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Configurable Chrome Spec Released! Screenshot Available!

by CHRIS NELSON | Released yesterday, the configurable chrome spec is a first pass at describing how browser customizations will happen in the future. Written by David Hyatt, the spec covers many of the new features and also touches on some sticking points regarding deployment of these new features in a dynamic way.

It should be noted that this spec is based around the RDF format now making its way through the W3C.

So what is it? And how does it affect me?

"Chrome" is a term used in the software industry to describe the menus, toolbars, scrollbars, and application windows of an application. The new chrome functionality allows the browser to adopt personalities that mesh with the aesthetics of a specific target audience. For example, in the screenshot you'll see later, we update the browser to take on a look that would be appropriate in a school setting or in a computer station in a children's section in a library.

The spec is available here in its entirety. On the second page of this article you can find a brief summary of the properties that you can set.

The feature most impressive about this configurable chrome is that you don't really have to be a developer to change the settings -- they will all be alterable via HTML dialogs. Just right click on a button and select "Properties" from the menu, and you can configure the properties to suit your needs.All the property changes made will be undoable, in case a mistake is made. In addition, you can alter the button configuration to suit your needs. For example, you will be able to move the Back and Forward buttons into a position that you prefer, not one dictated to you by the browser maker.

The new spec also allows for ISPs and corporations to create an entire default configuration for their customers or internal systems. This feature goes beyond any customization features that MS offers, because the changes are ultimately undoable by the user.

Another big feature is the concept of the "trusted chrome provider". Essentially, this allows for the chrome to be retrieved from a remote directory. Mozilla comes with a default "trusted chrome provider" of Netcenter, and a default cached version of the files so no delays ever plague the display of the toolbars. If new files are found at the trusted provider, they are downloaded and will be available during the next session. This guarantees that the user never needs to wait for a server to see their toolbars.

Also, through secure Javascript other sites will be able to become trusted chrome providers, and supply themes for the browser without the user having to go through a download and install themselves.

In addition, default chrome providers can be specified on a per-window basis, allowing for truly customizable web-based applications (you don't have to load a DHTML version of toolbars that could be better handled (and be processed faster) by the new chrome interface.

Without further ado, here's a screenshot, taken today, of the chrome properties in action:


Click the screeshot for a full-sized view, then click your browser's back button to return.

This new chrome functionality will usher in a new era in browser usability and configuration. We will continue to update you on this as more information becomes available. In addition, Jason Kersey is currently working on a sample chrome test for y'all to try, so stay tuned for more details!

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On the next page you'll find a summary of the new chrome specification

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