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Chapter 28. Using Java Applets, Browser ... > What Are ActiveX Controls?

What Are ActiveX Controls?

Like Java applets, ActiveX controls can be automatically downloaded to your system if they are not currently installed or if the installed version is not the most recent. Like plug-ins, ActiveX controls remain available to your Web browser continuously once they are installed. However, ActiveX controls are more than simple Web Browser plug-ins or add-ins. Because of their nature, not only can they be used to extend the functionality of Microsoft's Web browser, but they also can be used by any programming language or application that supports the OLE standard. For example, an ActiveX control could be written to enable Internet Explorer 4 to automatically search Usenet newsgroups for specific information and, at the same time, perform a similar function through integration into Microsoft Office products such as Excel or Access. Netscape Navigator plug-ins, on the other hand, can be used only in Web browsers and often work only with those that are Netscape-based; although, to be fair, ActiveX controls that use specific features of the container sometimes don't work properly outside a Microsoft browser environment. In this case the control should detect its container and issue an error message.

As with Netscape Navigator's plug-ins, ActiveX controls are dynamic code modules that exist as part of Microsoft's Application Programming Interface (API) for extending and integrating third-party software into any OLE-compliant environment. For Internet Explorer users, ActiveX controls support allows you to customize Internet Explorer's interaction with third-party products and industry media standards. Microsoft's ActiveX control API also attempts to address the concerns of programmers, providing a high degree of flexibility and cross-platform support.


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