Enable CSS3 Support for CSSEdit

Chances are if you do any kind of front-end web development on a Mac you’ve heard about CSSEdit, a very popular tool for editing .css files in OS X. I use CSSEdit pretty much all day long at my day job and while I absolutely love it and have a hard time imagining doing my job without it, its lack of support for all the new CSS3 properties is becoming more and more problematic.

Unfortunately, the good folks at MacRabbit who make CSSEdit have had their hands full lately. They just shipped a new update to their all-in-one web development app Espresso and apparently haven’t been able to get around to updating CSSEdit with full support for CSS3 yet. Lucky for us though, @andyford is on the case and has come up with this great “hack” for customizing the AutoCompletion.plist file in CSSEdit to include CSS3 syntax. Read More about Enable CSS3 Support for CSSEdit

SlickPlan: Easy and Free Flowcharts

A flowchart can be crucial for explaining certain tasks or ideas. SlickPlan‘s goal is to make sure that you can put together a flowchart quickly, no matter where you are. The web-based application also enables you to put together site maps and interact with your existing designs. It was created with web designers in mind, but anyone can quickly learn to use SlickPlan’s flowcharts. Read More about SlickPlan: Easy and Free Flowcharts

Use Blender to Create Eye-popping 3D Graphics

Who doesn’t like to get something good for free? The open source community offers all kinds of resources that go beyond free applications, including free books on mastering the top open-source applications.

In this post, I’ll cover an excellent book about Blender, available for free online. Blender is a robust 3D graphics and animation application that can help you create eye-popping graphics for web sites, blogs and documents.
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Gears for Safari Now Available

Gears, Google’s “browser improver” (for lack of a better term), has come out of beta and is now officially available for Safari.

Gears is a browser plugin that extends its functionality by allowing it do things like store data locally in a searchable database as well as run JavaScript in the background to improve performance. A common example of its use is to allow web applications to be accessed offline.

Gears requires an applications developer to implement the functionality in to their site, so there aren’t a huge number of sites that make use of Gears.

A few that currently do:

If you’re a developer, you can checkout the Gears API and get started on implementing it in to your site.

Google Gears (Beta) [Finally] Comes To Safari

Spotlight importers aren’t the only symbols of Mac-generosity coming from the fine folks over at Google. The Google Gears project has released a beta of their browser code which enables developers to make web apps that behave more like local desktop apps and allow some – or complete – functionality even when you are not connected to the Internet (Google Reader being a very good example). When you come across a “Gears-enabled” application, your browser will prompt you to see if you trust this particular application enough to let it have access to your local filesystem:

It appears to store data in ~/Library/Application Support/Google/Google Gears for Safari, so this would be a good folder to check from time-to-time (remember lsof is your friend) and the database files that are stored use SQLite, so you can peruse them from the command-line or via various GUI’s (one mentioned just recently).

Being a beta release, there are issues and you can add your own newfound bugs to the list as you come across them.

You’ll need Safari 3.1.1 at a minimum (and OS X 10.4.11/10.5.3). I’ve confirmed that it works with Safari 3.1.2. No word on Safari for Windows compatibility (let us know!) and don’t count on Mobile Safari support anytime soon.

If you give the beta a go, let us know your experiences and if you are a developer with a Gears-enabled application, drop the URL in the comments for all the TAB-world to see!

Asus to debut 10-inch EEE PC next week- is this too big?

480_asus_eeepc1001whiteAsus will be announcing the EEE PC 1000 next week at CompuTex in Taiwan with the biggest screen yet, 10 inches.  This leads me to wonder how big is too big where these ultra-cheap laptops are concerned?  Why should this matter?  Well it’s not the size that’s the concern with me it’s the price.  The bigger the screen the more expensive to produce which translates into a higher street price.  This could be a factor as I believe that what catapulted the original EEE PC into the forefront was not the small size but the small price.  The portability was icing on the cake but what got everyone’s attention was the very low price.  Since that original EEE PC we’ve seen models that grow and grow along with the price tag.

I look at the notebook market today and you can get a pretty decent laptop for around $600 in the US.  Sure it won’t be tiny, but neither will the hardware components.  So if price is the major factor in the ultra-cheap notebook arena, and I believe it is, then these new (and bigger) ultra-cheap notebooks are entering the price range of the much better outfitted laptop.  Why buy a big EEE PC or equivalent for $600+ when you can get a Core 2 Duo 15.4-inch laptop from a major vendor with tons of memory and and an optical drive inside?  If size is not a big factor, and the bigger these little notebooks get the less a factor it will be, then go for the power.  That’s my take on it anyway.

While You’re Waiting For The iPhone SDK…

As a previous post indicated, Apple has yet to publicly release the iPhone/iTouch non-web SDK and it is still unclear if casual developers will be able to get their applications onto these new devices. As we all wait like expectant parents, there are some great resources out there for the current, Apple-preferred method of iPhone development.

Wrox Press recently released Professional iPhone and iPod touch Programming: Building Applications for Mobile Safari by Richard Wagner. So far (not quite finished with it yet), the book is an great reference for iPhone web development and focuses on the most effective use of Joe Hewitt‘s iUI framework. The CSS-heavy framework provides an excellent base for your iPhone/iTouch applications and enables you to focus on application design rather than device quirks.

