23 September 2008

Updates to the AE Creations website

With Panic Button out of the way for now, I took some time to do some much-needed updates to the AE Creations website. Content was rearranged and some cosmetic tweaks were made. CSS style rules were moved out of the <head> element of the HTML document structure and into the site's CSS file, and redundant rule sets were pruned. As a result of these updates, the website largely follows the frequently-preached web design philosophy of separating content (HTML), appearance (CSS) and behaviour (JavaScript, though that's not used here), and is now much easier for me to maintain.

What's Changed

The home page has undergone the most dramatic transformation. Clippings is promoted as a "Featured Extension," while maintaining links to its own website. The space dedicated to Panic Button and Send Tab URLs has been substantially reduced by replacing its bulky thumbnail graphics with simpler 24 × 24-pixel icons and shortening their verbose extension descriptions to brief one-sentence summaries. The result is a far cleaner layout, making efficient use of space and allowing almost all of the home page content to appear without the need to scroll down, even on 1024 × 768 monitors.

Using table-less CSS layouts, the "Other Extensions" list sits side-by-side with a new list containing the three most recent posts from this blog. It is automatically generated from my own, lovingly-crafted PHP script which reads this blog's XML-based Atom feed and dynamically creates the HTML content.

The pages for Send Tab URLs and Panic Button have also changed. The Download and Install links (the ones users would click on to install the extension in Firefox) have moved to the top of the page, and the installation help content have moved into a separate page to cut down on redundancy.

Website Branding

The general appearance of the site (the "theme" or "skin") has been mostly untouched. It would take too much time to do a complete makeover of the site, which I don't believe is necessary right now. And I wanted to keep most of the default branding to recognize the Mozdev.org organization that is hosting my extensions.

The most notable modifications to the default Mozdev branding are the removal of today's date and the strange "Do you want fries with that" message on the page header, replacing them with links to the home page, this blog and the help-and-support contact page to make it more useful. The left navigation sidebar was heavily revised to link to content in the AE Creations website, rather than to general Mozdev pages.

19 September 2008

Panic Button 1.1.1

This minor release fixes a bug where the customizations to the Panic Button toolbar button image and label aren't automatically applied when adding the toolbar button to the Firefox window (bug 18954).

Because Panic Button is in the AMO sandbox, automatic updates are not yet available.  If you have a previous version already installed, you will need to upgrade it by uninstalling it, restarting Firefox, then installing this new version.  You can download the new version from the Panic Button page on AMO, or from the Panic Button page on the AE Creations website.

10 September 2008

Panic Button 1.1 released!

A new version of Panic Button is now available from Mozilla Add-ons. Because it is in the AMO sandbox, you will need to log in first to download and install. To skip this step, you can download and install it from the Panic Button page on the AE Creations website.

If you have a previous version already installed, you will need to uninstall it, restart Firefox and install this new version. Automatic updating currently doesn't work due to Panic Button being in the sandbox on AMO.

What's New
  • New option in the extension preferences dialog (Customize tab) to choose an image file on your computer as the Panic Button toolbar button image
  • Bug fix: Clicking OK in the extension preferences dialog didn't close the dialog box if the Panic Button toolbar button wasn't added to the browser toolbar (bug 19774)
  • Other minor improvements

Help and Support

Send your comments and bug reports to the AE Creations mailing list.

02 September 2008

Google Chrome

I am typing this from Google Chrome, the new web browser that was announced yesterday (after news of it were accidentally leaked) and released about two hours ago.  It is blazingly fast!  And even without maximizing the browser window, there is so much screen area for viewing the web pages, due to the minimal space used by the tab bar and the "omnibox" (a combined address and search bar) -- and there's no menu bar or status bar to clutter your view.  You can drag tabs out of the browser window to view the web page in a separate window -- now that's something I'd like to see in Firefox!  Although only a beta release, it appears that the Google Chrome team has already fulfill their goal of creating a fast, responsive and simple-to-use Web browser.

Each browser tab in Google Chrome runs in its own process, and the implications of this is huge.  It means that it's easy to isolate which web pages are using up excessive memory and CPU cycles (there is a task manager that lets you see performance stats on all open browser tabs), putting the onus squarely on the web developer to make their web pages more leaner and efficient.  And from a stabililty standpoint, if a misbehaving web page crashes a browser tab, it won't take down the whole application with it.

There's lots more to it about Google Chrome: a new and powerful JavaScript engine, V8; anti-phishing and anti-malware protection; a special "Incognito" privacy mode where you can view a web site in a separate tab that won't record any cookies or add to your browsing history; all browser tabs operate in a "sandbox" security model; built-in Google Gears; ability to create shortcuts to web apps like Gmail so that they can be launched in their own windows, mimicking desktop apps; and of course, support for web standards, made possible by WebKit, the same rendering engine used in Safari.  Basic features like searching, bookmarking, text zoom, download manager, etc. are all there, as one would expect in any modern web browser.

Screen shot of Google Chrome

Check out the incredibly cool comic book, with characters resembling the members of the development team explaining Google Chrome and all of its features in depth.  The beta release, initially for Windows only, is now available for download.  

There are a few missing features that, I think, needs to be added, like spell checking in web page form fields, and print preview -- but overall, the quality of the product is surprisingly high for such an early beta release.