In the good old daya (I'm defintiely getting old) when RAM was measured in bytes rather than megabytes and processor speeds were measured in single figures, most operating systems came with a programming language. DOS had GWBASIC and QBasic, UNIX had it's shell scripting, most micros used BASIC and CP/M relied on assembler. This gave users access to a programming language without the need to spend money. Magazines could publish program listings secure in the knowledge that users had access to the relevent language because it was bundled with the Operating System. Then along came the GUI and suddenly the facility dried up. QBasic was still shipped with Windows but it wasn't updated to take advantage of the new GUI so nobody used it (even though it is still a great way to get into programming). This has lead to a fragmentation of the number of languages that users could be using (Java, VB etc...) and only available to those who paid good money for it (Java is free but a decent version complete with drag and drop IDE is not). I believe this has lead to most users not being able to write even the most rudimentary programs. It could be argued that such skills are not required and that the GUI does it all for them. Sadly, this is just not true. There are many tasks that benefit from programming skills (check out the latest MonoCall for some examples) which the GUI does not encourage.

The Microsoft came up with the Windows Scripting Host. It could be easily programmed in VBScript (a version of BASIC) using a text editor and it gave the user access to virtually all the facilities that could be found in full languages like VB. It is relatively slow because it is interpreted but I consider that an advantage as there is no need to mess around with compilers and has much in common with the UNIX shell script. However, it lacked one vital ingredient. It's GUI features were limited to message boxes and input boxes which limited it's appeal. It is possible to write small applications with it (see my scripting pages) but the user interface is very sparse.

Then along came Internet Explorer 5 and with it the HTA (HTML Application) which allowed scripts to be hosted inside IE complete with GUI widgets but without the limitations imposed by the browser. HTA's look just like ordinary windows and can be run just like programs but they can also host HTML pages complete with graphics and all the active content that comes with it. These I have called WEBlications.

Surprisingly, for a technology so useful, I have seen little mention of it in the computer press. But you'll find all you need to know in these pages. I will be offering tutorials and sample applications and an email service should you get stuck and need some help. You will however be well advised to by a book on VBScript (Javascript can also be used but I will not be covering it) and must be prepared to spend some time experimenting with writing your own programs.


Even though you will be programming in the relatively protected environment of the browser, it is still possible to crash or lock the computer which may require a reboot. The author cannot accept any responsibility for damage of any kind arising from the use, misuse or modification of these programs and assumes no responsibilty for the correctness of the documentation or the correct functioning of the scripts. A full system backup should be carried out to a suitable medium before attempting to use any of these programs and tested on non-critical systems prior to use on essential systems