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Saturday, May 10, 2003

for the lame quality of my archive, the latest entries always appearing there late. It's 100% blogger's fault.

Composer++ : be ready

On monday, I'll post here the link to a binary package of Composer for Win32 with support for absolutely positioned objects.

Friday, May 09, 2003
Comment of Paul Festa's article

I worked a lot today and only glanced at the article. Back at home, I read it slowly. It deserves comments:

When Mozilla.org announced plans last month to focus development resources on separate browser and mail applications, a pioneering Web authoring tool called Composer was left a software orphan.
Well, not really. Composer is still part of the Mozilla Application Suite. We are still working on it, fixing bugs, improving standards support, increasing speed and stability.

But a contributor to Mozilla, Netscape's open-source development group, plans to rescue Composer from its current limbo.

Mozilla is not Netscape's OSS development group. And the name is Mozilla.org. And Composer is not in limbo.

"If you read (the) last Mozilla.org staff meeting's minutes, you know that I proposed myself to maintain Composer," Daniel Glazman, a Mozilla contributor and Netscape software engineer based in Saint-German en Laye, France, wrote in his Web log. "I did that because I do care about this product, and because I do think it has a great potential."

Very kind of him to mention the place where I live instead of the place where I work, and link my CV/Resume instead of the blog posting where I write about Composer.

Composer's potential may indeed be great, but its recent past has been less than good.

Less than good ? Hum. This is a less than journalistic comment. The nearly TWO HUNDRED emails I received in the two days after MozillaZine article just show that some large companies and groups use Composer on a daily basis. That a lot of people find it super-easy to use and producing markup much nicer than the other editors it can be compared too.

Although Composer was one of the earliest mass market applications for Web authoring and survives as a component of the free download Netscape 7, it has fallen by the wayside as Microsoft FrontPage has taken over the low end of the market for Web authoring tools and Macromedia Dreamweaver has dominated the high end.

Survives in Netscape 7 ? And not in Mozilla ?!?!? Oh, and comparing Composer and Dreamweaver is like comparing a 125cc scooter and a 3.0L SUV.

Last month, when Mozilla announced it would scrap its unwieldy, feature-packed browser for a leaner version called Phoenix, it simultaneously announced plans to develop the Netscape mail client along with Phoenix, under the name Minotaur. (Both those names were abandoned because of trademark conflicts.)

He is so mixing Mozilla and Netscape it is pathetic.

Three other Mozilla components--the date book, Calendar; the instant messenger, Chatzilla; and Composer--were put on the back burner, albeit with assurances that they wouldn't be going the way of Collabra and Netcaster, other applications once bundled with Netscape under the Communicator suite that no longer exist under Mozilla.

On the black burner ?!? Uh. Does he read english ?

"We're not sure yet how they'll evolve--whether they'll become standalone toolkit applications...or popular add-ons to Phoenix," read the road map. "But we're committed to supporting them to the fullest extent required by their owners, including providing daily and milestone builds of them for community testing and feedback." Minutes from an April 28 Mozilla staff meeting where Glazman volunteered to take ownership--an open-source development term indicating authority over a project--indicated that Composer would live on as an extension to the new Mozilla browser rather than a standalone application.

The minutes mention "probably", and quote no decision about it. This is far from fair to summarize the Minutes like he did above.

Glazman has other plans, however.

No!!! I have other opinions, that's all. I expressed my opinions, and since I am not the Master of the Universe, I will try to convince my colleagues that my opinion is a good one. I may succeed. Or fail. We'll see. We'll probably reach a consensus and I will live with it.

"We should make a standalone Composer," Glazman wrote in his blog. "One should be able to install and use a content editor based on (Mozilla's browser engine) Gecko without having to install the corresponding browser. It's not an easy task, but it's mandatory."

This is so taken out of the context. In the intro of my posting, I said that I was listing my thoughts about the future of Composer. Not my decisions.

Glazman and Mozilla could not immediately be reached for comment.

And that is the topping on the cake, as we say in French...

Festa's article was published onZDNet May 8, 2003, 5:49 AM PT. He tried to reach me by email during the wednesday/thursday night (night in Europe, I mean). I got his mail at 1:10am Paris local time the 8th! And he knew I live in France, since he even quoted it in his article. His mail said "I saw your blog entry about reviving Composer as a standalone product. Any chance I could interview you in the next 1/2 hour for a story this PM?". Come on.... OF COURSE I could not be reached for comment.

I mailed him back the 8th at 3:53am local time (I could not sleep), so exactly 2:43 hours after HIS mail, SO about at 7pm the 7th PT !!! I said precisely "Thursday the 8th of May is a legal holiday here in France and I will stay away from my computer all day. You can catch me at the office on friday, european business hours.".

He did not wait, did not dare telling me he released an article quoting me, did not dare calling me back since.

It was soooooo urgent to announce to the World that Composer is still alive? A friend of mine calls that Journalistic Cystitis. Good night.

Mat, Asa Dotzler, Chris Blizzard

Composer++ : people, let's start dancing...

