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Mac IE 5 — problems with css rendering.

This is a collection of odd, ugly or buggy behaviours with CSS in Internet Explorer 5.x for the Mac. Even though this browser has pretty good support for CSS1 and CSS2, some things simply don’t work correctly, or can cause trouble down the road: absolute positioning, overflow, floats,... all have or create (serious) problems. Whenever possible, I’ve tried to include some screenshots and solutions or work arounds for the described problems. Unless specified, all problems apply to all versions of IE 5 for Mac (current: 5.23 for OS X and 5.17 for OS 9), running on either OS 9 and OS X. Thanks to some people for providing samples and problems cases. Comments and suggestions are welcome, of course.

Other sites for IE 5 mac problems

Codebitch has a larger collection of problems at Macedition.com. Read also her column. Peter-Paul Koch also has some interesting notes. He also wrote an article for Apple’s internet developper site. (... and a small list of problems in IE4.5 Mac. Although this browser is certainly not often used anymore, I include the link here, maybe because I keep loosing it.)

News and Updates

Meanwhile, Microsoft has released MSN8 client for OS X (may 15, 2003). This incorporates an updated version of the Tasman rendering engine. Jimmy Grewal, developper for the MacBU, posted a list of improvements to the “Mac Internet Explorer Talk” list (because no archive is available, I reposted his message on my site; I hope this is not a problem). Codebitch posted a preliminary assesment on the CSS-Discuss list: some bugs have been fixed, some not; see her more detailed assesment. An overview of supported CSS2 is also available at MacEdition.com. This MSN client is only available to people with an US based billing address, so I'm unable to do any testing myself at the moment. (If anybody is willing to help with this, I’ll gladly publish testfiles and results; contact me).

June 13, 2003. Mac IE as we know it just died. Microsoft pulled the plug on further development of a standalone version. It is a sad moment, seeing a pretty good browser leave the scene. To the developers of Mac IE, Tantek Çelik, Jimmy Grewal and others: thanks. Thanks for being the first, more than 3 years ago, to develop a quality browser with very decent support for webstandards. Your counterparts over at Windows IE still haven’t managed to do most of this. Eric Meyer resumes the historical significance of IE Mac.

A postscript note. I don’t expect IE to hang around for long on OS X. Better browsers are there to take over: Safari, Firebird, Camino, Mozilla, …, to name some. On Mac OS 9 however, IE5 will remain a sizable force for a while. A majority of Mac users still run OS9 or older (this is not much different from the Windows side). No recent Mozilla, and certainly no Safari are available for that OS. And, contrary to what some have posted recently, IE Mac is still available for download from the Microsoft website (link removed as the browser is not available anymore from the Microsoft website, the editor). According to this support page from Microsoft, all official support will stop on December 31, 2005. The browser is also listed for download on the browsers.evolt.org website.

[December 2004] Despite being pronounced dead, and more often than not, discarded by some ‘standards pundits’, this browser is not yet gone. I recently came across some loganalysis from the APINC, a French webhosting company. The detail page has some nice graph about browser usage for Mac OS (the page is in French, the graph is halfway down the page). IE Mac still commands more than a sizeable share of the browsers used on Mac. This reflects what I see for some commercial sites I’ve developed the last two years. One correspondent mentioned that his users, mainly in the academic world, prefered IE Mac to some other browsers, such as Safari, considering the latter too much of a toy. Mozilla based browsers were seen as too geeky (this was before the release of Firefox 1.0). As usual, YMMV. Worthwhile noting as well is the fact that many people still use OS 9. From looking at some of my own logs, I did notice that many users still surf with IE 5.00, the first and oldest release of IE 5 Mac, that came preinstalled with Macs in 2000-2001.


The browser can be very stubborn with caching a style sheet, especially when accessing files from a server. The solution is to open a second window, access the style sheet in there, then force reload that style sheet (Command–Shift R). Next, switch back to the window with the html file, and force reload this file. Your updated stylesheet should now be applied. Note that background-images can also be very stubborn. It might help to empty the browser’s cache (Preferences>Advanced), and then quiting and restaring the browser. This happens less when accessing files through the ‘file>open’ dialogue box.

Some other CSS resources

A list of usefull resources.


Ah, yes, visitor, if you come around here with IE5 mac, you’ll notice a bug in the navigation bar. Some menu items contain an expandable submenu (ie. under the ‘edge positioning’ item). When the menu is expanded, the parent block fails to repaint correctly, resulting in some menu items being hidden. But move the mouse over the bottom of the menu, and magically, they start to appear..... Close the menu again, and everything is back. [update] I've fixed this by adding a bit of javascript that automagically resizes the window by one pixel, then resizes it back again.

It is a painting bug with absolute positioned elements. The only (non–javascript) solution I have been able to find for this is reordering the source code, moving the code block for the menu to the very top of the document. But no I won't do that, I don’t want to change the semantic structure of these pages.

Comments and suggestions: are not needed anymore. Thanks to all who provided info and tips in the past.

File last updated: August 10, 2010.

This article has been translated in Bielorussian.

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This collection of documents and test cases related to Internet Explorer 5 for Mac is no longer maintained and is only kept online for historical reasons.