I have an update for Activities that adds preview and fixes some bugs. If you just want that, skip to the end of the post.
One of the things I realized as I worked on this extension is just how amazingly easy it is to write Firefox extensions. When you combine great technology (Firefox extensions), great people (like Mark Finkle, for example), great documentation (developer.mozilla.org, XULPlanet) and open source, it’s amazing what you can produce and how fast you can produce it, as noticed in Compiler from Wired.com.
Compare this to my experience with Internet Explorer.
One of the things I wanted to do with Operator was make a version for Internet Explorer. I spent a few weeks trying to find good documentation on creating a toolbar for IE, and I have to say it was sorely lacking. I got a basic HTC working, but compared to my experience working on Firefox extensions, it was just SO painful, I gave up. I realize I’m not a Windows programmer, and that might have helped, but I just couldn’t believe how hard it was to create extensions for IE. It’s not even called a toolbar, it’s called a a toolband which started me off in the wrong direction!
In a way, that was kind of sad because I was feeling like my focus on web development and in particular Mozilla and Firefox browsers was limiting my skills so that when it came to things like Windows development, I was at a disadvantage. (I’ve been working in the browser space and the development of web browsers for over 12 years). Hopefully, though, what I’ve actually done is cultivated a set of specialized, but very useful skills so that when other opportunities come up, I’ll be able to take advantage of them. Especially since it seems like my work at IBM is requiring less and less of those Mozilla/Firefox skills.
So all that to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on the Microsoft Activities extension and the other extensions I’ve done and I hope that there will be more opportunities to do that, whether inside or outside IBM. Maybe I’ll have a chance to talk to some folks about that at SXSW this weekend.
On to the new release. Version 0.3 of Microsoft Activities for Firefox is available (make sure you didn’t grab the 0.2 that was up for a few minutes this morning). Features include:
- Preview mode (only in FF3)
- Problems adding services in FF3 have been fixed
- Issues with query parameters fixed (all current services have been tested)
- UI is updated immediately when a new service is added
- Activities menu identifies the context you are acting in, and activities are limited based on that context (selection, link, document)
- Built-in link to take you to the IE8 Service Gallery
- Verified it works on Mac OS X
Interaction with the preview window is a little quirky, but I’m working on that. Surprisingly it seems to work better than IE8.