O'Reilly Open Source Convention - August 1-5, 2005 - Portland, Oregon
 Convention Coverage


XUL: The Future of User-interfaces on the Web
Stefan Neufeind, SpeedPartner GmbH

Track: Linux
Date: Monday, August 1st, 2005
Time: 8:30am - 12:00pm
Location: Portland 251

HTML was yesterday. Today, customers demand user interfaces as powerful and responsive as they're used to from standard desktop applications. Together with the Mozilla suite, you don't only get a browser, but also a powerful runtime environment for applications. Instead of using html forms for entering and editing data the XUL language allows you to create sophisticated user interfaces. Using XUL, applications are not server-based, but on the client-side. This allows the interface to be highly responsive to user input. Without the need to refresh a page, it's possible to navigate through multiple tabs, modify data, and communicate a web service.

Since XUL is designed for application frontends instead of web pages, its language contains features that you would have a hard time to implement in DHTML, for instance. Since XUL itself is designed as an XML language, it's at all times human readable (easily adjustable), clearly structured, and intuitive to learn. In an XUL environment Javascript functions as the "activator," which brings XUL applications to life and allows data validation/processing on the client. Using JavaScript offers the possibility to share scripts and script libraries between XUL and HTML applications. Together with PHP as a backend, XUL offers a flexible way for data input, manipulation, and presentation. There are packages like PEAR::XML_XUL which allow easy creation of XUL interfaces directly from PHP, and interfacing with a XUL-extension.

In this tutorial, Neufeind gives an insight into the XML-based language, its capabilities, how to develop a feature-rich XUL interface, and how you can offer graceful fallbacks to HTML for browsers other than Mozilla.

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