I’ve been working this week to make our applications compatible with Internet Explorer 7.

Some background: As a Mac shop, most of our exposure to the pain of the Windows world has been through support emails we receive. But recently we installed Windows Vista in a Parallels virtual machine for IE 7 testing.

Parallels is an indispensable tool that lets us test our applications in all the browsers we support on a single computer. We can even test IE 6 and 7 side-by-side by running Windows XP in one VM and Vista in another. As a web developer, Parallels is easily the single best reason to own an Intel Mac. But starting with Vista’s release, Microsoft wants us to pay for the privilege: you’ll legally only be able to install the most expensive versions (Ultimate and Business) in a VM, even if all you’re doing is clicking on things in IE.

And even testing things in IE isn’t easy. For example, here’s what you see when you click View Source in Vista:

This is just one of the endless confirmation dialogs Microsoft has added in the name of security. Here, the language doesn’t even make sense: No, a “website” doesn’t “want” to “open web content,” I clicked View Source! And the dialog box defaults to not letting me do what I want. So you can’t even trust Vista to do what you tell it to do.

But the most painful experience yet has been installing Microsoft Script Debugger, an ancient artifact used to debug JavaScript in IE. After finding the link on Microsoft’s web site, it takes a stunning 35 clicks through nearly as many dialog boxes just to get the thing installed. (Keep reading for videos and an explanation.)

Installing Microsoft Script Debugger in Windows Vista, 10 MB

First I have to make sure my copy of Windows is “genuine,” which involves installing an ActiveX component (yuck!) or downloading and running a 1.35 MB program that takes 15 seconds to load and forces me to copy and paste a code into a tiny text field. Once I’m past the validation step, I click to download and run the Script Debugger installer, which leads me through six confirmation dialogs before actually starting the installation.

Except the files can’t be copied! More cryptic dialogs appear. I click Retry several times to no avail, then finally give up and click Cancel. (Which I’m asked to confirm, of course.) After saying yes, I’m sure I want to cancel the installation that doesn’t work, another dialog pops up blaming me for the failed installation: “INF Install failure. Reason: The operation was cancelled by the user.”

So I decide to actually read the instructions on the page that loaded after my download began. The instructions say that clicking “Run” instead of “Save” should be fine. Whatever, I’ll try saving the installer to disk anyway, because I really need this debugger. Ten confirmation dialogs later, the Microsoft Script Debugger installer finally starts copying files to my hard drive.

Now, let’s compare this to the installation procedure for Apple’s JavaScript debugger:

Installing Apple’s debugger in OS X, 1 MB

Four clicks and a drag after finding the download link, I have the debugger installed and running.

If you’re a web developer, it’s pretty obvious Microsoft isn’t interested in making things any easier for you, despite the recently gung ho attitude of the IE team. I think Ryan summed it up best in Campfire yesterday:

Ryan S.
windows in general has been like a confused and slow person. vista is like a person who lost their meds and is trying their best to ignore the voices