Using Site Specific Browsers to Enhance the Web Experience

Posted by Tejus Parikh on June 27, 2008

As a developer for Appcelerator, Inc. one of the most important aspects of my job is keeping in touch with the community through our Developer Network community site. It’s where people ask for help, suggest ways to make our product better and discuss all things Appcelerator. Therefore, the Groups page is always open in a browser tab on my desktop.

This approach has a few drawbacks. The groups page does not automatically refresh. There’s also no real good way to tell if there is something new to look at. Now, of course, I work for Appcelerator, so I can grab the Developer Network source, make the necessary changes, and push a new version. But what if I was just a plain user of another site using Appcelerator? Is there anything I can do to get the experience that I want?

Enter Todd Ditchendorf’s Fluid project (Mac only). You could probably do something similar in Mark Finkle’s Prism if you aren’t on a Mac.

Fluid lets me do two things. It gets the developer network out of the browser and into an application. This means that it shows up as it’s own entity on my Dock. The second is that since it’s integrated into OSX, I can write a little bit of javascript to display a Dock badge and display a Growl notification.

By itself, this is really neat, but there are a few problems. If you auto-refresh a page, you’re going to lose all client state. This is less than useful if you want to show a notification if something changes.

This is where the SOUI (service oriented user interface) paradigm of Appcelerator really shines. To refresh the groups page, all I need to do is send a message. To display a notification, all I need to do is read the message response. That’s it. No funky regex based parsing required.

The Dev Network Doc

If you want to set this up for your Fluid Developer Network app, then you can grab the latest version of the user script, and a nifty icon off the Appcelerator svn server.

This post is cross-posted on the Appcelerator corporate blog, Appcelerant.

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Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: