Browser Setup and Plugin Information

Using Blackboard requires that your browser be up to date and configured correctly. Use this page to check whether you have required plugins and features installed or enabled.

The following plugins and features must all be successfully installed or enabled:

Downloads for use with Blackboard

Download a ZIP decompression tool:
Often files are compressed to make them smaller for uploading, downloading and saving on disk. Archiving utilities such as WinZip for Windows and StuffIt Expander for Macintosh/Windows decompress these kinds of files.

To decompress the file, you usually need a decompression tool of the same format to expand the files and make them usable again. A popular compression format is ZIP, identified by the file extension .zip (Note: a file extension is a series of characters that follow a period (or dot) in a file name.)
Adobe Acrobat Reader (.pdf)
Adobe Reader, a free program for Windows and Mac, allows you to view a Portable Document Format (PDF) file with the exact layout intended by the author. You can identify an Adobe Acrobat file by the .pdf file extension. A file extension is a series of characters that follow a period (or dot) in a file name (e.g. syllabus.pdf).

NOTE: There is another program called Adobe Acrobat that creates the PDF files for students to view. Adobe Reader is free. Adobe Acrobat (the "writer") you need to pay for.
QuickTime Audio-Video Player (.qt, .mov, .mp3 and more)
QuickTime plays movies and audio files, synthesizes music, displays animations and still images, and views three-dimensional virtual reality items or environments. It is the recommended audio-video player for Blackboard. Video clips look best on a monitor resolution of 800 by 600 pixels. To hear files with audio, your computer must have a sound card and speakers. Note: Do not download beta versions of QuickTime.

Available for free for Windows and Macintosh:
Microsoft Viewers and Converters for Word, Excel & PowerPoint
A viewer is a program that lets you read and print a document as if you owned the software that made the document. However, a viewer will not let you modify the document or create similar documents in that format.

Converters will allow users of Microsoft Office 2003 and earlier open Office 2007 documents .docx, .xlsx, .pptx).

Microsoft has several popular software tools with free viewers. You can identify which Microsoft software program created the file by its file extension. A file extension is a series of characters that follow a period (or dot) in a file name.
  • Word files end with the file extension .doc or .docx (e.g. syllabus.doc)
  • Excel files end with file extension .xls or .xlsx (e.g. budget.xls)
  • PowerPoint files end with file extension .ppt or .pptx (e.g. lecture.ppt)
  • Download Microsoft Viewers and Converters
NOTE TO MAC USERS: These viewers are Windows-only software.
Shockwave/Flash (.swf) Animation Player
Macromedia Shockwave and Flash player (also called a browser plug-in) enables web pages to include multimedia objects and animation. Some Blackboard course sites may have links to web sites requiring this plug-in. These web pages may have addresses that end with a file that includes a .swf file extension. (Note: a file extension is a series of characters that follow a period (or dot) in a file name.)
RealPlayer Audio/Video (.ra, .ram, .rm)
Some Blackboard course sites may have links to audio/video files that require RealPlayer. These web links may have addresses that end with a filename that includes .ra, .rm, .rpm or .ram. (Note: a file extension is a series of characters that follow a period (or dot) in a file name.)

RealPlayer Basic is the free player. Real Player Plus is commercial software. To hear files with audio, your computer must have a sound card and speakers. NOTE: For content residing on Blackboard system, QuickTime is the recommended audio/video standard. Download links to RealPlayer Basic are provided in case users link to external sites that use RealMedia files.
Windows Media Player (.asf, .asx, .wma, .wmv)
Some Blackboard course sites may have links to audio/video files that require Windows Media Player. These web links may have addresses that end with a filename that includes .asx, .asf, .wma or .wmv. (Note: a file extension is a series of characters that follow a period (or dot) in a file name.)

For content residing on our Blackboard system, QuickTime is the recommended audio/video standard. Download links to Windows Media Player are provided in case users link to external sites that use Windows Media Player files. Do not download and install beta versions of this software. To hear files with audio, your computer must have a sound card and speakers.

See "Install and remove add-on programs" below. You may also need to remove some plugins.

POP-UP BLOCKER

Many features of the Blackboard system generate popup windows. If you have installed a popup blocker, it may interfere with your use of Blackboard. See Firefox or MSIEconfguration below.

Your instructor may require you to download additional software as well. He or she will tell you what, if any, additional software is needed.

BROWSER VERSION

Use the right browser version
Here are some more details about your software.

If the tests above reported that your browser was not compatible with Blackboard, you need to update your browser version. Blackboard officially certifies various browsers; for BB release 9 see "Blackboard End User Configuration Matrix." However, we've found that the official Blackboard list is often outdated or wrong. As of September 2010, we recommend and attempt to support:

Operating system Hardware Recommended Browser Notes
Windows XP
(SP 3 is current)
PC Internet Explorer 8
Firefox 3.5
Set compatibility mode for IE 8.
Windows Vista
(SP 2 is current)
PC Internet Explorer 8
Firefox 3.5
Firefox 3.0 mostly works, but upgrade soon.
MacOS 10.5, 10.6
(Leopard, Snow Leopard)
Mac Firefox 3.5
Safari 4
Tiger with Firefox 3.5 mostly works.
Linux Any Firefox 3.5 Linux not supported, but mostly works.

Visit these Blackboard sites for the latest browser and plugin compatibility.
Certified, Compatible, or Provisional?
http://kb.blackboard.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=45581805
Supported Browsers, Plugins & Operating Systems for Blackboard Learn Release 9
http://kb.blackboard.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=38830689

GENERAL BROWSER INFORMATION AND CONFIGURATION

Firefox 3.0 mostly works. MS Internet Explorer 7 mostly works for student use, but should be avoided by instructors. At this time we do not yet recommend Windows 7.

