Monthly Archives: March 2006

Desktop usability with DHTML

Getting users to like my web-based application is a problem. Whoever said that we should not just meet our customers' expectation, but should aim to exceed them, clearly has not met my user before. Give him what he asked for and he can still complain about a hundred other items that he wanted also. It is difficult putting all these nice features into our existing application, but what if we ravamp part of it with some nice widget?

Can we replicate his desktop application's ease of use with HTML and CSS? The boss asked me to explore how to get HTML to do drag and drop, and stuff like that. We know that it is do-able, we have seen websites doing these things, just that our company has yet to do any of these things internally. What I found blew me away.

There are now a lot of javascript libraries that you can use to create desktop functionality in a browser. It is time for my company's applications to get a face lift! Well, as much as their budget allows, anyway.
Cool, now I can also get the latest coordinates of the dopped item and submit it back to the web server! I can resize the image and get its latest width, height, x and y coordinates, set it transparent when dragging and resizing it! It's under the Lesser GPL, which means I can use this in my commercial application, for free!

Other free libraries tend to work with lists, but this looks like IE!
Tabs, trees, lists, tables can now be done in your browser. The demo on this page is staggering! You can do up your IE Internet Options menu using just HTML!
You can do drag and drop boxes in lists and tables and all over the page. The best part is that lists and tables will arrange themselves and snap back into position smoothly when you drop another item in their midst.
Lovely docking boxes that can be closed and dragged.

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Filed under interesting, tech

I stumbled onto this interesting site while searching for a way to make my web-based application more user-friendly. is supposed to be a way to organise information, either for a single user or for a small business to share information among its team.

Well it is really very easy to use, almost like working with pen and paper. There are to-do lists, notes and images, and they are linked together as a page. Sort of like a notebook. You can add new pages with their own lists, notes and images. The reminder service is able to send out alerts via emails or sms. Basic personal information management (PIM) stuff so far. There is one more feature called a writeboard. Writeboards are kind of like wikis, you can let other users edit them and it keeps track of changes so that you can roll back to previous versions, but without the internal linking. You can do simple formatting to create headers and tables, but that is it. A simple collaboration tool for sharing of information.

There isn’t really anything that I can do here that I cannot do with other free service providers such as Yahoo, but it does them a lot better. The UI is really friendly and easy to use. Changes can be made at the side of the item, in a non-obstructive way. Unlike most other providers, features that you do not use often do not take up valuable screen space in the form of huge buttons, but are at the side, ready to slide out when needed. The UI makes heavy use of such sleek widgets that fade in and out smoothly as needed, giving the feeling that the UI is responsive to user interaction, rather than passively waiting for the user to click a button or a hyperlink.

The timing is another thing it does well, giving an intuitive feel. Rather than to use specific date and time, it tends to give it in terms of 6 minutes ago, yesterday, next week, 1 year later, which is closer to how people tend to think. The items in lists can be dragged up or down, which is not a standard feature in most providers. But amazingly, there is no search feature. If you lose track of where you have parked an item, you might have no way to find it again.
The cost is low for the features it provides too. With a nominal monthly fee, you can upload and share out files with other users.

It is all very nice, but I think the main attraction for me at this moment is the information management aspect. The reminders and to-do lists are very nicely done, so much so that I wish all my regular providers can be so pretty and intuitive. But if PIM is all I need, I would rather use my PDA that wait for the lag that is inevitable in web-based applications. Plus, I can bring my PDA with me, even when I do not have access to the internet. Ah, if only they will add in email and a contacts list. Or if gmail will do something like this.

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Filed under review, tech

beng is cool, singlish a signal

A very interesting article taken from TodayOnline.

It's written by a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Ah, no wonder that it takes into account the different layers of society and what Singlish means to them. After all, I don't think you can be a Fellow by commenting like ah pehs in coffeeshops. Cannot be so easy right? Must have some power before publishing such insights.

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Filed under interesting, singapore