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Archive: 21 March 2006

Mixed Impressions

Actually, I shamelessly used that title simply because it’s a little play on words.  By and large, my impressions of Mix 06 and what I’ve seen here are positive.  This isn’t my last word on everything going on here, but I wanted to share.  Enjoy!

  • You can drag-rearrange tabs in Firefox just by click-and-dragging the tabs.  Seriously, I had no idea.  Thanks to Dan Short for setting me straight on that score.

  • In his keynote, Bill Gates said “we need microformats”, which I didn’t even know was on his radar.  For more about that, head on over to microformats.org.

  • Microsoft is coming out with a new Windows-only Web design tool called Expression.  It’s pretty slick, with features like visually illustrating margins and padding in the design view and what seemed like smart management of styles.  Unfortunately, I had a little trouble following what it was doing, mostly because I saw it presented in a talk and didn’t have hands-on time.

    Basically, Expression seems to be FrontPage done right, with a relentless focus on standards-oriented design principles. It has its own rendering engine for the design view, and the whole thing was built from the ground up, which means it isn’t trapped by legacy rendering concerns, but it made several of us wonder why that isn’t what they use in IE7.

    I also had trouble mentally distinguishing it from other visual Web design environments like Dreamweaver, but that’s probably because I don’t use a visual design environment.  BBEdit 4-evah, baby!

    Speaking of which, there are no plans to port Expression to the Mac.  Whether that’s good or bad probably  depends on your worldview.  Look for public betas of Expression somewhere in the June 2006 time frame.

  • It was publicly stated that the current build of the IE7 beta available from Microsoft is rendering-behavior complete.  In other words, the only changes to IE7 from now until it goes final will be fixes to security holes, crash bugs, and browser chrome/UI stuff.  Whatever its CSS support does or doesn’t do, that’s how the final version is expected to behave.

    Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

I’ll take a few minutes on that last point.  A little while ago, I said that designers should remain calm and not hack their sites to fix them in the IE7 beta because it was a moving target.  That is no longer the case.  It’s now time to start testing sites in the IE7 beta and identifying any layout problems that may occur.  (And there will be problems.  No browser is perfect.)

I’ll be doing this as soon as I can, and I encourage everyone who can to do the same.  Here’s the other key point: IE7 is scheduled to go final in the second half of 2006 (I couldn’t get anything more specific), so we have a calm period of at least three months in which to find out how things stand before IE7 goes final.  This isn’t an accidental circumstance, either.  The IE team has deliberately done this in order to give Web developers time to figure out what’s coming and how to deal with it.

This is entirely in keeping with the new spirit of the IE team, which has impressed me again and again at this conference.  Once upon a time, upgrades to standards support were blocked by the cry “We have customers!”, which was maddening both because it impeded progress and because it was true, as I wrote back in 1998.  The usual counter-argument was that Web designers and developers are customers, too.  We just weren’t (often) treated that way.

Now we are considered customers of the IE team—not the only ones, but important ones.  Not every decision will go our way (even if we had a single “way”, which of course we don’t) but our needs and concerns will be considered.  As further proof besides the “grace period” built into the IE7 timeline, the IE team is creating tools and resources meant to make it easier to update sites for IE7.

I’ll have a good deal more to say about all this in the near future, but those are the big points in my head right now.  I expect to hear Dave‘s, Andy‘s, and Molly‘s takes on all this, and hopefully others will add their thoughts as well.

March 2006
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