Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: Skins == Bad?
Posted:4/10/2000; 7:24:44 PM
Topic:scriptingNews outline for 4/10/2000
Msg #:16075 (In response to 16063)
Prev/Next:16074 / 16076

I agree that the default skin or GUI of an application, whether it be a web browser or a web application that resides in a browser, will be the most used. This is for the same reason I use the default skin of SoundJam, WinAmp, and even the MacOS (e.g. Kaleidoscope). It's because it's the GUI that I've used and the GUI that I know.

Instead of thinking about web browsers as tools that access the web, we need to start thinking about browser-based web applications that do more than simply acces and display HTML-based web pages. This is the future of the Internet, and also why Mozilla is being treated with so much fanfare. Using Mozilla as your runtime application for web-enabled services, you can go far beyond the simple browser interface. Mozilla can be used to build web-accessible kiosk networks with their own unique GUI and functionality. Mozilla also allows the developer to meet functional requirements set by the client that other browser environments cannot fulfill.

Mozilla is more than a web browser. This is a very important point that a lot of people are missing. It's important to understand that Netscape 6 is merely the consumer web browser that uses Mozilla as its source code base.

Cross-browser UI development is very tricky as UI designers are forced to try and map actions across inconsistent OS platforms. This is why we see things like Control-S and Command-S doing the same thing in Windows and Macs. Mozilla radically solves this problem by not following any one OS's UI guidelines, and instead prefers to give every OS it's ported to the same UI. This is why we see non-standard native widgets and behaviors (scroll bars, dialog boxes, etc.) in Mozilla regardless of the OS it is running on. In some sense, this is a good thing.

Extensible Binding Language (XBL) is the solution Mozilla is using to solve this little problem. XBL lets any Mozilla developer create "sets" of XUL code, including actions, graphics, and CSS, that can be integrated into Mozilla using a simple reference. Such XBL sets can be created for each OS plaftorm that needs them. One such XBL set might be the Macintosh scroll bars which have their own look and feel and interaction. Developers can then simply reference the XBL set they need creating a pretty close approximization to what the native OS widgets do.

Likley what Netscape will do is integrate skin switching into their product, giving the power users the choice to change and add skins should they choose to do so. A radical move would be to also supply skins that approximate the look and feel of MSIE 5.x and the UI for Nescape 4.x. It's certain that these skins will be avaialble for Mozilla, but not necessarily for Netscape.

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