One of the best features of the book is how Wagner drives home the need for applications to be both network-resilient and network-aware. The iPhone has the ever-tenuous EDGE connections to deal with and Wi-Fi is not always stable or speedy, even on the iTouch. This book and the iUI framework should help you quickly build robust and speedy web-based applications for either device and make you an overall better mobile-targeted web developer.

Web-based iApps will continue to have their place in the iWorld even after the on-device SDK is released and you can find additional resources over at iPhoneWebDev.

If you’re using the iUI framework, have read Richard Wagner’s book or have other suggestions for mobile web development, drop a note in the comments with your thoughts/experiences/suggestions.

(Mostly) Free Resources for the Web Worker Who Works on the Web

By Chris Poteet

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Everyone, especially computer people, love lists of resources. I do as well, and I decided it’s time to share many of the resources that have helped me in my career. All of these resources (except for the print books) are either freeware, open source, or the application offers a free version.
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xScope: Web Developer’s Toolkit

xScope Icon

xScope, from the guys at IconFactory, is a suite of on-screen tools for web and creative professionals that includes Rulers, Screen overlay, Loupe, Guides, Frame, and Crosshairs. The tools are meant to assist in the design and testing process, allowing you to measure and inspect your website or software program on-screen in real-time.

Rulers

xScope RulerRulers let you position a translucent set of perpendicular rulers over any element on your display, and adjust the width and height giving you pixel measurements. The current position measurements change as your mouse moves, so you can get the coordinates of any element relative to, say, the top left of your website. This is really helpful in trying to determine the actual spacing of content and sidebars, for instance.

The ruler feature works well, and does very simply what many browser plugins and standalone applications can’t seem to get. It’s the tool from xScope I used the most in my testing.

Screen Overlay

xScope ScreensThe Screen Overlay gives you a window that lays over your browser and shows you the available content area of every major browser, IE and Mac. It includes IE 4+, NS4+, Safari, Firefox and AOL and all 3 popular sizes: 640, 800 and 1024 (and a custom size option, maybe for a WAP or iPhone site?).

Most people design their layout within constraints from the beginning, so while this tool is somewhat useful, it’s also a little overkill for most developers.

Loupe

xScope LoupeI have tried out several loupe programs but the loupe in xScope is simple and effective. It shows you a super blowup (up to 600%) and tons of useful information including HEX and RGB color, Hue, Saturation, and X & Y coordinates (from the top left of the display). You can copy the current color, copy the blowup image, lock the current settings, or freeze the mac’s display – all without a button or interface on the loupe. Simple and elegant.

Guides

xScope GuidesThe guides do just what you think – they put vertical and horizontal guides on your display, just as with Photoshop or many other graphics applications. Only these guides are global – they stay on top of all your applications and are not clickable unless xScope is selected.

The guides are a feature I did see much benefit from using. One feature I think would make them very useful is measuring the distance between any two guides. That would allow you to create two guides based on elements on a web page and measure the distance between them, but that can be done with the ruler so it’s not a feature that is really missed.

Frames

xScope FramesThe frames are 1px thin boxes, just like the crosshairs only they are containers that you can draw to any width and height. You can get the exact dimensions of an element or frame content on a web page. You can make a frame an exact width and height using the frame wizard, and can specify the X and Y coordinates also.

One interesting feature of the frames is you can set the height of the frame based on a predefined ratio and the width. This is a great feature for video editors, as they could overlay a box and see what a 4:3 ratio video would look like cropped to widescreen (2:3 or 16:9).

Crosshairs

xScope CrosshairsCrosshairs give you a simple, easy to see visual of the current X/Y coordinates of your mouse. You see the entire vertical and horizontal guide as a solid black line that tracks your mouse movement.

Used with the loupe, you could get the exact pixel coordinates of a dead pixel on your display, for instance.

Overall Opinion

xScope is a solid, well-built application for creative professionals who demand pixel-perfect accuracy. The suite has virtually every feature you could need to measure, troubleshoot and perfect your websites and software programs.

At only $16.95, with a free trial download, you can’t lose. Download xScope and give it a try.

Weekend Reader: Microsoft, Vyke, Snocap & Innovation

Microsoft Launches Unified Communications Portfolio. Jeff Raikes, President of Microsoft’s Business Division tells CNET “The era of dialing blind, the era of playing phone tag, the era of voice-mail jam…that era is ending.” Good sound byte but far from truth. Aswath rightfully points out that problem is not that of technology but of social behavior. Anyway lets sit back and watch them duke it out with Cisco Systems.

Vyke, another VoIP Client for Nokia S60 phone. The options for making VoIP calls from Nokia S60 phones with WiFi keep on increasing. Vyke is the latest to join the party. I still like Truphone.

Why CD Baby popped a Snocap. Derek Sivers, CD Baby CEO outlines why his company cut the cord with Shawn Fanning’s start-up, Snocap. It seems like a case of too much expectations from a Silicon Valley company that seems to have drink too much of its own kool aid. Sivers didn’t say that, but should have.

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