The best job in the world?

My friend Iain has applied for what is being dubbed “The Best Job in the World“: The Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Not sure how it can be, to be honest, given that the best job in the world is to be working within the Web Team at the University of St Andrews!

Anyway, that dispute aside, potential applicants are asked to upload a video, photograph and video of themselves (no longer than 60 seconds) to the website.

Here’s Iain’s … erm, offering. Check it out, it’s a work of genius!

Or you can check it out within the context of The Best Job in the World website.

New Firebug extension: Firescope

Firescope

One Firefox add-on that I’ve been playing around with recently is Firescope from SitePoint.

Firescope is an extension to Firebug, which is one of the most useful tools for debugging websites, and essentially adds reference material for HTML and CSS to Firebug.

Firescope within Firebug window

It shows you code examples of all HTML and CSS elements, how well the various browsers support it (Full, Partial, Buggy or None), and gives you links to more detailed information about each element on the SitePoint reference sites:

This is a welcome addition to Firebug, and will certainly save me time checking the exact syntax of those HTML and CSS elements that I don’t use very often. Even though I have the SitePoint Ultimate Reference guides to HTML and CSS both on my desk at work, and in PDF format on my desktop.

My own personalised television thing

I got a fantastic comment from a friend of mine to whom I had sent an invitation to online music streaming site Spotify:

If, as a child, I had been told by my future self that one day I could play any LP I wanted on my own personalised television thing, I would’ve hit myself for being a liar. Truly remarkable.

I remember in the early 1980s my dad telling me that one day there would be television sets thin enough to hang on your wall.  I thought it was science fiction … and now I’m staring at one on my “own personalised television thing” as I type this.

WeBuilder 2008 vs Dreamweaver CS4

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 and WeBuilder 2008

I have two website editors of choice:

For years I heard that Dreamweaver was the Web editor of choice for the serious Web developer. At the time I wasn’t a serious Web developer, I was a lowly curate and couldn’t afford a copy (I made do with trial versions) so I had to find another solution.

From 1st Page 2000 to WeBuilder

For about five years I used Evrsoft 1st Page 2000. For a free text editor it did everything that I wanted and more — it was certainly a good step up from Notepad — but as the Web developed I grew increasingly frustrated by its lack of support for the latest standards (XHTML anyone? CSS 2.0, etc.). The application was really feeling dated.

But I hung on in the hope that a new, promised version would be the solution I was needing. Month turned to year, nothing appeared and I faithfully struggled on. “Better the Web editor you know …” and all that.

The day that I installed the first public beta on their new version, First Page 2006, was the day that I finally gave up on Evrsoft and moved to WeBuilder. I haven’t looked back.

WeBuilder

That’s when I discovered Blumentals WeBuilder 2005 (version 6.3). Not only was it similar in layout to 1st Page 2000 it far surpassed it in terms of both Web standards and application features.

I’ve now used WeBuilder (which I presume is pronounced “web builder”, although in the office we called it “we builder”) ever since, upgrading through versions 7 (2006), 8 (2007) and now 9 (2008). And it just gets better and better with each new release. There is a very active community forum and its developers really do listen to requests for new features. I’ve had one of my requests included (to do with how the file explorer displays files), and I put my voice to calls for Subversion integration, which appeared a version or two ago.

Matching and missing HTML tag highlighting

One of my favourite features in WeBuilder is the code highlighting:

Code highlighting in WeBuilder 2008

As you can see from the screenshot above, if you click within a tag it highlights the tag in green and shows the corresponding end tag. It also highlights broken tags – you can see immediately that there’s a problem with the anchor tag (<a>).

It’s a really impressive feature that makes navigating code very easy, particularly when you have quite a few nested DIV tags.

Meanwhile in Dreamweaver

Looking at the same code in Dreamweaver CS4, when I click on the list-item tag (<li>) nothing happens within the code window; there is no code highlighting.

Dreamweaver screenshot of code

Instead, the corresponding list-item tag in the code navigator bar at the bottom of the window subtly highlights. Clicking on that tiny navigation item then highlights the code in the code window but it’s nowhere near as intuitive, doesn’t give as much immediate feedback to the coder and involves having to move the mouse to the bottom of the code window which is fiddly.

File associations

Another area where I think WeBuilder outshines the mighty Dreamweaver is in the area of file associations.

When I first installed both applications they each asked me which file types I’d like to associate with that program, e.g. .css, .js, .php, .xml, etc. I made my selection and the application negotiated a deal with Windows, so that I could simply double-click a CSS file, for example, and as if by magic the Web-developer-application-of-choice appeared.

But what if you change your mind? What if you now want to associate PHP files with WeBuilder instead of Dreamweaver, so that when you double-click a CSS file it opens in WeBuilder rather than Adobe’s offering?

In WeBuilder …

In WeBuilder it’s quite simple. Go to Options > Preferences, click on Files then select Associations:

File associations dialog in WeBuilder 2008

In Dreamweaver CS4 …

In Dreamweaver … I’ve still to find out how to do it. I’ve read through two Dreamweaver CS4 books, searched Google down to about results page 10 and I don’t think you can. I think you have to do it manually via Windows Explorer: Tools > Folder Options > click on the File Types tab.

