What is ActiveX?
ActiveX is a set of technologies from Microsoft that enables interactive content for the World Wide Web. Before ActiveX, Web content was static, 2-dimensional text and graphics. With ActiveX, Web sites come alive using multimedia effects, interactive objects, and sophisticated applications that create a user experience comparable to that of high-quality CD-ROM titles. ActiveX provides the glue that ties together a wide assortment of technology building blocks to enable these “active” Web sites.
A control using ActiveX technologies. An ActiveX control can be automatically downloaded and executed by a Web browser. ActiveX is not a programming language, but rather a set of rules for how applications should share information. Programmers can develop ActiveX controls in a variety of languages, including C, C++, Visual Basic, and Java.
An ActiveX control is similar to a Java applet. Unlike Java applets, however, ActiveX controls have full access to the Windows operating system. This gives them much more power than Java applets, but with this power comes a certain risk that the applet may damage software or data on your machine. To control this risk, Microsoft developed a registration system so that browsers can identify and authenticate an ActiveX control before downloading it. Another difference between Java applets and ActiveX controls is that Java applets can be written to run on all platforms, whereas ActiveX controls are currently limited to Windows environments.
Related to ActiveX is a scripting language called VBScript that enables Web authors to embed interactive elements in HTML documents.
What Are Its Primary Benefits?
* Active Web Content with Impact that will attract and retain users.
* Open, Cross-Platform Support on Macintosh®, Windows® and UNIX® operating systems.
* Familiar Tools from a wide assortment of tools and programming language vendors, including Visual Basic®, Visual C++®, Borland® Delphi®, Borland C++, Java, and Java-enabled tools. Developers can use what they know and be productive immediately.
* Existing Inventory of ActiveX controls available today for immediate use by Web producers.
* Industry Standards, with built-in support for key industry and de-facto marketplace standards, including HTML, TCP/IP, Java, COM, and others.
What Are Its Elements?
ActiveX includes both client and server technologies.
* ActiveX Controls are the interactive objects in a Web page that provide interactive and user-controllable functions and hence enliven the experience of a Web site.
* ActiveX Documents enable users to view non-HTML documents, such as Microsoft Excel or Word files, through a Web browser.
* Active Scripting controls the integrated behavior of several ActiveX controls and/or Java Applets from the browser or server.
* Java™ Virtual Machine is the code that enables any ActiveX-supported browser such as Internet Explorer 3.0 to run Java applets and to integrate Java applets with ActiveX controls.
* ActiveX Server Framework provides a number of Web server-based functions such as security, database access, and others.
What Can It Do?
ActiveX brings innovation and interactivity to the Web. Because it is supported by many different languages and tools, it enables developers with varied backgrounds and expertise to bring their creativity to the Web. Based on a refinement of the existing COM standard already known by thousands of developers, it can leverage the knowledge and work of the development community without a steep learning curve. And because it is a third-generation technology with extensive third-party support, it provides the richest development platform for both Internet and intranet Client/Server applications available today. ActiveX takes the most creative and innovative software development efforts and enables them to work together seamlessly in a Web site. With thousands of these software components already existing, an exciting collection of interactive objects is available for immediate use by Web producers.
Why Is It Important?
ActiveX makes it fast and easy for developers and Web producers to create unique, interactive Web sites that will make the Internet fundamentally more useful and productive. Web producers don’t have to start from scratch and build all the parts of their interactive Web site by hand, because there are already more than 1,000 reusable controls available in the market. And because ActiveX can be used with a wide variety of programming languages from dozens of vendors, developers and Webmasters can make use of their current expertise to more quickly create compelling content. They can also accommodate a wide range of users, as ActiveX will be supported on multiple operating system platforms.
How Does It Compare with Java?
ActiveX provides a standard mechanism to extend any programming language, including Java. ActiveX extends the capabilities of the Java language by allowing Java developers to integrate their applets with the richness of ActiveX. ActiveX ties Java applets together with objects created in other languages, so that Java programmers can link to ActiveX controls directly from their Java programs. By the same token, objects written in other programming languages from multiple vendors can link to Java applets. ActiveX is the glue that ties them all together, delivering the most powerful Web technologies in an open, integrated platform. By providing a common way to extend and link programming languages including Java, ActiveX maximizes developers’ resources for interactive Web development. See ActiveX and Java for more information on extending Java with ActiveX.
Who Supports It?
Small, medium and large software companies currently create ActiveX controls, including companies such as Borland, Oracle and Sybase/Powersoft. As a result of their work, there are more than 1,000 existing ActiveX controls available for use today by Web producers. In addition, 14 companies who create Web design and development tools have built ActiveX support into their products, allowing their customers to both create and make use of ActiveX controls in their programs. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer supports ActiveX, and Microsoft provides the ActiveX plug-in for Netscape® Navigator®, enabling the broadest range of Internet users to view ActiveX-enabled Web pages.
Where Does It Run?
ActiveX is currently supported on the Windows operating system. Microsoft is working with Metrowerks to support ActiveX on the Macintosh platform, and is also working with Bristol and Mainsoft to support it on UNIX platforms. Developers who write ActiveX controls and other ActiveX objects will be able to reach the widest possible user audience with this cross-platform solution.
Test Your ActiveX Installation
When prompted with a certificate, please accept it. The current date and time should appear below:
ActiveX is not supported
If you see the current date and time displayed above, congratulations! ActiveX and scripting are working properly. (If you see a date and time but it isn’t the right time, your PC’s clock is set wrong! Double-click the time in the system tray to correct it.)
If, instead of the time, you see a box with a small x in it, either:
* ActiveX is not supported: Use Internet Explorer to view the site.
* ActiveX is not enabled: See these instructions to enable ActiveX :-
To change your security settings in Internet Explorer, select Tools | Internet Option | Security. Make sure you have selected the Internet zone as shown on the picture at the right. Usually, the Medium security level is sufficient for use with PC Pitstop, and you can get to that setting by clicking the Default Level button.
You may encounter a bug in IE where the browser will sometimes show the Medium setting but will not actually use the proper settings for the Medium security level. In that case, click the Custom button and set each individual security setting as shown in the picture at right.
* You didn’t accept the certificate: You must click Yes on the security certificate to load the ActiveX control.
* You are using an ad blocker, popup stopper, or firewall that blocks ActiveX: Disable these utilities to see if they are the cause.
* Your system has spyware installed or a virus that interferes with ActiveX:
* If you see a blank space, ActiveX is probably working properly, but not scripting. Check your security settings for scripting.
If you see the message ActiveX is not supported, then your browser doesn’t recognize ActiveX at all. Netscape, Opera, or other browsers usually do not support ActiveX.
When you think you’ve corrected any problem you are having with this, simply refresh the page [press F5] to try again.