jQuery Dropdown Menu

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

In this short article we will use jQuery to produce this dropdown menu. Over the past six months I have been using a lot of jQuery and have fallen in love with it. For those not familiar with jQuery it is a fast and concise JavaScript Library that simplifies HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions for rapid web development. All this and for only 19KB! How nice is that? They claim that, “jQuery will change the way that you write JavaScript.” And they are right. Companies such as Google, Dell, Bank of America, Major League Baseball, Digg, NBC, CBS, Netflix, Technorati, WordPress, Drupal, Mozilla and many others use jQuery too. Ok, that’s enough of a plug, let’s look at the code:

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How Good Are You at JavaScript and CSS?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

This year I have found myself looking for jobs on two separate occasions. As a result I have had a good number of interviews. One question that I found harder to answer than I had anticipated was when asked how good I am at JavaScript and CSS.

Why was this question that hard to answer? I actually feel that I am quite knowledgeable about both CSS and JavaScript. I’ve built probably close to a dozen websites using entirely CSS-based layouts over the last few years. In addition, I have used JavaScript quite often to enhance those websites, usually with Ajax and spiffy web widgets like the Comment Info Tip Plugin. I may not be as knowledgeable as Paul O’Brien when it comes to CSS or Jonathan Snook when it comes to JavaScript, but I certainly am competent. So again, what’s the problem?

The problem is the damn cross-browser problems that still trip a person up from time to time. Almost every time I ask Paul for his help with CSS it has to do with a cross-browser issue: something works in Firefox, but not in IE or vice versa. Same with JavaScript; think addEventListener method in Firefox and attachEvent for Internet Explorer. This is a bloody mess for the developer and I suppose makes me question my abilities at times.

Such cross-browser issues make it hard for a developer. I don’t know about you, but I’ve often spent more time trying to make a site work across all browsers than on the actual design of the site.

There are people that I know and respect that have chosen not to learn JavaScript at all because they were so put off by such difficulties. Also consider how difficult it’s been to get people to leave HTML table-based designs behind in favor of CSS layouts. It’s been slow at best. No doubt due much to the differences across browsers.

What’s your take? How has the difficulties in trying to achieve all browser support effected your attitude of CSS and JavaScipt?

Greasing Gmail

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Greasemonkey is a wonderful thing. I enjoy the little (or sometimes not so little) challenges posed by websites that I want to modify. One of the most difficult scripts to write for is Gmail, because of its dynamic nature and its reliance on very large helpings of obfuscated JavaScript and HTML. In addition, you can’t use Firebug to debug scripts, which is a major annoyance, so alert and GM_log become one’s best debugging friends. To make writing Greasemonkey scripts a bit easier, the chaps on the Gmail team supplied an API, which one commenter describes as “truly incredible, forward thinking”. It really is quite nice.

Yesterday I decided to add a little bit of functionality to Gmail. I wanted to be able to isolate messages from a mailing list I subscribe to that nobody had replied to. This would require marking as read “conversations” or messages containing “Re:” at the start of the subject line. The obvious place to put links to do this is along with the other “selectors” above the thread list (Figure 1).

Figure 1
New selectors added

I call them “selectors” simply because Gmail has given each “link” (actually a span) a custom selector attribute. The original markup before adding the links after “Unstarred” looks like this (it isn’t nicely indented in Gmail’s code though):

[HTML]

Select:

All,
None,
Read,
Unread,
Starred,
Unstarred

[/HTML]

So, it looks pretty simple to add a couple of commas and two more spans. And it is, but how to access the containing div is what the Gmail API makes easier. This is the complete script, and we’ll start off with the main loading business and the function that handles the adding of these two new links, addlinks:

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