Archive for the 'GUI' Category

Browser + Window Manager

May 2, 2007

With everyone wanting to move applications online ; Network, security, and logic (as in why?) issues aside, wouldn’t browsers benefit a suitable make over to adapt to the push better? I mean they are supposed to be document viewers. I’ll explain.

Everyone who uses a GUI based desktop operating system will be familiar with Window Managers and how each application can inherit a consistent look and feel (Move, Re-size, Minimise, Maximise, Title Bars). A browser engine however, simply displays the page. This is all very well for websites intended to be viewed as websites but (in my opinion) not so good for web applets. This is due to the fact that they can’t be moved around and interacted with as if they were a desktop application.

The solution?

Implement a browser which allows the web app (via xml config file or similar) to define simple characteristics such as, should the page be displayed as a browser (webpages) or should it be displayed as an application. The browser itself would be a container with the option of closing it, and a task bar at the bottom to switch between open windows). Windows would be able to be viewed side by size, tiled, and managed more effectively.

browser based window manager

I quickly sketched up an image to illistrate my point; three (web sites) are defined to look like an application, while the fourth (slashdot) is defined to look like a webpage (I didn’t add web page controls to the slashdot one – my bad!).

This is a broswer interface I’d really like to see – would be a good open source project.


A breath of fresh air

April 30, 2007

I read with great relief: “People Hate Making Desktop Apps…” Since When!? , a post identifing an issue that I’ve been following with interest lately.

Readers of my blog will know my opinion on bringing back a desktop client/ server based approach to development, Non readers – I’m 100% for it. I believe the multitude of ‘Web2.0’ apps being developed would simply be better as desktop applications.

The reasons for this are simple – Desktop applications:

  • Have more mature programming languages available
  • Can make use of operating system calls (including via VM)
  • Run on a decent windowing system, and behave like an application should
  • Allow offline work (still very important)
  • Allow secure (and managed) storage of data (really comes down to data ownership)

This is to name a few. Of course there are exceptions to every rule – especially the last point.

I’m not completely ruling out web-based applications where required; I regularly use web-based email for example. I would much rather have a desktop based RSS reader (client/server design) than browser. This can be said for many applications that are web based. Web-services with a decent front end – That’s the formula!

I was reading a blog post at which mentioned a widget toolkit for Java. I’m very interested in trying some of these out to for a couple of apps I want to write. Will digg up the link tomorrow.

I’ll be posting more on this subject I imagine- I’d like to know what other developers think.

Browser based operating

April 6, 2007

I was reading Ra’s blog post: Firefox OS and had been meaning to comment on it. I voiced my opinion on the subject which has been the inspiration for this post.

I’ve written about the concept before: and believe it has merit. It’s not what feel is the best way forward, however.

To quote my comment (saves writing the same thing twice!):

Browser based operating systems are an interesting concept, something that I had been following last year. I know its self promotion but have a look at my post:

My view now is that thin clients are great, browser based operating is not!

I really don’t understand the push towards browser based applications? I’d much rather have a desktop app which implements a client server architecture through web apps than be forced to use an application within a browser. Not to mention the reliance on a third party for your data. I’m not being paranoid but why give Google all your information when it’s just as easy to keep it local? USB drives are perfect for on the run, browser based operating would be useful for travel but I think thats about it.

I’d like to see a push towards GNU/Linux based thin clients with application suites. Combine this with a media center type application and you have a very viable home entertainment computer.

I can see that happening.

I’ve head comments such as wasn’t the old client-server model so much easier” and “Catering for different browsers and maintaing usability is such a hassel”. The former also suggested (something that I’ve always had in the back of my mind) including a ‘shell application’ which was a browser wrapper but only contained what was required to render the page (no back button etc.). This would be a good solution as the browser is agreed on (no compatibility issues) and catering for events such as using the ‘back’ button at an inappropriate time are non issues.

What I’d like to see is the push towards desktop ‘Applets’; small applications that do one job and do it well.

Combine this with a portable device and you can have an on the go system or thin clien. This is what I believe is where desktop development should be heading.

Goodbye Flickr and hello new domain

March 25, 2007

Well it looks like the time has finally come, Flickr has been getting more and more bloated and I’ve been using it less and less; the time has come to say goodbye.

The initial plan was to create a photo called flickr dump in my home folder and put all the images in there, then delete my account. The new plan is to combine the new domain I’m getting (hopefully be finalised in the next few days) with a hosting package, an open source image management application and then do the migration. Should be alot of fun!

I’ve been going through a bunch of images on my computer lately and sorting them to try and get some order. I was making good progress until I wanted to put files with the same name in the same directory. The solution to this is to write a script that will add a date time prefix to each photo and then retain the filename afterwards. This should also make searching easier if required at a later date.

I’m going to have a go at this tomorow night as it’s getting late, may be a good time to have a go at phyton!

News on new domain and image re naming script tomorow.

I should also add that doing the migration is a very low priority at the moment so will be keeping my Flickr account fot the time being. I don’t want to loose any of the linked images as they are there to be shared.