I am going to post a few patches for Composer in the coming days:

  • Better support for image/table resizing; I have fixed number of bugs in the trunk's code and have improved A LOT speed.
  • Support for absolutely positioned objets. Three new toolbar buttons allow to:
    1. extract the selection from the normal flow and make it an absolutely positioned object; and of course put it back in the normal flow if desired
    2. Increase the z-index of such a positioned object
    3. Decrease the z-index of such a positioned object
  • resizing is extended to absolutely positioned elements :-)
  • Positioned objects are movable in the viewport by drag and drop :-)
  • two new CSS-alike properties -moz-user-move and -moz-user-resize allow to control resizability and movability of all elements in the editor
  • inline table editing; it's a new class of table UI allowing to add or remove a row or a column from a table in one click only.

Don't get me wrong. I am not going to write code for this. The code is ready (any analogy with a previous situation where this sentence was used is a coincidence) and has been extensively used. It just has to be checked in.

Here are a few screenshots for a little teasing...

Stay tuned...

new draft of XHTML 2.0

A new draftof XHTML 2.0 is out. First comment: I can't believe my eyes that XHTML 2.0, a draft published by W3C, has still no DTD conformant to the XML specification published by W3C, still no Schema conformant to the XML Schema specification published by W3C, but has a RELAX NG definition conformant to a spec published at OASIS...

I've been ZDNet'ed too!!!

Your first feeling is wrong, the last line of this document (not a fake) does not mean my lawyer told me not to answer ;-).

Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Nom de Zeus!

Alors ça, c'est la meilleure de l'année! Infogrames => ATARI !

I've been MozillaZined!!!

Following MozillaZine's article about my blog entry below, I have received an incredible number of emails in just a few hours. Thanks all, but senders should not expect an immediate answer since I have visitors at home tonight, and tomorrow is a holiday in France and I will stay away from my computer.

I just wanted to make a few clarifications right now:

  1. I do not decide of the future of Composer. I just listed my personal ideas about what I think we should do to preserve and make evolve this tool. I can be right, and I can be totally wrong. Everything is open to discussion. You want a specific addition to Composer ? CONTRIBUTE!
  2. Composer is and will remain a content editor. I think it is not realistic to schedule a site manager, nor is it realistic to compare a free open-source tool like Composer to a commercial closed-cource tool like Dreamweaver MX. It does not mean that we can't beat DW on some aspects though :-)
  3. People asking for super-geek features (believe me, I read requests so crazy that I wonder if I will reply) should realize that geeky environments are a perfect counter-advertisement for non geeks. That's not what Composer needs, imho.

I will probably summarize all the comments/requests and my replies here in my blog. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Quote from W3C home page: "Ten XQuery, XSLT, and XPath Working Drafts Published". *sigh*

A future for Composer

If you read last Mozilla.org staff meeting's minutes, you know that I proposed myself to maintain Composer. I did that because I do care about this product, and because I do think it has a great potential. Here is an unordered list of what I think we should do to keep this nice of piece of technology alive:

  1. We should make a standalone Composer. I spent quite a long time thinking about the pros and cons of making it an XPI for Mozilla Firebird and finally decided that it is probably not what we should do. One should be able to install and use a content editor based on Gecko without haing to install the corresponding browser. It's not an easy task, but it's mandatory.
  2. We need better support of CSS in Composer:
    1. Direct class assignment. It is proposed to resurrect bug 16255 and allow direct class assignment to an element through the hierarchical view of the selection available in the status bar of Composer. A new content menu entry should allow to pick any class "defined" in the stylesheets attached to the document, or directly edit the class attribute in a text editable field. The patch attached to the bug was a first try and we probably need better than that, for instance a proprietary extension to the DOM interface DocumentStyle allowing to retrieve a list of all classes defined in the sheets attached to the document.
    2. Direct inline styling of elements. One should be able to apply a border or an image background, margins, paddings and tutti quanti to any block-level element just like in all good text processors. CaScadeS can help, since its main dialog is made of overlays for each family of CSS properties (text, background, ...).
    3. Integrate CaScadeS. The CSS editor should be a default part of Composer.
    4. Movable objects. Users should be able to insert positioned objects wherever in the document, move them using the mouse, send them to back and bring them to front.
  3. Getting rid of useless <br>. Unfortunately, Composer needs for the moment <br> on empty lines, but we should get rid of trailing <br> in elements like list items.
  4. XHTML 1.0 support. Do I need to explain ?
  5. MathML support. There is quite a lot of user feedback about this. Could probably be done using an XPI.
  6. Forms support. Neil did a great job about it but it is still available only in the Debug menu of Composer. This should be finished and made available to all users in the Insert menu.
  7. Better source view. Composer needs to improve its source view, colouring the tags, the attributes, ...
  8. Extensions Central. We should have a unique location for all extensions to Composer and a few documents/tutorials about how the application can be extended with only XUL, JS and XBL. We also need to add an Extensions menu entry somewhere in Composer's menu.

All comments and suggestions welcome at daniel at glazman dot org.

Tristan Nitot (warning, keyword SMOKING_CARPET added), MozillaZine, jgraham, ZDNet, C|net News.com, Business Week

Monday, May 05, 2003


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