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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Firebird Browser Speeds OS-X Weblog Editing

I didn't realize I was working too hard until I saw Dave Winer using browser-based editing from a MS Windows machine at a Harvard weblog meeting. The text-entry box on his browser had a toolbar like a word processor.

On my OS-X Macintosh, I had been typing my own HTML codes to make a heading, change a font or insert a link.

Dave explained that the rich-text editing was a feature of Windows that Internet Explorer was designed to use. However, today I found an alternative for OS-X -- the Mozilla-family browser called Firebird (release 0.6.1), thanks to something called Midas rich-text content editing. It took no special setting-up, and it works just fine with my home copy of Radio and with the Manila at Harvard, both of which let you edit a weblog through a browser window.

As a test, here's a quick inventory of the edit menu features that Firebird offers, exploring a few of the features as I go along:

It has pull-down menus to change text attributes, size and fonts. The attributes are Normal, Paragraph, Blockquote, Headings 1-6, Address, Formatted. The fonts listed are: Times New Roman (abcdemw); Arial (abcdemw); and Courier (abcdemw)
Sizes are listed as 1-7, examples: size one, size three, seven

The menu bar commands: undo, redo, bold, italic, underline, text color, background color,
align left,
align centered,
align right,
numbered list,
  1. apple
  2. pear
  3. grape
bulleted list,
  • apple
  • dell
  • lemonade
More (which I won't test here): indent left, indent right, insert table, insert link, view HTML source, Use CSS.

I had "Use CSS" checked while entering this, because that was the default. Although I saw what I was typing as Times, most of the page should appear to you as Verdana (or Arial) after processing through the weblog page template's styles. If you see anything strange happening, please add a comment to this message.

Final test -- the "insert table" is probably worth a try, since I've seen tables and style codes do some peculiar things in some browsers, so here's a centered four-panel table with some colors:


That was fun... and it was very nice to see that the "undo" command from the browser's edit menu worked when I wanted to back up a step or two.

Final note: I haven't used Mozilla much, so I can't be sure what features (or bugs) are special to the Firebird variation. But for something that isn't version 1.0 yet, it's not bad at all. The biggest annoyances:
  • Launching my edit page from Radio gives me the default Mozilla browser "theme" instead of the Firebird theme.
  • There's no "window" menu with the Firebird theme (but Tabs work nicely).
  • Some small gif files that normally load onto my Weblog pages from the Userland server don't appear on some pages... for instance, there should be a small mailto envelope beneath the XML icon in the left margin this page, and a document-link icon at the start and end of each item. With Firebird, they don't appear. Mousing over the blank space where they should be gives me a clickable cursor, but no image. (I don't see why those images are loading from or instead of my own folder; an error in this template, perhaps? I'll check. But they show up just fine with other browsers.)
When I have time, I'll go read the very detailed Mozilla bug-report instructions and see if these problems are new or known.

Comparing Explorer & Firebird
2:01:19 PM    

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