debugging the text editor in sharepoint


tl dr; run IE in 32-bit mode. Seriously. I know. That’s what I said, too.

I’ve been using Sharepoint 200712 with my group, to share information about groups and projects on campus. It’s been working, but we just started using the wiki tool3, and my inability to make the visual text editor turn on became really troublesome. I’d never been able to get the visual editor to show up. I looked in settings - the visual editor in Sharepoint 2007 is implemented as an ActiveX control4 so I made sure I was running Internet Explorer5 (IE9 on Win7). I made sure that I had ActiveX enabled, and that security settings would let it run. All set. Still, no visual editor. WTF?

Lots of pointless googling and duckduckgoing. Some possible leads. Nothing worked.

I tried re-installing Sharepoint tools. No joy.

I tried rebooting. I tried poking around in the Sharepoint site settings and my user preferences. For hours. I looked through the IE prefs again. Still, no joy.

Then, it hit me. I’m running Windows 7 in 64-bit67. Running Internet Explorer 9 in 64-bit8. Maybe the ActiveX isn’t available in a 64-bit version? Browser plugins on MacOSX had a similar problem - 32-bit plugins wouldn’t run in 64-bit Safari, so you could relaunch the browser in 32-bit mode to use those. So I quit IE, and launch the 32-bit version.

And the visual text editor shows up. FML.

Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, selected a technology for a core component of their enterprise collaboration website software that is only compatible with 32-bit versions of the browser they produce, and no other browsers on any other platform. And, when it fails to load the ActiveX control for the text editor, it does so silently, without even a warning like “hey - you’re missing out on some key functionality, buddy.” It’s just… gone. Unless you run IE on Windows in 32-bit mode. THEN, you get a crappy visual editor with minimal functionality, generating insanely ugly HTML that makes anyone who knows HTML want to drown kittens. Awesome.


  1. yeah. I know. not a fan of Sharepoint either. but it currently pays my mortgage, so I suck it up and use it. ↩︎

  2. also, yes, we’re running software that’s 5 years old. it’s kind of a pattern we have on campus. we’re working to update it, hopefully soon, but yeah… our version of Blackboard is about 6 years old, too… ↩︎

  3. the worst wiki tool I’ve ever used. ever. ↩︎

  4. again, yeah. I know. let’s build a website that relies on technology that is only implemented in a single browser by a single vendor. wait. it gets better… ↩︎

  5. once again. yeah. I know. IE9 is better than previous incarnations, but it’s not my first choice. again, with the using-it-pays-my-mortgage stuff, so I suck it up and use it ↩︎

  6. seriously. again with this? it’s basically an appliance for Outlook, Sharepoint and Dynamics. ↩︎

  7. if you think Outlook or Sharepoint are painful to use, try Dynamics. Yikes… ↩︎

  8. because why would I run in 32-bit mode on a 64-bit OS? ↩︎

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