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Creating Applications with Mozilla [Paperback]

David Boswell , Brian King , Ian Oeschger , Pete Collins , Eric Murphy
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 4 2002 0596000529 978-0596000523 1

Mozilla is not just a browser. Mozilla is also a framework that allows developers to create cross-platform applications. This framework is made up of JavaScript, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and Mozilla's XUL (XML-based User-interface Language) as well as the Gecko rendering engine, XBL (eXtensible Binding Language), XPCOM (Mozilla's component model), and several other components.Creating Applications with Mozilla explains how applications are created with Mozilla and provides step-by-step information about how you can create your own programs using Mozilla's powerful cross-platform development framework. This book also shows examples of many different types of existing applications to demonstrate some of the possibilities of Mozilla application development. One of Mozilla's biggest advantages for a developer is that Mozilla-based applications are cross-platform, meaning programs work the same on Windows as they do on Linux or the Mac OS.Working through the book, you are introduced to the Mozilla development environment and after installing Mozilla, you quickly learn to create simple applications. After the initial satisfaction of developing your own portable applications, the book branches into topics on modular development and packaging your application. In order to build more complex applications, coverage of XUL, JavaScript, and CSS allow you to discover how to customize and build out your application shell. The second half of the book explores more advanced topics including UI enhancement, localization, and remote distribution.Mozilla 1.0 was released on June 5th, 2002, after more than four years of development as an open source project. This book has been written so that all of the information and examples will work with this release and any of the 1.0.x maintenance releases. In addition to Netscape's Mozilla-based browsers (Netscape 6.x and 7.x), the Mozilla framework has been used to create other browsers such as Galeon and Chimera, and chat clients such as ChatZilla and JabberZilla. Developers have also used Mozilla to create games, development tools, browser enhancements, as well as all sorts of other types of applications.

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About the Author

David has been involved in the Mozilla community for more than three years. He started the Mozilla development effort at Alphanumerica and set up the first two Mozilla Developer Meetings. At Alphanumerica David worked with Pete Collins on a number of Mozilla application including Aphrodite, Total Recall, and Chameleon. Pete and David also founded mozdev.org, a site offering free hosting for Mozilla applications. There are currently over 70 development projects hosted on the site. David has also written a number of articles about Mozilla including 'Getting Your Work Into Mozilla' and a series of articles discussing how to use Mozilla technologies to create a Pacman-like video game.

Brian has been hacking on Mozilla and related projects since early 1999. It began with a European funded project called Fabula to create software for children with the aim of learning minority languages like Basque, Catalan, Frisian, Irish, Welsh. This was built using Mozilla. Interest bloomed and he started contributing to the Mozilla Editor, and exploring the rest of the vast body of code. He moved on to work at ActiveState where he was heavily involved in the Komodo project, a scripting language IDE that uses the Mozilla application framework. Previously, Brian spent his time as a C++ applications developer, interspersed with some Perl development and XML consultancy. His technical interests include observing and participating in the re-shaping of the web environment brought about by XML. Other languages he dabbles in are PHP, Python, and JavaScript. Brian is now working as a Web technologies consultant.

Ian Oeschger is Senior Principal Writer at Netscape Communications, where mozilla.org was started over three years ago. His abiding interest in language is the basis for some of his more recent infatuations with Python, XML, web application development, and linguistics. He maintains a number of the XPFE documents on mozilla.org, including the XUL and DOM References. Ian published several articles about XML and mozilla application development for O'Reilly, and also wrote the themes documentation for Netscape, the XPInstall API Reference, and others. Before getting involved with Mozilla and Netscape, he worked at Oceania, a startup doing XML-based electronic medical records and charting software.

Pete got involved with the Mozilla project in April 1999 as a contributor to the editor module. He was also the first external developer to start documenting xul. His initial efforts were a remote, web enabled script editor and a community driven rewrite of the existing Mozilla UI. The project was later named Aphrodite. In January 2000, he joined with David Boswell and the Alphanumerica team. Together they evangelized Mozilla as a viable application platform through the many projects they created and Mozilla developer meetings they organized. Currently a software engineer employed by WorldGate, Pete is working on customizing Mozilla for their TV Internet Client Software. He is the co-founder of mozdev.org a site dedicated to Mozilla based projects. He is a regular Mozilla comitter and owner of various Mozdev projects including jslib and Chameleon.

