See Code, See CodeRun

Merbla wrote a short post today about a site he came across, CodeRun. The site is an online code repository, with the added advantage of an online IDE include on the site which allows you to see the code and run/debug it as it is. After signing up for a free account you can create your own projects (AJAX, ASP.NET, PHP and WPF — AJAX and ASP.NET also have support for Facebook applications) which you can develop, store and run all from their website.

The concept is brilliant — everything from start to go can be done online via your standard web browser (currently only supports Internet Explorer and FireFox) and publishing of your source code is as simple as a right-click and a left-click. Once the source has been published other people can freely go and search for source code in the repository and open it directly in the browser, make modifications and run them all from within the browser.

However; The actual implementation of it so far (while still very impressive) is significantly lacking from a development perspective. Although it is possible to do the majority of thing you can do in Visual Studio, it is a little cumbersome and slow at times and does have a few limitations. For example, there is no toolbar — and therefore no drag and dropping of controls (which Microsoft presentations always seem to contain a lot of ;-).

Although the site seems to be focused on web applications some features are also available in the online IDE. You do not have the ability to create folders with underscores in them, and there does not seem to be any way of creating the special ASP.NET folders such as App_Data or App_Themes… not such a big deal. Designer files are not automatically created and if you try to create one an exception is thrown saying the file already exists.

The biggest problem, however, is the speed. Perhaps it is just my machine or my internet connection, but the online IDE is very slow to use and navigate. Menus and prompts tend to hang the browser for a couple of seconds before they load and the IntelliSense (ctrl+space) does not allow function correctly. Code highlighting, although not important or required, is lacking from the Visual Studio equivalent and take a significant amount of time to process and display.

Copying and pasting from Visual Studio into the online IDE also seems to be out of the question, as it seems to paste the text multiple times; Copy and paste from within the online IDE works fine.

All that being said the online IDE quite features rich and imitates Visual Studio very well. You are able to apply breakpoints and step through code, attach to processes (only online applications — not system processes), watch variables, etc. There is also an option to open a project from a zip file — which works great, providing you zip the project from the root of the project folder (it must not be in a sub folder).

In the end (as Merbla suggested in his post) something like this teamed up with StackOverflow, for the purpose of displaying simple solutions to problems with working example would be brilliant! However, as far as online development goes I think there is a long way to go.

See running example: Hello World!

Firefox 3 And Colour Management

I recently came across an article by Datacolor (the company who make the Spyder range of monitor/printer calibrators) which explains how to enable ICC profiles in Firefox 3. It is a very simple boolean (true/false) property which you need to change in the ‘hidden’ Firefox configuration.

In Firefox enter about:config into the address bar and press Enter. A warning message will show up saying “This might void your warranty!” ignore this and click “I’ll be careful, I promise” (don’t worry you don’t have any warranty anyway ;-). Next, in the filter bar type in gfx.color_management.enabled. There should now only be one option in the list of configuration options, and it should be set to false by default. Simply double click this option to change it to true (it should now be bold, indicating it is no longer the default value). Restart Firefox and you should be up and running with ICC profiles.

Check out the original post by Datacolor for more information and for two images which will indicate if your browser supports ICC profiles.

FireFox Add-ons To Make Your Life Easy

One thing that I love about FireFox is its vast library of add-ons. Not only does Mozilla provide an easy to search an online repository of add-ons, but installing add-ons with FireFox is easy as three clicks. Although there are many useful add-ons, there are also quite a few of not so useful add-ons – So I thought that I would share some of the add-ons that I commonly use.

  • Clipmarks – Allows you to save sections of a page, without having to book mark the entire page. Useful for saving sections of a blog or news article. *Requires registration
  • CSSViewer –  A Simple CSS Property viewer. Provides a great, web 2.0 looking, floating window that displays CSS Information about the item your cursor is currently over.
  • Dog Ears – Mark important parts of a webpage to easily relocate them. Lets you dog-ear long pages, with persistent marks, so that you can skip straight to those marks the next time you return to that page.
  • FasterFox – Performance and Network tweaks for FireFox. I would recommend that you lower the performance increase back from “Turbo Charged” to at least “Optimised”, to help prevent overloading web servers.
  • FlashGot – Download helper for FireFox. Absolute must have, especially if you have a download manager.
  • GoogCal – A very simple add-on which lets you add a Google Calendar button to your toolbar.
  • GreaseMonkey – Allows you to customise the way a webpage displays, using JavaScript. Scripts can be downloaded from userscripts.org.
  • Locationbar – Changes the look of your location bar by putting emphasis on the domain.
  • PDF Download – Allows you to choose if you want to view a PDF inside the browser, as a PDF or as HTML, or in your default PDF application. Another must have.
  • Resizeable Form Fields – Lets you click and drag form fields to increase, or decrease, their size.
  • Tab Scope – Shows a thumbnail preview of your tabs, when you hover over a tab.
  • View Formatted Source – Displays formatted and color-coded source and CSS information for elements. Great for reading messy or long HTML source.
  • Web Developer – A useful toolbar which gives you various web developer tools. Can also be useful for non-web developer as it lets you disable JavaScript and CSS.
  • Zotero – Helps you collect and manage citation information. Great if you’re doing research or you frequently require saving citation information.

One of your favourite add-ons not in the list? Post a comment with the add-ons you use.

Windows Safari

Apple has just recently released Safari 3 beta and with this release, they have included an XP and Vista version, for the previously Mac only browser. Steve Jobs announced the release of Safari 3 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (see video here) and showcased some of its features and benefits. Aside from the claims of being “the best browser ever”, Jobs also claims that Safari is 2x faster than IE7 and 1.6x faster than FireFox 2.

Personally, I’m not a fan the Mac look and feel, especially that big grey toolbar, however, there are a few features which are useful, if not at least intriguing. For example, while tabbed browser, you can drag a tab off the tab toolbar and a new window will be opened with that tabs contents displayed. Another useful feature is the ability to resize text areas, without the need for this to be implemented by the website (of course this is available in FireFox through the use of a Resizeable Form Fields extension by Justin Watt).

Aside from the aforementioned features of Safari, it does appear to render HTML quicker than IE7 and FireFox. However, there are a few bugs or unimplemented features which should be included. One notable downfall is the lack of support for the scroll wheel click feature (I’m not sure if this is lack of support for my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 or if it’s not included at all), which is presumably a direct side effect of the mac mouse having a 360 scroll ball instead of a wheel. Another downfall I noted was that the tab toolbar does not always close once you close all of the tabs (excluding one), but granted it is only a beta I’m sure that bug will be fixed before the final release.

All-in-all I think Safari is just another standard browser really, and I’ll be sticking with FireFox for now. However, if you would like to try out the new Safari you can head to http://www.apple.com/safari/ and download your free beta copy. Or alternatively, you can download the real “best browser” from http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/. :-p

Update June 13th: Apparently there have already been several vulnerabilities found in Safari.