I can’t understand why. Unless, of course, Adobe reason: why would anyone want to use anything other than Dreamweaver?!

Question: does anyone know how to do this from within Dreamweaver, or how to get DW to run the initial file association dialog again?

Project management

Where I think Dreamweaver CS4 completely outshines WeBuilder is in the area of project management. In WeBuilder you can define projects, which is a really useful feature, but it doesn’t manage them to the same extent that Dreamweaver does.

Dreamweaver scans your site code and builds a cache. It knows what’s linked to what, so if you rename a file, for example, it will offer to update links to that file throughout your site. And if you site has 600+ pages, as one of mine does, you’ll realise what a time-saver that is. For that feature alone it’s worth the money!

I remember back in the days of 1st Page 2000 spending two weeks going through a site simply correctly links to files that I’d moved because I’d not planned the site in full before coding.

Extensions

The other advantage that Dreamweaver has over WeBuilder is its support for community-created extensions, which add extra functionality to the application.

Want to add microformats, Google maps, PayPal or Skype buttons, YouTube videos — just download and install the extension.

WebAssist

WebAssist create a number of amazingly good extensions. Some are free, the best ones cost, but are very reasonable considering what they do and the time and potential frustration that they avert.

I thoroughly recommend Eric Meyer’s CSS Sculptor extension and the related CSS Menu Writer extension, and I like the look of the new Jeffrey Zeldman’s Web Standards Advisor extension.

Conclusion

So, is Dreamweaver better than WeBuilder? In some ways, yes … but there are some features in WeBuilder that I struggle without now (particularly, especially the code highlighting). I can see me using a combination of them both for a few years to come.

That all said … I do fancy checking out WestCiv Style Master assuming that it supports CSS 2.1. I suppose it’s too much to expect it to handle elements of CSS 3, given that the latest version was released in 2006.

Spotify

Spotify

Over the last few weeks, with many thanks to James for access to the invitation-only beta, I’ve been trying out a new online music player called Spotify.

What is Spotify?

According to their website

Spotify is a new way to enjoy music.

Except it’s not really that new a way: you use software to listen to music downloaded from the internet.

A completely new way to enjoy music would involve something like a way of enabling your cat to download MP3s via WiFi and singing the songs to you!

What is new, however, is that it’s free. That’s “free” as in: if you can put up with the occasional audio and pictorial advert.

It’s a bit like a cross between Last.fm and the iTunes store; in fact it will automatically scrobble played tracks to last.fm if you have an account.

Once you’ve signed up you can download their client, which has a similar look and feel to Apple’s iTunes, but unlike iTunes you can use Spotify to search for and stream entire songs to listen to; in fact you can listen to complete albums, or the entire back-catalogue of your favourite artist.

As I’m typing this, I’m currently listening to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album; Spotify tells me that it has found 512 Jethro Tull tracks that I’m welcome to listen to.

Playlists

It’s great, it’s like having my own customizable radio station, where I get to choose exactly what’s played and in which order, by creating playlists. Or I can check out artists that I’ve not heard before, or albums that I’ve not bought safe in the knowledge that if I don’t like them then I’ve not wasted money buying it.

And because this information is stored in my online account when I login to Spotify at work I have immediate access to any playlists that I might have created at home.

Collaboration

According to the website I should be able to share my playlists with friends:

Because music is social, Spotify allows you to share songs and playlists with friends, and even work together on collaborative playlists

I’ve not explored this feature yet and have only just discovered how to make a playlist collaborative.

What’s new and Top lists

Another feature that I’m only now checking out is the What’s new and Top lists features. Here you can see a top ten of what other folks are listening to, both tracks and albums. You can also filter this by country: see what albums people in Finland are listening to most (Guns N’ Roses) or Germany (MGMT).

What’s new, as the name suggests, lets you see the latest albums to be added to the system. U2 anyone? Apocalyptica. It also shows you a grid of artists that it thinks you might like. I’ve no idea how it compiles this collection because I’ve been listening to rock and metal almost exclusively since I installed Spotify and it’s suggesting a bunch of pop, R&B and Rap artists!

Radio

The radio feature allows you to specify a genre (or genres) and decades that you’d like to hear music from, and then it goes off and does its stuff, streaming a randomized selection of music from your chosen categories and eras.

Wishlist

Now I know it’s early days but here are the features I’d like to see in Spotify:

  1. Suggestions
    There I was listening to Jethro Tull a few minutes ago, it would be great to have a list of suggested other artists that I might like to explore. Similar to Amazon’s “Customers who bought this also bought …” feature. That way you could hear a wider range of music, otherwise you’re left to the devices of either the random choice Radio or you simply have to know the artists you’re looking for in order to search for them.

  2. Mini Player
    The ability to minify the player, in the same way that iTunes or Windows Media Player does, would be great.

  3. Keyboard shortcuts
    You don’t realise how much you rely on keyboard shortcuts to start, stop, pause and navigate through tracks on your digital media player until you don’t have that ability anymore.

  4. Scroll through radio lists
    I’d really like an easier, quicker way of browsing through radio playlists.

Apart from that … it’s great.

0 invitations available

All 5 invitations have now been claimed — thanks for the interest.