Eric has been doing Mozilla development since Spring 2000, starting off with an instant-messenger client called Jabberzilla. He enjoys exploring opportunities of Jabber and Mozilla working together with new implementations, such as a collaborative whiteboard and real-time web content demonstrations. In 2002, Eric is looking forward to joining the workforce with a recent computer science degree from the University of Northern Iowa. Working on Mozilla projects has been a great resume-builder for him, and will always be an important part of his life to reflect on.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
I was always interested in creating my own apps for Mozilla. I had played around with some of the custom CSS files and peeked at the XUL files, and I wanted to learn more. I figured that buying this book would be a no-brainer because of the O'Reilly name and my good experiences with the ... Hacks series. This could of been a good book, but it seems like they were rushed to meet a publishing deadline. It starts out building a skeleton application (xFly) to explain the simpler concepts. One would expect that they would continue to flesh out the framework, and they would show how to add function to the various widgets. After Chapter 2, they abandon this idea. The examples they do provide don't work correctly. If you get the finished xFly demo program from mozdev.org, it does not work either. The site reads "This requires serious attention". I agree. This book is a good reference manual, but a poor tutorial. If you want a good tutorial on how to build Mozilla apps, try xulplanet.org instead. Co-incidentally, this entire book is available at the aforementioned site if you would like to preview this book for yourself before plunking down $40 to buy it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I found this book well worth having April 18 2004
This was the first Mozilla XUL book that I read; I now have Nigel McFarlane's book as well. I find it useful to have more than one reference book as I can often find things in one that are not in the other.
I found this book quick and easy to read and a good introduction whilst also going into sufficent detail.
Importantly for me it contains information on how to go about creating a remote application to run over the Internet and using serverside PHP, neither of which have I seen mentioned elsewhere.
The book is not perfect but it is useful and I think some of the other reviewers have been unduly harsh; I am glad that I was not put off.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly organized Sept. 17 2003
I only just got the book, but the people who complained that it doesn't stand up to the usually high O'Reilly standards are spot on. The second chapter, which is all about "getting started" ought to explain basic concepts clearly. Instead it throws out all kinds of mumbo jumbo and forward references like "You could also define this style rule in an external stylesheet and make that stylesheet part of the package for your application, as we do later in this chapter ...." Why? Why should I keep reading to find out? Why does the first chapter of real content (chapter one understandably explains more background on mozilla and XPFE) seem to have a forward reference every third paragraph?
Clearly, the authors did not sit down and make a coherent plan of what the best way to introduce each topic to the neophyte. This stands in stark contrast to the various O'Reilly Perl books that always seem to give the overview in clear terms and then flesh it out, instead of diving into the middle and trying to explain it as you go.
The only reason right now to get this book is because it appears to be the only (or one of the only) ones on the topic at this time. Hopefully _Rapid Application Development with Mozilla_ due out in November this year will get it right.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good reference, but lacks real teaching value. Feb. 1 2003
I happened to be experimenting with XUL and Mozilla at the time that I ran across this book, so I was very eager to get into it and see if it could help clarify some of the gaping holes in the existing XUL documentation within Mozilla. As an exhaustive reference to XUL and the associated technologies that are used to build Mozilla applications, it was very successful. As a higher level tutorial that explains the relationships between the different technologies and their uses, it was not quite as successful.
Chapters 1-6 lead the reader through the progressive steps required to build and package a Mozilla-based application. The authors create a demo application called xFly which is used as a test bed to show the different features of XUL, CSS, and JavaScript. By the end of Chapter 6, this application contains a tree control, a bunch of sample menus, and various other assorted UI widgets. But it doesn't really _do_ anything. Maybe I'm too picky, but I'd rather see an application that has some function, even if all it does is play tick-tack-toe. Then, to me at lease, it's much clearer how the different pieces would fit together in a "real-world" application.
Chapters 7-12 cover more exotic and difficult aspects of Mozilla
programming such as the Extensible Binding Language (XBL), XPCOM (Mozilla's component object model), and accessing web services from XUL applications. These chapters are very dense in technical details, with good references to online resources for further study. Overall, I found this book to be a very succinct source of accurate information about building applications with Mozilla.
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