Mozilla UI FAQ

Wednesday April 19th, 2000

Waldo writes, "Just a reminder that there's a Mozilla UI FAQ at this news post."

I've been meaning to get this up on the chromeZone. Hopefully sometime soon.

#1 inaccurate explanation of native widgets

by Maroney

Thursday April 20th, 2000 3:15 PM

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I was disappointed to see that inaccuracies about the native widget set found their way into this FAQ.

>>... each platform has its own way of displaying widgets. In order for Mozilla to display exactly the same on each platform, it was necessary to create a "universal widget-set."

>>That way, web designers could design a web page and know *precisely* how it will look on all machines, regardless of platform. The same page on Mac and Windows will be identical.<<

Nope. This pretends that there is no such thing as skins. Not only will the page not look identical on different platforms, it won't look the same on the same platform if two different skins are in use.

>>Another reason that Mozilla has its own widgets has to do with standards compliance. Mozilla's widgets need to be able to do all kinds of cool and funky display things that your native OS's widgets probably can't do. The widgets have to be able to stretch, they have to be able to shrink. They may need to have a colored or patterned background behind them, or they may need to be semi-transparent. This is all stuff that most native widgets simply can't do.<<

Nope. And I asked Waldo to try to find a specific before he posted this, so I'm especially sorry to see it here. No one has been able to find any such CSS requirement. The one thing I've seen posted is a paragraph about bounding rectangles that does not by any stretch of the imagination say that form widgets need to be fully styleable. There's no such standard.

What's more, XUL widgets do not pay attention to the style attribute, so even if there were such a standard, XUL would not be living up to it!

>>Peter Trudelle <<>> (a Netscape UI developer) adds, "The most compelling reason for this choice was economic: we couldn't afford to implement a separate toolkit using native widgets on each platform we wanted to support."

>>Or, as another developer said (paraphrased), "If we decided to support native OS widgets, there would never have been a Mozilla for Mac or Linux."<<

This is constantly stated as if it were a law of nature. The fact is that a priority call was made. I don't know why it's so hard for the people involved to say "We prioritized resources, and we decided it was more important to work on some other things" rather than "There were no resources for it."

Perhaps it's because when the issue is phrased in the more accurate way, that opens up the question of whether the priorities were correct, rather than making it seem as if a law of nature prevented this work from being done. It's more accurate but it doesn't work very well as a justification, especially given that so many people have asked why nonessential work (mail and news clients, html editor, skinnability) were addedto the project.

The fact is that there has been tremendous end-user outcry about this non-standard user interface, especially by Mac users, who have the highest expectations for user interfaces in the industry. Despite this, no one is re-examining this flawed decision, and the justifications given for it don't make sense.