanks. Works perferctly.

Gravatar

chris devine

# Reply

the usage command "if (!InternetExplorerBrowserEmulation.IsBrowserEmulationSet()) { InternetExplorerBrowserEmulation.SetBrowserEmulationVersion(); }"

flags the "InternetExplorerBrowserEmulation" as cannot resolve. Could you tell me what am doing wrong. All the other code has no errors

Gravatar

Richard Moss

# Reply

It's the name of the class, so it suggests you've renamed the class to something else. As it's a static method, the class name isn't required, I just prefer it for clarify. Either delete it, or replace it with the name of the class you put the code into.

Gravatar

Salvatore

# Reply

I at all and thanks for your code. It works fine for me but I have a little problem: when my app starts, IE show me a security message about the scripting ("to facilitate the security has been prevented to the file........"). How can I avoid this problem?

Gravatar

ShepSoft

# Reply

Your article is unusual in that it is intelligently written and professionally presented - well done.

An additional (well known) issue with embedded IE is JS pop up errors. If you had time, a mention of this might be a useful extension to your excellent guide - you might mention the idea suggested by Ashot Muradian at http://stackoverflow.com/questions/6138199/wpf-webbrowser-control-how-to-supress-script-errors/18289217#18289217

Thank you.

Tolib Rahimov

# Reply

Great solution! Thank you very much.

mansureh

# Reply

Thank you very much, It helped me

Gravatar

Luis

# Reply

Hey!, thanks for this code, i have a question... all of you tried to show a pdf file inside webbrowser with this code??,.

i cant show a pdf inside of webbrowser, the webbrowser download the file and display on adobe reader desktop app, but without set the emulation mode it shows inside webbrowser.

The Danish

# Reply

This seems to have been fixed in WPF, so instead of using Windows Forms try a WPF project.

Gravatar

Richard Moss

# Reply

I have very little interest in WPF so I haven't tested this, but I do doubt it as the WPF version is the same wrapper. But, as I said, I didn't test so have no idea one way or another. (Also, using WPF to resolve one easily fixed issue is insane ;))

However, I do think that "something" changes with Windows 10, as I tested the example a few weeks back and the WebBrowser control appeared to be running in IE11 mode without having to manual specify the emulation mode. I looked at it in a hurry so possibly made a mistake, I do need to recheck that at some point.

Regards; Richard Moss

Gravatar

ahmed

# Reply

i got the message " Failed to update browser emulation version ... Why ? and how can resolve it

Gravatar

Richard Moss

# Reply

Hello,

You would find the cause by looking at the coding and debugging it. You can see that the demonstration program will display that message if

  • The emulation registry key cannot be found
  • You don't have permission to read or write to the key

Try stepping through the code and see which one it is.

Regards;
Richard Moss

som

# Reply

This demo application is not working for me, js script error message always show for each browser version selection.

Gravatar

Richard Moss

# Reply

Did you try stepping through the sample code to find out why it isn't working?

Gravatar

Christoph Bergner

# Reply

Thank you Richard for the code. Do I understand right that the webbrowser control can only emulate a browser that is installed locally? I have a client who has IE 9 installed on all his machines - would using the webbrowser control emulating IE10 or 11 put him into place to access websites that require a higher version of IE, e.g. in order to use SVG features?

Gravatar

Richard Moss

# Reply

Christoph,

Thanks for the message! Yes, the emulation only works with what is installed, so your IE9 user will not be able to emulate anything higher. You'd either have to upgrade their IE version, or look into embedding a browser into your software that you can control - there are a couple of C# Chrome alternatives, but these come with a hefty size cost. I haven't used these to know how they work or if they are as easy to embed as the WebBrowser control.

Regards;
Richard Moss

Евгений

# Reply

Thank you so much. My WebBrowser control show me version 11, but I get error. I spend for it all day. After your post it work. Thank you so much again

Gravatar

Richard Moss

# Reply

Glad you found it useful!