Web Development Tools and Wikis

I recently did a couple of presentations work, as part of my new role as Manager of Web Technologies. These presentations were focused on sharing knowledge and help them be more productive with these technologies.

In July (2008), the presentation was on Web Development tools. Background: The company has been using web interfaces (and Ajax) for more aspects of its products and more software engineers are being asked to know something about the User Interface development/functionality. Since I was one of the key UI developers, I was asked to share some of the tools that I use regularly that makes the job easier.

The slides will not have the same impact as it did when presented, because a large portion of the time was used in examples or discussion of ways each tool is helpful. The lunch-time presentation lasted about 1.5 hrs.

Slides: Web Development Tools

This past Friday (Jan-16-2009), I also presented on Wikis. Background: A number of engineers had tried using wikis without much success. However, each attempt had been aimed at a very narrow use-case (maybe one project, or one product). Our VP of Engineering had become interested in trying to make it work on a larger scale (all of Engineering, or further). So this presentation was intended to provide the entire engineering staff with an introduction to the internal wiki, and enough training to get started building the wiki.

The first half of the presentation covers a general explanation of what a Wiki is and Good/Bad uses of them. And the second half covers how to create pages and use the Wiki. This lunch-time presentation also lasted about 1.5 hrs.

Slides: Wikis

easyPages v0.22 is available for download

You can download it here: http://snydersoft.com/easyPages/

I recently updated easyPages to include a few enhancements:

  • Added file icons for MSProject, WinZip, and Unknown filetypes
  • Display last modified time in format “(Updated DD-MMM-YYYY HH:MM)” after file names
  • Display “new” icon if the file was updated in the last 14days

easyPages is a PHP script that creates a listing of the documents/folders that are contained in the same directory on the webserver as this script. The resources directory contains all the necessary graphics. This script was created originally as a way for me to quickly post new documents to my Intranet pages at work, without needing to edit the HTML/PHP to create new links to them.

easyPages requires a web server with PHP 4 or higher installed.

Extract the easyPages*_Script_and_Graphics.zip file to a folder in your webspace
Create subfolders (beside the index.php) and they will appear when you browse to that folder on your web server.

There is a “Sample_Files” folder in the .zip that will also help you get started with creating the file structure.

Currently, easyPages-v0.22 only supports one level of sub-folders.

Download is available at http://snydersoft.com/easyPages/

Twitter and WordPress

I wanted to document one of the hacks that I have made to a the Twitter WordPress Sidebar Widget.

Edit to “Twitter WordPress Sidebar Widget”

I wanted a line break after the time, so I added the following line:

As the last line inside the following “if” statement:
if ( showTimeFirst == 1) {

I also attempted to hack up the Twitter Updater to provide a nicer URL to twitter that would then appear nice in the above mentioned Twitter SideBar Widget… but ran into some issues. I have determined that I need to make the change to the Sidebar Widget and detect the URL and then place it into a ““. A project for another day.

Default to Standards mode

I am very excited to hear that Microsoft has decided to reverse it’s decision on the default behavior of IE 8. This is great news for the Web and should keep us moving in a more standards based web platform. Every good decision like this helps to further the standards movement within browsers and keeps raising the level of functionality available to web developers/designers.

WebRunner (site specific browser)

Mozilla has been working on a “Site Specific Browser” implementation called WebRunner that is a stripped down version of Firefox that allows you to connect to a particular site and it appears as an application to your desktop. It can have a desktop icon, it appears in Alt-Tab list by itself, and can be assigned an “icon” as well. This works great for website like Google Reader, or Google Calendar… providing you with a seperate instance for each that you can alt-tab to. You don’t need to go to your browser, and then switch tabs in the browser to see it.

External links open in your default browser, and with the minimal interface (basically just a status bar and the minimize, maximize and close buttons at the top… it gives as much space as possible to the web app you are using.

You can read more about it here:


Flash CS3 using fscommand and batch files

I ran into a particularly odd problem when I moved to Flash CS3. It no
longer allowed me to place batch files in the fscommand directory and call
them from a flash projector file. I found this article while searching for
a reason why, and it provides an excellent way to overcome the current issue
with Flash CS3 (and helps with the “flashing black dos boxes” that many
people have to work around when using batch files in fscommand).


Basically, it provides a software proxy by which you can call out to those
Batch files from Flash projector files (and eliminate the DOS box at the
same time). Just download proxy.exe and rename to match the batch file you
want it to execute.

Example: Want to run “dosomething.bat” so you rename proxy.exe to be
and in flash you would call it similarly: fscommand(“exec”,

Microsoft Releases Silverlight

Microsoft’s Press Article:

Here is a great place to start, if you are interested in Silverlight
development: http://www.silverlight.net. The runtime, and SDK can be
downloaded at: http://silverlight.net/GetStarted/.

In the coming weeks, I expect we will see lots of comparisons between
Silverlight at Flash.

Quick Summary:
(I expect most of the comparisons will boil down to)
* Silverlight is heavily focused on great video
* Silverlight with CLR/.NET will be easier for existing .NET developers
* Flash users will probably not switch (unless dealing primarily with
* The competition will be good, and should drive both products to improve
support/functionality for Rich Internet Application development.