SuperNova and Internet Explorer 9 - Technical FAQs
What is Dolphin doing to introduce support in SuperNova for Internet Explorer 9?
Dolphin’s development team is working extremely hard to deliver a solution to various problems with Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). As soon as a solution becomes available, a free update will be made available for all SuperNova version 12 customers. Dolphin continue to work very closely with Microsoft as we have done over the past months in preparation for the IE9 release. At this point we do NOT recommend updating to IE9.
I've heard that IE9 is bad news for access technology users, what is so different?
As well as supporting HTML5, IE9 uses a new Microsoft technology called Direct2D to draw web pages. Direct2D is based upon Direct3D and is a hardware accelerated rendering engine. This enables IE9 to draw pages significantly faster than IE8 which uses the GDI API.
How does this affect Screen Reader users?
Virtually all modern screen readers including SuperNova now use higher-level technologies such as UIA (UI Automation) or MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility) to provide information about Internet Explorer. This allows the screen reader to find out what is on the page without any hooking or patching. The result of this approach is that SuperNova speech users will generally not be affected by the changes in IE9. A free update for v12.03 is about to be released for all v12 users and is highly recommended for anyone using speech.
How does this affect Braille display users?
The majority of Braille output is generated using the higher-level technologies such as UIA (UI Automation) or MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility) that the screen reader is also using. Therefore the majority of SuperNova's Braille output will NOT be affected by the changes in IE9. However there is one exception, Physical Braille Mode.
What's different about Physical Braille Mode?
Physical Braille Mode is where the Braille display lets you navigate physically around the screen. Physical Braille Mode uses the Off Screen Model (OSM), because UIA and MSAA are not very good at giving information in physical screen order.
The Off screen Model (OSM) works by capturing the GDI (or display driver) output and creating a real-time database of screen elements. However IE9's Direct2D works differently. It does not use the GDI and according to Microsoft there is no way to hook and get semantic information about what is being drawn, or where it is on the screen. This means that current method for creating an OSM will not work. Therefore Physical Braille Mode will not work in IE9.
How does this affect Magnifier users?
Magnification also uses the OSM for performance reasons. Quite simply UIA and MSAA don't provide the very accurate information that magnification requires. MSAA for example does not provide any information about the font or size of text, or the actual positions of any characters. This information is essential to any magnification vendor! SuperNova's True Fonts work by capturing text that is drawn and re-rendering it at a larger size. If you are going to re-render the screen you have to know exactly where every character is and what it looks like.
If magnifiers cannot create an Off Screen Model (OSM) that represents the physical page, they can only enlarge the original image. This means at this time True Fonts and Dolphin's previous font smoothing technology will not work in IE9.
I use SuperNova (or Hal, Lunar or LunarPlus) version 11, how will IE9 affect me?
Dolphin has no plans to offer support for IE9 in SuperNova, Hal, Lunar or LunarPlus version 11.
What about other applications that use Direct2D such as Windows Live?
Dolphin is also working on a magnification solution for these applications.