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Clock ticking on IE ActiveX changes

On Tuesday, Microsoft will push out an update for Internet Explorer that will change the way the Web browser displays certain pages. Web developers who have not tested their Web sites with the update may be in for a surprise.

After the update, IE users will not be able to directly interact with Microsoft ActiveX controls loaded by the "APPLET," "EMBED" or "OBJECT" elements in Web pages. This means that certain parts of a Web page, such as a Macromedia Flash animation or QuickTime movie, might need an extra click of the mouse to start.

If Web sites that use these elements have not been updated to account for the changes Microsoft is making, it could mean that the user experience changes. Users may have to click extra times or see ActiveX-related alerts.

Microsoft will deliver the IE change along with its April security patches as part of Patch Tuesday. These will be installed automatically via the automatic update mechanism in Windows on millions of PCs starting Tuesday.

Developers have had some time to prepare. Microsoft first announced these changes in December. A month later it made the update available on MSDN, its Web site for developers. The update was made available to the general public in February as an optional download.

People who need more time to adjust to the ActiveX changes can download a special patch that will disable the changes in the browser for two months. This "compatibility patch" is specifically designed for businesses that may have homegrown applications that use ActiveX, Microsoft has said.