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Interview with Mike Pinkerton

by SANDEEP HUNDAL | As the navigation center for the Mozilla, Aurora has significant impact on the general appearance and User Interface for Netscape Communicator 5. The Mozilla team has been looking at starting the design from scratch and building on it with help and suggestions from contributors all around the world.

So what does Aurora represent and what exactly has been done on it? For this I interviewed Mike Pinkerton from the Netscape team.

SH: Hi Mike, so what are you working on for the next few days?

MP:We just finished landing all the changes required to use CodeWarrior Pro4 as the build environment on the Mac. We're still dealing with some fallout issues, but for the most part it went smoothly. Kudos should go to the engineers at Metrowerks for providing such an easy transition between Pro2 and Pro4.

In the next few days Scott Collins and I are working feverishly to get the new toolbar code in. We're slightly behind the windows work, but I'm confident we'll catch up. With the new toolbars, users will be able to customize what buttons they have on their toolbars, where they are located, and how they look (even being able to customize the background of each toolbar by applying a gif). More importantly, the UI can be updated by content providers (or us) at runtime just by changing a file that lives on a server.

SH: What about the UI design?

MP:The new UI will be about making the Aurora tree widget pop-down from buttons on the toolbars or dock on the left of the browser window. One of the major complaints we had about the earlier selector-bar-down-the-left scheme was that it was too confusing and took up content space. Our new design keeps much of the same power, but moves the selector bar into the toolbar area. The default when the user clicks on the "bookmarks" or "history" buttons is to pop down a very simple tree view (single click, no editing, no column headers, etc.) that allows them to very quickly get to the item they want. The user (once they become more comfortable with this approach) can easily switch the pop-down tree into "management mode" where it looks like the Finder listView and full editing/drag and drop is available. Furthermore, the user can "dock" the pop-down so that it appears next to the HTML area, like IE has today (and we had since November in Mozilla). Stand-alone windows are also an option. This sounds confusing, but once you see it in front of you, it feels quite natural (go figure).

SH: What else are we looking at?

MP: Since we're nearing feature complete, we're trying to get all the nit-pick things in like preferences and the like. Chris Saari will probably be working on landing the ColorSync code provided by Apple which is now on a branch. We're also working with the NGLayout team to make sure the Mac NGLayout reaches par with the windows version.

There's also a new Mozilla newsgroup for the XPFE which we in the Mac group are very involved in. The goal is to write as much UI code cross-platform and write FE-specific widgets to fill in the gaps. This way you maximize code reuse across platforms while maintaining platform look and feel. And you know how adamant we Mac guys are about look and feel. ;)

SH: What's the timeline of the work you're doing?

MP:The toolbar stuff better be in by the end of next week, and we're looking to be feature frozen in a month or so.

SH: What can people trying to contribute to Mozilla do to help?

MP: Take a look at the new UI that's there now (the popdown trees and toolbars) and give us some feedback. File bugs on bugzilla. Look at our Configurable Chrome spec on and offer suggestions. Help us make it not suck.


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