25 February 2008

More about Clippings 3.0 features

Here are more details on the new features introduced in Clippings 3.0.

Common Clippings Data for Firefox and Thunderbird

This much-requested feature allows your Clippings data to be created, accessed and modified from both Firefox and Thunderbird. That means that a clipping created in Firefox will be visible in Thunderbird; a clipping created in Firefox that is modified in Thunderbird will be updated in Firefox, too; etc.

This feature will be enabled by default for users who have never had Clippings installed in Firefox and Thunderbird. If you are upgrading from a previous version of Clippings, you can choose to keep your Clippings data separate in Firefox and Thunderbird, or you can enable common clippings by running the Common Clippings Wizard (Clippings Manager, Options → Common Clippings) from both Firefox and Thunderbird.

Placeholders In Clippings

You can now define placeholders inside a clipping that you will be prompted to fill in when you paste the clipping. Placeholders are essentially variables that appear in the clipping text in the format $[variable_name]. Valid variable names can contain letters (lowercase or uppercase), digits (0-9) and underscores. Example clipping with placeholders:
Hello, $[YourName], I'm glad you're coming to the club meeting at $[meeting_time]. See you $[2nite]!
When you paste a clipping with placeholders, you will be prompted to fill in the value for each placeholder in the clipping. If you want the placeholders in the clipping pasted exactly as they are, with no prompting and substitution, the clipping name should be prefixed with [NOSUBST].

There are six predefined placeholders you can use in your clippings; these predefined placeholders will be automatically substituted with their expected values when you paste the clipping.
  • $[NAME] - the name of the clipping
  • $[FOLDER] - the name of the folder the clipping belongs to
  • $[DATE] - the current date, expressed in the format defined in your system's locale settings
  • $[TIME] - the current time, expressed in the format defined in your system's locale settings
  • $[HOSTAPP] - the name and version number of the host application you're pasting the clipping in
  • $[UA] - the user agent string of the host application

Default Clippings

System administrators and redistributors can bundle a default Clippings datasource file into a customized Clippings XPI to pre-populate their users' datasources when they install the customized XPI. To create a customized XPI, do the following:
  1. Download the Clippings 3.0 XPI and save it to a location on your system.
  2. Unzip the XPI using a ZIP client such as WinZip. Make sure that the directory structure in the XPI file (actually a ZIP archive with an .xpi file name extension) is intact.
  3. Copy a Clippings datasource file containing the default Clippings data to the defaults directory and rename it clippak.rdf.
  4. Re-zip the XPI archive; the directory structure and all files that were in the XPI must be preserved.
When the user installs the customized XPI, the default Clippings data will be automatically imported when starting the host application (Firefox or Thunderbird) after the installation.

Create and organize the default clippings using Clippings Manager, then export the data to a Clippings file. A new, standalone utility is in the works that will let you view and edit Clippings files without disturbing your personal Clippings data.

Other Things You Should Know About
  • If, before migrating to the common Clippings data source, you have a large number of clippings and folders in the root Clippings folder, migrating from Firefox and Thunderbird may result in a larger number of clippings and folders in the common data source, resulting in a rather lengthy Clippings submenu in the host application's context menu. Consider organizing your clippings (deleting unneeded clippings from the root folder and moving clippings to folders) before running the migration utility.
  • Sometimes, if the common Clippings data source is enabled and you make changes to a clipping from Clippings Manager invoked from one host app and then switch to another instance of Clippings Manager from the other host app, the update from the first host app may not be reflected in Clippings Manager from the second host app. Use Options → Reload to update the display.
  • The Redo (a.k.a. "Undo Undo") function key in Clippings Manager has changed as of milestone release 2.99.3; the function key is now F2.

Clippings 3.0 Release Candidate 1

This is the first release candidate of Clippings 3.0. Barring any last-minute showstopper bugs, this release should resemble the final 3.0 release.

» Download: Clippings 3.0 RC 1 (175 KB; compatible with Firefox 2.0-3.0b3 and Thunderbird 2.0-2.0.0.*)

Supported languages: English (United States), Dutch, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak.

If you already have a previous release of Clippings installed, you must uninstall it first before installing this release.

Please note that Clippings 3.0 is, and will not be, compatible with Firefox 1.5 and Thunderbird 1.5. These versions are obsolete and Mozilla Corp. is no longer supporting them.

