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Mozilla Goodies

A year and a half ago, we selected the Galeon web browser as "Project of the Month" (http://www.linux-mag.com/2002-07/potm_01.html). Galeon used the Gecko rendering engine from Mozilla and layered tons of useful features on top of it. It wasn't the leanest browser around, but it had nearly every feature you could want and was proving to be quite popular.

http://mozdev.org

A year and a half ago, we selected the Galeon web browser as “Project of the Month” (http://www.linux-mag.com/2002-07/potm_01.html). Galeon used the Gecko rendering engine from Mozilla and layered tons of useful features on top of it. It wasn’t the leanest browser around, but it had nearly every feature you could want and was proving to be quite popular.

How times have changed!

In the time since then, the Mozilla organization has undergone some significant changes, most notably being officially ejected from the Netscape division of cash-bleeding AOL. Luckily, and in spite of the changes, the community around Mozilla is as strong as ever.

Birds of a Feather

On the technical front, the monolithic Mozilla web browser is being deprecated in favor of several separate products. Mozilla Firebird is the new, lightweight web browser. Unlike its ancestors, Mozilla and Galeon, Firebird is a slimmed down browser. Rather than adding every possible feature into the browser, the Firebird developers made it relatively easy to build plug-ins, extensions, and themes. Mozilla Thunderbird is a stand-alone email and news client. Both Thunderbird and Firebird share common user interface elements, both are significantly faster than the larger Mozilla, and both are far more advanced than the aging Netscape Communicator.

The Extension Room

To get a feel for what Mozilla gizmos and gadgets are out there, pay a visit to the Extension Room at http://extensionroom.mozdev.org/intro.html. There you’ll find a categorized list of extensions for Mozilla, Firebird, and Thunderbird.

For example, maybe you’d really like to have a Galeon feature that’s not part of Firebird, such as saved sessions. (Galeon allowed you to save your “session” — tab configuration, loaded sites, and so on — and restore it at a later date.) Well, you’re in luck. The “Tabbed Browsing” category in the Extension Room contains an extension called Session Save that “remembers loaded tabs and their history items when Firebird is closed.”

Or maybe you’d like to have a tool like the Google Toolbar that’s normally available only to Internet Explorer users on Windows. Well, head over to the “Search Tools” category where you’ll find an entry for the Google Bar extension, which “brings the Google Toolbar to Mozilla.”

In addition to those two, you can find extensions that cover kiosk-style browsing, Mozilla-based games (solitaire and minesweeper, among others), download managers, development/debugging tools, news and RSS aggregators, blogging, and lots more.

For Developers

If you’re looking for information on creating plug-ins for Mozilla, Firebird, or Thunderbird, pay a visit to the PluginDoc page on mozdev.org at http://plugindoc.mozdev.org. There you’ll find tons of information about plug-ins.

And, several good books have been published in the last year if you’d like to take a do it yourself approach to browser extensions. Titles include Rapid Application Development with Mozilla, Creating Applications with Mozilla, and Essential XUL Programming. Each of them, in its own way, serves to make a very important point: Mozilla really is more than a web browser. It’s also a technology platform upon which you can build a wide variety of Internet-aware applications.

And once you’ve built a cool new extension, share it with the community. It doesn’t take much effort at all to package up a new extension and upload it for the world to see. Who knows? Maybe someone else will help improve it.

Themes

Everybody likes themes (or skins). Themed desktops, themed MP3 players, themed terminals with semi-transparent background colors. Well, almost everybody.

If you’re looking for a way to make the GPU on your video card sit idle a bit less often, spend some time browsing the repository of themes on the mozdev site at http://themes.mozdev.org.

Better yet, if you’re the artistic type and want to spice up the browser a bit, you can find online tutorials (http://themes.mozdev.org/tutorial.html) that describe how to create a theme using XUL (pronounced zool), Mozilla’s XML-based UI design language, and a bit of CSS and graphics.

One thing you might notice browsing the mozdev site is that it auto-detects the browser version you’re running. If you have a theme-capable browser, it’ll say so. If your browser is too old to use a particular theme, it’ll tell you that too. Yes, even themes are version-specific sometimes.



Do you have an idea for a project we should feature? Drop a note to diy@linux-mag.com and let us know.

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