In general, the latest production version of your browser is usually the best. However, Blackboard Inc. sometimes is slow to certify a new OS or browser version; for example, Blackboard 9 does not yet certify Windows 7.

Both Mac and PC users can get the latest version of Firefox on the web at www.mozilla.com.

It is also very important for both security and functionality that you update your system software (including Internet Explorer or Safari) regularly:

  • PC users: regularly visit Windows Update or set your system to automatically run Automatic Updates. To turn on Automatic Updates: (1) Click Start, and then Control Panel. Find "System," which may be categorized under Performance and Maintenance. (2) Click System, and then click the Automatic Updates tab. (3) Click the option that you want. Make sure Automatic Updates is not turned off. PC users running Windows 2000 or an earlier version must upgrade to XP or Vista. We have not yet tested Windows 7.
  • Mac users: run Software Update... from the Apple menu. Mac users who are still running 10.3 or earlier versions of Mac OS should upgrade to Leopard (10.5).

Firefox configuration
Mozilla FireFox defaults are generally adequate for Blackboard. If you need to change them, most settings are on the menu item Tools?Options (on a Mac, Firefox?Preferences), under "Content". "Load Images", "Enable Java", and "Enable Javascript" should all be checked. If "Block Popups" is checked, then you should also click the corresponding "Allowed Sites" button and add "blackboard.uoregon.edu", since popup blocking can interfere with some blackboard features.

One annoyance with Firefox is that it makes it difficult to copy and paste from other documents into the visual text box editor. If you get an error message "your browser does not allow web pages to cut, copy, or paste", then instead of using CTRL-V or APPLE-V to paste, use the menu item Edit?Paste.

Internet Explorer configuration
Internet Explorer tends to cache pages too aggressively for Blackboard use. Try going to Tools?Internet Options and on the General tab click the "Settings" button (for "Browsing History" or "Temporary Internet Files"). Then make sure "Every time I visit the webpage" is selected for "Check for newer versions of stored pages".

If you need to enable cookies in Internet Explorer, choose Tools->Internet Options->Privacy. A setting of "medium-high" works well.

If you need to enable Java or JavaScript in Internet Explorer, first visit Blackboard to find out what security zone your browser is using for the site; you are probably viewing it in the "Internet" zone (see the status bar footer at lower right of the browser window; use "View->status bar" if necessary). You may want to have security for the Internet zone set higher than blackboard allows, and if so you may decide to set security for the Internet zone to "High" but then tell your browser to view Blackboard in a slightly less restrictive context. You would do so by adding the URL "https://blackboard.uoregon.edu" to the list of "Trusted Sites" and then would verify that the "Trusted Sites" zone was set appropriately.

To change the security level for the zone you are using for Blackboard, choose Tools->Internet Options->Security, select Internet or Trusted Sites, and choose an appropriate security level. Most users will find that the best security setting for Blackboard use is "Medium." If you really need a more restrictive security setting, start with "High" but then go to "Custom level" and make sure at a minimum that you have:


Scripting -> Active scripting enabled
Microsoft VM -> Java permissions high safety
ActiveX -> Download signed ActiveX controls prompt
ActiveX -> Run ActiveX controls and plugins enabled or prompt
ActiveX -> Script ActiveX controls marked safe enabled or prompt
Downloads -> File download enabled

Many versions of Internet Explorer also include popup blockers -- you might have the google, AOL, Yahoo, or other popup blockers installed. If you get a "Pop-up blocked" message in the information bar (directly under the Address bar at the top of the window), click the information bar and choose "temporarily allow popups".

Install and remove add-on programs
Manage your browser add-ons.

Removing plugins
A few plugins interfere with Blackboard. For example, you should not have "Browser Highlighter" installed.

To remove it from Firefox:

  • Click the tools menu in your FireFox browser.
  • Select the Add-ons menu.
  • Click the Extensions tab in the FireFox window that pops up.
  • Click on the Browser Highlighter logo in the list of extensions.
  • Click the uninstall option.
  • Click Uninstall in the prompt.
  • Click the restart FireFox button at the top of the Extensions menu.

To remove it from Internet Explorer:

  • Click the start menu, then Control Panel.
  • Click Add/Remove programs.
  • Select the Browser Highlighter.
  • Click uninstall and follow prompts.


If you don't have MS Office, then you need some other program to view these files (WordPad, built in to Windows, isn't good enough). For users who don't have Microsoft Office, we recommend the free Open Office suite (downloadable). Many other possibilities also exist for both Mac and PC. For example, Mac users who own iWork (including Keynote) will typically find that it adequately handles most Office files.

An additional complication is that Microsoft changed their default file formats in Office 2007. Versions of MS Office prior to Office 2007 may be able to open such files with the appropriate Microsoft patch installed. The compatibility pack is available from the Microsoft web site. You might also want to install the SUN ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office that allows you to read the word processor formats preferred by OpenOffice.

Get programs for displaying Word, PowerPoint and Excel
Many courses post material in Microsoft Word format (files with names ending in ".doc" or ".docx") or as PowerPoint presentations (names ending in ".ppt" or ".pptx"). To view such files you need software able to display Word and PowerPoint.

If you have Microsoft Office installed on your machine, then you should be able to view Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files stored in Blackboard. Depending on your browser configuration, such files will either be downloaded to your hard disk or displayed directly in the browser window. Most recent versions of Office are ok, including (for PCs) Office XP, 2003, and 2007, and (for Macs) Office 2004 and 2008.