Day: March 19, 2005

  • In Search of a Javascritpt WYSIWYG HTML Editor that Doesn\’t Suck

    The title says it all. I’m looking for a Javascript-based What-You-See-is-What-You-Get HTML editor that doesn’t suck. I fell in love with HTMLArea when I bought my copy of Radio back in 2001. I’ve since used HTMLArea 2 which is pretty decent but is IE only. Until recently I had been tracking the HTMLArea 3 pre-releases which worked in both IE and Mozilla and were beginning to deal with things like copy/paste content from newer versions of Microsoft Office products that embed all that nasty XMLish markup. The other day I went to to see if there was a new beta release only to find that the lead contributor had mothballed the project:

    htmlarea 2 and 3 have been discontinued. They were free wysiwyg editors that were distributed on this site. Visit the directory to find similar products.

    What a bummer. The source is still in CVS, and I’m hoping that a leet Javascripter will take over the project, because HTMLArea 3 seemed pretty darn stable and quite near release. I’ve looked quickly at a bunch of possible replacements, but each one seems to have a showstopper. RTE is quite good for when you need a small, simple, compact editor, but it has its quirks. For instance, it’s an editable iframe instead of a layer over textarea, so there are some limits to the script-fu you can do with it. Don’t get the post title wrong, RTE does not suck at all, but it has its limitations.

    And so I ask you, dear reader, what the heck are you using these days for something like this? While I take the time to look closer at the lists of editors that I’ve glossed over before, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to drop me a line (matt at ooiio dot com) or take a look at my JavascriptWyswiygHtmlEditors page and add your two cents. Please help, I’m at my wits end!

  • My New Printer: File, Print FedEx Kinkos

    File, Print FedEx Kinkos

    I’ve got a crappy little inkjet printer. It does a darn decent job at printing a page or two in black and white, but anything beyond that is just too much for it. Stuff usually prints, but not always. Sometimes it’s a bit smudged. Other times the paper jams up. Sometimes the cats run off with or otherwise mangle the printed page before I can get to it. The darn thing seems to take a lot of union breaks.

    A few weeks ago I was doing research on a paper for my computer organization class. I did much of my research at the University of Maryland’s awesome Engineering and Physical Sciences library, taking notes, xeroxing some pages, and checking out a book. There was also a weath of information available to me at the ACM Digital Library. I ended up downloading 150 or so pages of papers and articles from the vast ACM library.

    As much as I love technology, I’m just not able to skim text and read for long periods of time on a computer screen. I decided to print out the 150 or so pages, but had absolutely no desire to do that on my crappy little inkjet printer.

    I’ve wanted to give Mimeo a try ever since I learned about them a few years ago. They allow you to upload documents to their servers, preview them online, and then they print ia try. I stumbled upon them a few years ago and ship it to you. It’s a very cool idea, but it was Saturday and my paper was due Wednesday.

    Enter Fedex Kinkos. They have a similar service called File, Print Fedex Kinkos. After you download their software (win32 only, sorry), it creates a printer driver and integrates itself with Office. They offer the option of shipping your order to you, but more importantly they allow you to pick it up at your local Fedex Kinkos location.

    I spent a bit of time seperating the various articles I wanted to print with bibliographic information and eventually combined them all in to one big PDF file using Adobe Acrobat. I sent the job off to the File, Print Fedex Kinkos printer and chose options for my order. Since I was going to be flipping through all of the pages, I decided to go with double sided printing on the cheapest possible paper with three holes already punched. The el-cheapo worked out to somewhere around 6-8 cents or so (I forget) per printed page. I flipped through the preview and entered my billing information. It took a few minutes to upload the document to their servers, but after that was done I got a receipt to print and an email in my inbox. About an hour and a half later I got another email saying that the order was ready to be picked up.

    It’s not perfect though. Their premium laser paper is about 20 cents a pop and their options for binding are a bit limited. Their system is only set up to deal with one document at a time, so if you want to make a bunch of different copies of a bunch of different documents, you’re going to have to upload, set up, and pay for each one seperately. If you’re looking for more binding and layout options or for better handling of multiple documents, I’d strongly suggest that you check out Mimeo. Non-Windows users should check out the FedEx Kinkos web interface which looks to be multiplatform aside from some basic Javascript requirements.

    FedEx Kinkos is doing a very smart thing with this service. They’re taking advantage of the fact that they’ve got locations all over the US for pickup. They can also call on the FedEx infrastructure for shipped documents. They’re also making it easier for users to send them orders, reducing employee time spent on taking in orders. They are also probably keeping printers busy that might have otherwise been idle.

  • Open Screencasting

    I’ve been a big fan of Jon Udell‘s screencasts of various products and hacks for as long as he’s been doing them. Screencasts can be curious oddities but are more often extremely helpful. For example, this screencast covering the setup of Ruby [quicktime] adds a ton of value to the HOWTOs and install documentation on the Ruby on Rails site.

    That’s why I was especially excited by this flash screencast by Dan Winship demonstrating the basics of Stetic, a Mono-based Gnome GUI designer. After viewing the screencast, I noticed that he produced it with a program called vnc2swf:

    Vnc2swf is a screen recording tool for X-Window (X11), Windows and Mac OS Desktop. Vnc2swf captures live motion of a screen through VNC protocol and converts it a Macromedia Flash(TM) movie (.swf).

    The program is available in source and binary form for OSX and a few flavours of Linux. It’s defeinitely not a program polished for end users (it looks like installation may be tricker than many casual Linux users would be comefortable with), but it’s great to be able to produce quality screencasts using open source tools. SWF isn’t the most open format on the planet, but let’s look past that for now. I’m sure that you could convert it over to mpeg or something a little more “open” if you really wanted to.

    I see screencasting as a possible “next big thing.” I don’t think it’s going to be the next weblogging or podcasting, but it has tons of potential. I’d love to see little thumbnail screencasts fly by my aggregator when I read the freshmeat feed.