What's New

This is a summary of all the new features introduced in the past development milestone releases. More details about some of the features are described in another post.
  • Common clippings data for Firefox and Thunderbird. This much-requested feature allows your Clippings data to be created, accessed and modified from both Firefox and Thunderbird. (More info.)
  • Shortcut keys. You can now assign a shortcut key to a clipping at the time of creation or by editing a clipping in Clippings Manager. Shortcut keys can be any letter (A-Z) or digit (0-9). To paste the clipping into a web page form field in Firefox or a new email message in Thunderbird, press CTRL+ALT+V, then the shortcut key.
  • Clipping placeholders. You can define placeholders inside a clipping that you will be prompted to fill in when you paste the clipping. Built-in placeholders for the date, time, clipping name, user agent, etc. are also available. (More info.)
  • Default clippings. System administrators and redistributors can bundle a default Clippings datasource file into a customized Clippings XPI to pre-populate their users' datasources when they install the customized XPI. (More info.)
  • Improvements to Clippings Manager's automatic save functionality, including on-the-fly updating of clipping edits/changes.
  • Double-click on a clipping in Clippings Manager to paste it into the most recent host app window
  • Numerous bug fixes.

Known Issues
  • On Firefox 3, it is not possible to adjust the width of Clippings Manager's tree list.
  • Shortcut key assignments are lost after migrating to the common data source.

Feedback Welcome

Please send bug reports to the Clippings mailing list, or file a bug report on Bugzilla (requires Bugzilla account on Mozdev). You can also leave a comment below this blog post.

13 February 2008

Panic Button 0.9.1 (beta 2 release)

This release contains some improvements to the first beta release of Panic Button.

Meant for early adopters craving the latest and greatest, this beta release is being made available for testing, and should only be installed if you are willing to tolerate a few bugs. If that scares you, then you shouldn't install it.

» Download: Panic Button 0.9.1 (16 KB; English (United States); compatible with Firefox 2.0-3.0b3)

If you already have the previous release of Panic Button installed, you must uninstall it first before installing this release.

What's New
  • The Panic Button action is configurable through the extension options dialog (Tools → Add-ons from the Firefox browser window, select Panic Button in the list of extensions and click Options). The Panic Button action options are: hide all windows (the fastest option; a Restore Session toolbar appears after all Firefox app windows close so that you can bring back the browser windows later), minimize all windows (slowest option -- but all windows, including ancillary app windows like Help, View Source, Bookmarks/Places, etc. can be restored), or quit (close all windows and quit Firefox).
  • Windowing shortcut keys (for minimize, maximize and restore commands on the browser window) and CTRL+Q (the quit key) are no longer included with Panic Button.
  • The F9 key for invoking the Panic Button action can be disabled; it is enabled by default. This is useful if you have another extension installed that uses that key.
Known Issues
  • The Panic Button action option to hide all windows doesn't work if a system native file picker dialog box (Open, Save As) is open in any of the browser windows at the time the Panic Button action is invoked (bug 18629).
  • If a dialog box (e.g. Options, About) was invoked from browser window A, clicking the Panic Button on browser window B won't hide browser window A. This is only happening on Firefox 3.0b3 if the Hide All Windows action on the Panic Button is set (bug 18637).

Things You Should Know About

Any downloads in progress will continue in the background if clicking the Panic Button to hide or minimize all windows. If Quit was selected in extension preferences as the Panic Button action, downloads in progress will be cancelled.

Help and Support

Feedback on this extension is welcome. General comments and bug reports may be submitted by going to the AE Creations home page and clicking Contact. If you have a Bugzilla account on Mozdev, you may file a bug report here (please make sure you specify Panic Button on the bug summary field).

Translations of Panic Button are not yet enabled due to the enhancements that required adding more UI strings. Panic Button will be resubmitted to Babelzilla when it is stable for final release. Thanks to the Babelzilla translation team for their efforts so far.

06 February 2008

Send Tab URLs 0.4.1 released

This minor release adds support for a few languages (made possible by the awesome translators at Babelzilla) and is compatible with Firefox 3.0 beta 2.

» Download: Send Tab URLs 0.4.1 (21.1 KB; English (United States); compatible with Firefox 2.0-3.0b2)

If you already have Send Tab URLs installed, it will be upgraded for you if automatic extension updates are enabled in Firefox. Otherwise, open Extension Manager in Firefox, then right-click on the entry for Send Tab URLs in the list of installed extensions and choose Find Update.

What's New
  • Compatible with Firefox 3.0 beta 2
  • Removed support for Firefox 1.5 series, which is no longer maintained by Mozilla Corp.
  • Added support for Catalan, Chinese (simplified), Polish and Spanish locales

Known Issues

  • On Windows, Send Tab URLs has been confirmed to work with Mozilla Thunderbird, SeaMonkey Mail, Outlook Express and MS Office Outlook. Send Tab URLs may not work with other Windows-based email programs not listed here, especially if the URLs of the individual browser tabs are long. No such limitation have been found on Linux or Mac OS X.
  • On German and Russian locales, the toolbar button caption may appear in English.