Another up comming project is to get a media center going in our lounge, this is something I’m really looking forward to and I’m leaning towards a Linux box with a media center app (havn’t had a good look at whats out) or an XBOX 360. Beauty of the Linux box is I can set up a DNS server as well, then again XBOX 360 is a rather nice console 😀

Also going to have a good sort through my categories tomorow, I’ve decided to use more generic ones to ease usability.

On the (sort of) subject on usability I’m working with a usability expert at work in the next couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing what methodologies and techniques are used as I think It’ll be qutie useful. Regular readers of my blog will know I have a keen interest in GUI design and techniques. See my GUI category for previous posts.

Microsoft AJAX Library…

September 12, 2006

… Is the new name for the Atlas toolkit. I much prefer the singular ‘Atlas’ and don’t see why they needed to change it? Longhorn – Vista is a different story:).

In saying this until I found out about the name change I hadn’t even heard of Atlas! The discovery comes at the perfect time as I need to do some web GUI work very soon and the Atlas toolkit looks very useful. I’m interested to see how it compares to the Yahoo YUI toolkit. The particular application I’m working on is a .net environment so looks like ‘Microsoft AJAX Library’ may be the go. I wonder if developers familiar with Atlas will continue to say Atlas?

I have mentioned YUI before in my post: GUI toolkits for web apps?

Web-based development is my biggest interest at the moment so I’m really looking forward to trying these toolkits out.

My industry project meeting yesterday went great and they were impressed with my documentation so its all go!

I’ve been looking at my large category list and have been wondering what to do with it? I think I will group them into more generic categories such as programming, design, database, etc. Less clutter and should allow easier navigation by category. I’d like to be able to list all posts on a single page (by title) too. I think simply having a link to the categories will be the best option.

YouOS and browser based desktops

July 9, 2006

I was browsing lastnigt and saw YouOS on the front page. YouOS is an experimental web based OS that can be run via your webbrowser and has its own file system and applications. This follows the same idea I expressed in an earlier post ‘Browser based desktops‘ Its an area that interests me greatly so I thought I’d have a play:


It contains basic destop applets such as a Flickr rss reader, a webbrowser, process monitor, file explorer and shell. The shell is a javascript interpreter that has a set of shell type commands that can be performed.

I’d like to create an application for this service, not sure what!

Web2.0 Error Messages

June 28, 2006

I’ve been impressed with how creative some error messages from the larger services have been lately , gone are the standard HTTP error codes or a dull text message:




I have an idea for a message of my own 🙂 Just need to learn, or find someone who can make those cool vector images!

Windows Live Mail Screenshots

June 6, 2006

Here are some screen shots I took oy my hotmail live account today, I would have like to supplemented them with a review or so but don’t have the time this week. If you are a Gmail user I wouldn’t worry too much, If you are a hotmail user then you will love the new interface and features.

Drag and drop


Classic view

Bottom Pane

Right Pane

My friend Tom also has a nice short review on Paint .NET. I have seen this before and it is a very impressive program so take a look at toms review and try it out, Oh its Freeware of course :).

Note this

June 4, 2006

I have been planning my new project and drew up a small prototype GUI in visio today:

Note This

Currently called note this (until I think of something better) the application will be a simple notepad that saves notes in an XML database with notes filed under categories (tags).

The idea for this came from realising there is a better way to storing notes such as passwords, emails, quotes, and other bits and pieces than to create seperate .txt files for each, which is what I have been doing. The GUI shown will be complemented with a viewer that allows saved notes to be easily viewed after being recorded. The beauty of this application will be its simplicity; when a note coms to mind simply open note this (from a keyboard shortcut) write the note, add some tags and save it. No file names, no locations, just gone!

There will also be an export option.

I get to start it in 3 weeks and hope to have it done in 3 weeks from then. I will post progress updates! 

Java Layout Managers and Google Notebook

May 31, 2006

First of all,lack of updates recently … I have about 3 weeks left before end of semester and lots of assignments due so havn't had as much time for anything other than study at the moment. I'm handing another in soon and quite on track with the rest so will be able to update more frequently again, and on with the post….

Anyone that has made a GUI application in Java I'm sure will agree that it is extremely hard to get a nice layout. If you are using a text editor it involves heavy use of the GridBagLayout as well as mixing layouts within panels etc. And if you are using an IDE they are often cumbersome, generate awkward or propitiatory code and do not export to other IDE's easily.  I came across the Zone-Layout Manager which appears to address these issues and provides a good open source code based alternative. Definitely worth checking out if yor are a Java programmer. You can see a well written and detailed comparison here

I have installed Google Notebook and have found it useful already. Google Notebook allows a block of text to be selected and instead of copying you can choose the left mouse click option of 'Note this' which adds the selection to the notebook with the URL of the website. The notebook can be opened and viewed/edited at any time by clicking its icon in the bottom right hand corner of FireFox's status bar. A highly recommended plug-in for FireFox.