Using Enterprise Mode in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11

Enterprise Mode is a feature that shipped in Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 10, and was also introduced to Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 7 and 8.1 in April 2014 that should be seriously considered by any organisation still hoping to complete their Windows 10 migrations before end of support in January 2020, but are worried that their older web applications may not work in the latest version of Internet Explorer.

Enterprise Mode has two functions depending on which browser you are using; In Microsoft Edge it can be used to automatically redirect certain website to IE11 (Edge itself does not do any compatibility rendering, it simply shifts you over to IE11 to do that). In IE11, it can be used to open specified sites in certain document modes or in IE8 or IE7 Enterprise Mode which offers greater emulation of those browsers.

To start, you must enable Enterprise Mode in both Edge and IE11 separately. Yes, there are two places in Group Policy where you have to enable this feature to fully utilise it.

For Microsoft Edge:
Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Microsoft Edge > Configure the Enterprise Mode Site List

For Internet Explorer 11:
Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer > Use the Enterprise Mode IE website list

When you have enabled them, you are also required to enter a path where your site list can be found. This can either be a URL (if you have an internal web server to host it) or a file share location (such as \\fileserver.domain.com\SiteList\sitelist.xml).

To create your site list, start by downloading the Enterprise Mode Site List Manager tool. That is assuming you are working with Windows 10 clients. If you are working with Windows 7 or 8.1 clients, download this tool instead. Once you’ve installed it you are given an easy interface to generate a valid XML file for the site list. Just for fun, let’s take my site and configure Edge to open it in IE11, and IE11 to render it in IE8 compatibility mode:

Adding my site to Enterprise Mode

Let’s see what that looks like in the resulting XML:

Adding my site to Enterprise Mode XML

A few things to take away from this:

1) The site list is on version 2. This matters because if this does not increment each time you make a change, Edge and IE11 will not honour the change.
2) The site URL is just the main domain and does not include the https:// or any subdomains. In this case, any URL containing kevinstreet.co.uk will redirect to IE11 (for example, https://reallyoldapp.kevinstreet.co.uk or https://kevinstreet.co.uk/reallyoldapp will redirect to IE11). If you only want a specific subdomain to redirect to IE11 then you should specify that subdomain.
3) The selected compatibility is IE8 Enterprise Mode.
4) The site will be opened in IE11. If a user tries to open it in Microsoft Edge, IE11 will automatically open and navigate to the page.

With the site populated with sites (presumably not actually with my site!) and the site list XML saved to the location you specified in the GPO, open Microsoft Edge and test browsing to the site you specified. It may not work immediately! Edge takes approximately 60 seconds from the time it is opened to check for a new version of the site list and apply it (as does IE11).

Super handy tip: If you want to confirm that your site list is working, in both Edge and IE11, type about:compat in the URL to get a list of websites and their prescribed behaviour. You even get a Force update button to speed up the process of updating the site list. Very useful if you are in the process of adding sites and want to quickly test that your configuration is working.

Compatibility Settings

Once you’re sure both Edge and IE11 are using the latest version of the site list, retry browsing to a URL you specified. In Edge, it should automatically open in IE11 and open in the specified compatibility mode.

My site in Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode
Gosh my site looks pretty bad being rendered as if it was open in Internet Explorer 8!

As you can see from the image above, the site has loaded in Enterprise Mode (this is clear because the of the little blue icon that appears next to the URL). This icon only appears when you select Enterprise Mode as a compatibility mode, it does not appear if you select a document mode. You can still confirm that it has worked by browsing to the site and pressing F12 to open the Developer Tools, then selecting the Emulation tab. In here you will see that the Document mode and Browser profile are configured as you specified in the site list.

Bonus cool stuff: Google Chrome also has a version of this, called Legacy Browser Support. This is particularly cool because you can configure it with Group Policy and it can use the same site list as Edge and IE11, so no need to maintain separate lists! Click here to learn more about Google Chrome Legacy Browser Support for Windows.