Archive for Web

Useful Mozilla/Firefox Extensions

After having playing around with extensions for some while, here’s my list of extensions I consider “huge usability improvers”:

  • DictionarySearch: Looks up selected word in an online dictionary by context menu. Hint: You can add custom dictionaries, e.g. “http://dict.leo.org/?search=$”.
  • Diggler: Adds a button next to the location bar that can clear the location bar (much like the one in Konqueror) and also drop down a menu with more actions.
  • Download Manager Tweak: A modification of the Firefox download manager that changes its appearance and allows it to be opened in a separate window, a new tab, or the sidebar.
  • Googlebar: An unofficial Google toolbar for Firefox. Note: There is also GooglebarL10N, which gives you localized version.
  • LiveHTTPHeaders: View HTTP headers of a page and while browsing.
  • Mouse Gestures: Allows you to execute common commands using mouse gestures.
  • ReloadEvery: Reloads webpages every so many seconds or minutes.
  • SuperScroll: Override the default keyscroll and mousewheel settings.
  • Tabbrowser Extensions: Improves tabbed browsing a lot. Note: This extensions seems to seriously slow-down Firefox.
  • Web Search Plus: Uses the current Search Bar engine for context-menu Web Searches.

These two come pre-installed with Firefox:

  • Web Developer: Adds a menu and a toolbar with various web developer tools.
  • Dom Inspector: You’ll need to enable this when you install Firefox – choose the ‘Custom install’ and check the box for ‘Developer tools’. The DOM inspector allows you to view the ‘Document Object Model’ for a web page. See here for more information. Also note that the extension manager of Firefox 0.9.2 seems to have a problem with it (search Google).

Note: This list of extensions is an update of my earlier posting A look at Web Browsers and File Managers.

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Opera Wiki and Web Developer Toolbar

Opera is such a wonderful Web browser and its most important feature is customization. The Opera7Wiki shows tricks you wouldn’t dare to dream about.

My favorite is the customization collection Web Developer Toolbar which enhances toolbars, menus with most useful entries, and adds a toolbar with quick access to dozens of Web development-related bookmarklets. A must-have!

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Don’t forget DOCTYPE in your Blogger Templates

It took me 4 hours to figure out why there was a difference in rendered layout between Mozilla/Firefox and Internet Explorer. I chose a template for my blog from the gallery (and did some minor changes, nothing special). Then I tested it and the width of the left part (where the blog items are displayed) was always a lot smaller in IE than in Mozilla. I changed the CSS definitions (“width” property) for the div tag, but again no success.

Next, I viewed the sample of my template from the gallery. Voila, the rendered layout in IE and Mozilla was the same. Why on earth did mine break?

After some minutes of copy and paste I found the problem: the template had no DOCTYPE statement, e.g.

I didn’t know that this statement makes such a big difference in IE!

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A look at Web Browsers and File Managers

A good Web Browser and File Manager can save you a lot of time. Today, I evaluated new programs for Windows in order to get a little bit more efficient.

Web Browsers

I have dumped Internet Explorer (IE) the moment I installed Windows XP. Its user interface is really out-dated, so no more comments on this. The rendering engine, however, seems really fast, although from the view of a Web developer I nightmare to support.

My all-time favorite is the commercial NetCaptor (v7.5.1). It has the IE engine under the hood but provides very useful features, such as tabbed browsing, bookmark groups (called CaptorGroups), mouse gestures, URL aliases (e.g. “g” for google search; the search terms are inserted into the URL through the “%s” parameter in the alias definition). OK, this is now also all available in some other browsers (Opera, but not Mozilla and Firefox). But still, NetCaptor has it all simply done right – just the way I like it. And it has a lot of small, useful features everywhere you look. For example, you can

  • move tabs to other positions
  • have tabs in multiple lines
  • close them by double clicking
  • have them opened next to the current tab
  • activate/deactive JavaScript and ActiveX with one mouse click etc.