See the Contact page on the AE Creations website for details on how to report a bug or obtain support.

05 February 2008

Yahoo + Microsoft?

I remember Yahoo! as being one of the first few Web sites I visited when I walked into the library at my high school one day to work on a research assignment. There was only one computer with Internet access (through this big, noisy external 28K modem with little red blinking lights), and Netscape Navigator 3, considered the most advanced Web browser at the time, was my window to the World Wide Web.

Those early days of the Web were simpler times, and Yahoo! was a reflection of that. Its home page had only a few, grainy images, and almost all text was rendered in Times Roman font. It was merely a vast directory of links to Web sites, not a true search engine like what Google presently is. It was simple, yet elegant -- and it was the tool I used to conduct my very first Web-based research.

At the beginning of my first year of university, I was so dissatisfied with the university's email service which was accessible only through a primitive, character-based Lynx browser that I decided to open a Hotmail account (all of my classmates seemed to have a hotmail.com address, so I followed the crowd). Back then, the company behind Hotmail was bought out by Microsoft just a few months earlier, so the original Hotmail UI was still intact. But after Microsoft overhauled the Hotmail interface in their gradual efforts to make it resemble an MS Office application, I bailed out -- and looked again to Yahoo!.

By this point, Yahoo! had grown bigger. Its home page continue to retain the simple yet elegant look, but by then it had various other Web-based services such as online shopping and email. Its email service was appealing, and so I signed up for a yahoo.com email address.

As time progressed, Yahoo! had grown and changed dramatically. Eventually it did away with the spartan, text-oriented home page and it became a graphic-heavy, commercialized, advertising-driven portal, presenting users with links to news, sports, video, autos, finance, travel, relationships, movies, TV shows, celebrities, jobs, classifieds, shopping, games, instant messaging and many, many other services. Its roots as a Web directory is all but forgotten, its link buried somewhere in its massive patchwork of services. Yahoo! went on a shopping spree of its own, buying up companies like GeoCities and eGroups, and assimilated their products into its own growing collection. Meanwhile, Yahoo! Mail has been transformed into a Web 2.0 app, trying desperately hard to appear and act like a desktop application. While its message preview feature is a major benefit for me, its bloated, extraneous features have annoyed me so much that I have since defected to Gmail -- although I still use my Yahoo! email account for personal messages (I have recently switched back to Yahoo! Mail Classic because the new Yahoo! Mail won't work on Firefox 3.0 beta 2). And Yahoo! Briefcase, the only other Yahoo! service that I use occasionally, has remained fairly static in this sea of change -- probably because it's been neglected while the company focuses on its other, more profitable, online offerings.

Despite weathering the dot com bust, Yahoo! has recently fallen into hard times. Even with Jerry Yang, its co-founder, at the helm again, Yahoo! has been performing poorly in the eyes of investors and mass layoffs are imminent. Its weakened state has now left it vulnerable to a takeover bid by Microsoft, which it has been eyeing for some time in its ongoing battle to outdo Google for Internet dominance.

It's inevitable that a Microsoft takeover of Yahoo! will succeed, one way or another -- because in the end, its shareholders are only interested in making a profit, and Yahoo! executives and employees with stock options would be eager to cash in and make a few quick bucks... indeed, both are strong incentives to see the deal go through. That leaves the question of what to do with all that overlap between MSN and Yahoo!. But as far as Microsoft is concerned, it could care less about Yahoo! Mail, Briefcase or all of those other services, because its only interest is in Yahoo!'s search engine and advertising businesses.

I view this prospect with some degree of sadness. As one of the early members of the Internet generation, I practically grew up on Yahoo!, and it would be shame to see it disappear into Internet history along with other relics like Netscape. But the stark reality is that many are seeing these events as a golden opportunity to profit from the misfortune of others.

01 February 2008

Clippings milestone releases not localized

For those early adopters interested in installing Clippings 3.0 milestone releases (numbered 2.99.x) on a non-English Firefox installation, please note that these releases do not yet have any of the new UI strings localized. This is the cause of the error messages reportedly appearing below the Firefox or Thunderbird application windows.

This problem has been documented in bug 18572 which will be fixed before the Clippings 3.0 release candidate. In the meantime, the solutions that I can suggest are to either stick with Clippings 2.6, or wait until the release candidate is released.

(With thanks to the reporter of bug 18572 for the heads up.)