Blue Prism has recently announced official support for Microsoft Edge Internet Explorer Mode (IE Mode) for versions of Blue Prism as early as v6.4. The IE Mode provides a new pathway in migrating away from Internet Explorer, in addition to performing full conversions to a modern browser variant, i.e., Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome or Firefox. In this blog, I am exploring some additional aspects of the IE Mode. I will address questions like “Should we adopt the IE Mode?”, and additional considerations to what we have detailed in the Blue Prism official documentation on IE Mode, which is highly recommended before starting your migration journey to the IE Mode.
Microsoft Edge Internet Explore Mode
The IE Mode offers backwards compatibility to legacy applications that must rely on Internet Explorer to work. To the end users, the target web applications running in the IE Mode would look the same apart from the fact that they are rendered within Microsoft Edge instead of Internet Explorer.
For those who have managed to dig a bit deeper, the same old iexplore processes can still be seen running in the background while the IE Mode is on, running in parallel with the msedge processes from Microsoft Edge. This behaviour logically aligns with the way how developers should adopt the IE Mode using Blue Prism, that is:
- Web Elements: all elements associated with the web section of the browser will work in the IE Mode with no modifications required.
- However, the changing of the browser application means anything that have been spied outside of the web section will likely require rework, so that the same function previously realised using Internet Explorer needs to be retrofitted by their Microsoft Edge equivalent. This may include browser application main UI elements, elements associated with popup boxes, and etc. We have covered those aspects in much detail in our official documentation.
Should We Adopt the IE Mode?
The above discussions lead to a very important point, in fact, a key difference between migrating to a modern browser variant and the IE Mode: there are much fewer elements in the original Internet Explorer object that would require re-spying or rework and most of the code should just work after having migrated to the IE Mode. Fewer work directly translates to fewer resources, efforts, and migration project length. By our estimation, the overall indicative effort of a full conversion to a modern browser variant, as compared to the IE Mode would come around 3 to 1. This makes the IE Mode a very attractive proposition for those Blue Prism COEs that are more conscious on the migration budget, and especially if they are severely under pressure to meet the Internet Explorer end-of-life deadline on 15th June 2022. That is one of the key reasons why Blue Prism has spent quite significant efforts in guiding our customers in the process. In addition to our official documentation, we have also released a new conversion utility on the Digital Exchange called “IE Mode Conversion Assistant”. It can be useful for those who may need to speed up the migration process to the IE Mode.
While the IE Mode takes less effort to migrate into, it should only be viewed as a short to medium term workaround, or a fallback option when full conversion is deemed not achievable. According to this Microsoft article, the IE Mode will be supported by them “through at least 2029”. While 2029 is still many years away, it is not difficult to see that the IE Mode will eventually be de-supported. Therefore, a strategy must be devised, if the IE Mode is chosen as the solution for the time being, to migrate those Blue Prism objects to a modern browser variant over time. It is also useful to understand the lifecycle of the target applications involved, to determine if those will be discontinued as well themselves.
Enabling the IE Mode
There are options from the Microsoft Edge UI to switch from Microsoft Edge “native mode” to “Internet Explore mode”. This is appropriate to evaluate the effect of the IE Mode, but we strongly recommended that you work with your IT to introduce Microsoft Edge related Group Policies and Enterprise Mode Site Manager List to your Blue Prism environment. These will ensure you not only have an Enterprise approach to manage the rollout of IE Mode, but also that those websites defined will continuously operate in the IE Mode. We have provided some guidance in our official documentation.
Microsoft Edge Group Policies
We would advise you to work with your IT department so that Microsoft Edge Group Policies (GPO) deployed can be fully utilised for your cause. There exists certain GPOs that will change the behaviour of the Microsoft Edge browser, so it aligns more closely with that of Internet Explorer. The introduction of such GPOs to your environment may mean less work involved to get the code migrated. One such GPO is “Enable extended hot keys in Internet Explorer mode” that would enable hot keys such as “Ctrl + S” (Save) or “Ctrl + P” (Print) to be sent to Microsoft Edge, which is by default not possible.
We have also seen many mature COEs actively reached out to their IT department so that a complete separate set of Microsoft Edge GPOs can be created for their Blue Prism environment. This creates extra flexibility in managing browser-based automations, especially if changes to organisational GPOs are needed to make the digital workers to work in the most optimal manner.
Do I Still Need “Internet Explorer” Application?
At the time of writing, the Internet Explorer application is essential for the IE Mode to operate normally. Therefore, it should NOT be removed or uninstalled from the operating system.
Multi-browser Instances Behaviour
Unlike in Internet Explorer where application modeller only has access to the instance of the browser it has attached to, in Microsoft Edge, application modeller has access to all open instances of the browser. This means work may be needed to coordinate all open browser instances when migrated to use the IE Mode.
Recommended Migration Approach
Please check this article.#InsideRPA