Next comes Mozilla 1.7. I actually used only the mail client for IMAP. (I have dumped my beloved TheBat! a year ago since it didn’t support IMAP nicely then; now it does, but too late for me.) Compared with NetCaptor, Mozilla felt heavy-weight and missed a lot of my beloved features out-of-the-box. Thus in daily use I only start the web browser to verify sites I developed.

Two weeks ago I also dumped the Mozilla mail client and switched to Mozilla Thunderbird. It’s actually nearly the same, but differs in some details. (Tip: You can also copy your Mozilla profile, see the Mozilla FAQ.) But most importantly, it does not have the annoying bug I found in Mozilla mail: nested IMAP folders (2+ levels) are not displayed. Thunderbird loads quickly and is really nice and slick. One feature I miss, though, (and what TheBat! always had) is to minimize it into the desktop tray. Another missing one is support for multiple signatures (e.g. depending on recipient properties), or even better, parameterized mail templates.

Mozilla Firefox 0.9 was released lately, so I gave it a try. Is it better than NetCaptor? Well, feature-wise they both are nearly equal, but I had to install and configure a lot of Extensions:

Additionally, the “Web Developer” extension is a must-have for all, well, Web developers. I also installed a new theme “Noia 2.0 (eXtreme)” and dumped the boring standard theme. But still, Firefox takes a little more time to start, and the Web search is simply not as good, since you have to select the engine manually. Compare this to NetCaptor (and Opera etc): here you simply type e.g. “g mozilla” in the location bar and voila. Another thing I don’t like is the slow speed of mouse wheel motion (press middle button and move up- or downwards). It takes seconds to get to the top or bottom. (I have searched but it seems there is no possibility to jump there by mouse gesture.)

I also installed Opera 7.5.1. It’s really good looking, has a great user interface and is very slick. I think it is actually equal to NetCaptor, out-of-the-box (ignoring additional tools like the download manager). Being equal I think I’ll stick to NetCaptor for a while and gradually move over to Opera. (One sidenote: the IMAP client in Opera is bad and misses a lot of features that Thunderbird/Mozilla etc had for years, so again, I would use only part of the software.)

File Managers

Windows Explorer is what I used before. It’s OK, sometimes I wished for a better navigation, mouse gestures etc. So, yesterday I installed and tried a lot of the alternatives (free and commercial) including all *Commander (* = EF, AB, Speed, Total), ExplorerPlus etc.

The result: I’ll stick to Windows Explorer. The reason? All of the alternatives are either simply bloated, offer a stupid and fixed two-window layout, have no “undo” for file operations (whow, how can this be ignored?), are high-priced or crash here and then. Two explorer alternatives were really nice and I’ll watch their future development:

  • FileAnt is a minimalistic explorer. What is really nice is that you can have two folder views side by side with each side having as many tabs as you like (as in in tabbed browsing, but folders instead of pages). The third column is the desktop hierarchy. FileAnt has a minimal editor and multimedia preview. And also offers fast navigations through several means (right click, click in blank area etc.) But… it’s shareware, has no “undo” for file operations and a very annoying bug: playing a movie with the buildin player can only be stopped by quitting FileAnt!
     
  • xplorer2 is also very slick, and very powerful w.r.t. to file operations, selections and searching. The downside is the price of $19 for the pro edition. I would buy it if it would offer an “undo” for file operations.

I really don’t understand why “undo” is missing in nearly every explorer product. This is a lot more useful than a preview or a rename tool!!!!!

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Newz Crawler and BlogJet

Today I have installed the Newz Crawler client, which was mentioned in Eriks’s Linkblog. NewzCrawler is a web news aggregator, RSS reader, browser and blog client which provides access to news content from various sources. Great Software!

Actually, when trying to post to my blog I found out that its built-in BlogThis! client doesn’t support specifying or modifying the title of a posting. (I have enabled titles by “Show Titles” in the preference tab of my blogger.com account.) Additionally, the “My Blogs” accounts in Newz Crawler don’t show existing titles, either. I have posted a suggestion in the NC forums… In the meantime I use the BlogJet client, which supports everything I need including titles!

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