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Proposal: Easy way to find/install themes & extensions

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chrisgeleven

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Post Posted May 9th, 2003, 9:19 am

I have been trying to come up with a way for users of Firebird and Thunderbird to easily find/install extensions and themes. Especially in the case of Thunderbird, how is someone supposed to install these themes and extensions from a web site if Firebird wasn't installed?

So here is my idea. I hope someone can come up with a mock screenshot (I don't have the Photoshop skills to do so).

1. I think a combination of Mozilla's add siderbar feature and what the extensions/theme dialogs look like right now would be perfect. Basically, when a user wants to find an extension, they click on Tools --> Install Extension or Theme. That will launch a dialog box that allows someone to basically surf their way through approved (more on this later) extensions and themes.

On the left of the dialog will be a tree style directory of themes and extensions (used right now by the Sidebar search UI), separated by varioius categories (Installed Extensions, Installed Themes, Top 50 Downloads, New Extensions, New Themes, Tabbed Browsing, Download Managers, Sidebars, etc.). On the right will show a similar 2 pane layout used by the current extensions/theme dialogs. The top pane will show a list of possible extensions or themes you could download. Clicking on an extension or theme will load the bottom pane, which will show previews (screenshots), detailed and easy to read descriptions on what the extension/theme does, and more information on each. Buttons will also be available in that pane to install, uninstall, enable, disable a particular extension or theme.

Now for how extensions and themes could get onto this new directory.

2. Official Mozilla web site that is home to approved and tested extensions/themes.

Similar to the idea that I thought Netscape's Theme Park was supposed to be. Basically, extensions that have been well tested and proven to be easy-to-use by the Mozilla community will be hosted on this official Mozilla web site. When it is determined that an extension or theme is ready for use by the masses, it will be added to the directory. Screenshots of the extensions/themes in action, a rating system, # of downloads, and even user comments would be excellent tools for new users to learn about the power of extensions/themes.

This directory would be available both using that directory-style dialog that I mentioned in point 1 and on a web site that is similar in style to both Mozilla Firebird Help and MozDev extensions site.


Lots of info I just talked about, maybe someone can figure out what has been going on in my head by reading it and coming up with a screenshot. I think this would make it really easy for newbies and advanced users alike to find the extensions and themes they are looking for. It also would put more pressure on theme and extension developers to make quality a priority.

This will also make it very easy for users of Firebird, Thunderbird, and any other standalone application to install extensions and themes without relying on another component (such as Thunderbird relying on launching Firebird when someone wants to find extensions).

Time for everyone to release the hounds and tear my idea to shreds :)

clav
 
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Post Posted May 9th, 2003, 9:49 am

jedbro and I are thinking about an XUL interface onto Extension Room, once the site is fully up and running. the actual ui might differ a fair bit from your suggestion, but the general idea is quite similar.

alanjstr
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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 10:18 am

Firebird and Thunderbird come with links to the FB and TB help sites. Those sites (well, FB at the moment) have a long list of extensions and themes. There are alternate sites, such as mozdev and deskmod. djst puts a lot of work into maintaining those two help sites. Though I think a website is a better way to present all the information, he might be willing to work with you to prevent duplication of certain items. I won't go into detail because it is donated bandwidth for now.
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asa

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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 10:28 am

See the text editor JEdit for how this can be done really well. The JEdit plug-in dialog is clean and effective.

<img alt="jedit-plugin.png" src="http://www.mozillazine.org/weblogs/asa/jedit-plugin.png" width="761" height="535" border="0" />

The JEdit plug-in Installer allows you to view all of the available plug-ins, and read information about each one. All of that information is managed at the JEdit plug-in server somewhere and is updated each time you launch the Installer. You can then check the box of any one(s) that you want to install and click the Install button to download and install them.

To get to the installer above you first go to the plug-in manager that shows you which plugins you have installed and lets you remove or update already installed plugins.

I don't think it deserves a toplevel menuitem but certainly a "Get/Update Extensions" button in the Extensions panel of the Options dialog would be effective.

--Asa

XF

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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 4:47 pm

Look at how QCD's skins are organized...
Image
..::XF::..

chrisgeleven

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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 5:41 pm

XF, that was the interface that I had in my head when I came up with this!

Good points Asa and clav, I hope a solution that can do this can be developed. I think it would be a big step forward, especially since extensions will be a big part of Firebird/Thunderbird. The easier Mozilla can make it to find and install them, the better all of us will be.

AtomB

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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 6:53 pm

XF you read my mind as well. i can't believe i never thought of some thing like this before.

jedbro

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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 8:00 pm

chrisgeleven wrote:Official Mozilla web site that is home to approved and tested extensions/themes.
Similar to the idea that I thought Netscape's Theme Park was supposed to be. Basically, extensions that have been well tested and proven to be easy-to-use by the Mozilla community will be hosted on this official Mozilla web site.

This directory would be available both using that directory-style dialog that I mentioned in point 1 and on a web site that is similar in style to both Mozilla Firebird Help and MozDev extensions site.


-This is something that I definitally think that the community could usa and find usefull.
The only problem I see with your proposed "solution" is the "approved and tested extensions/themes".
Unless we had one or two people (at most) deciding this, it would be terrible mistake, who's to say my extension isn't stable when mabey it's your builds fault?

We haven't had much of a problem (if at all) of users extensions being faulty or "bad quality" (that I am aware of).
The main issue I see is Build Compatibility issues that cause breakage in the extensions/Browser (something we plan to document on Extension-Room).
Not only does this "app" need to list new updates/etc. it is vital that there is a check run to make sure it will run on the users systems build.


-I agree that it should be directly usable as a program and a website.

Like Clav said, we were discussing something VERY similar to this as a XUL inteface to <a href="http://extensionroom.mozdev.org/index.html">Extension - Room</a>. (hopefully will be implemented over the summer =D).
Basically it would cover features like you suggest (categories, direct install links, URL's, version numbers).

Ultimately I would like the 'app' or 'interface' to read the systems installation and propose what extensions have been updated. This may be a bit tricky, a work-around purhaps could be to set a cookie within the app, and "changes since then" would go into affect and potentially show the user what extensions have been updated.

(if you don't know what an XUL interface is/looks like, take a look at <a href="http://www.xulchannels.com/">XUL Channels</a> or <a href="http://www.infodraft.com/~faser/mab/index.cfm">MAB</a>.)

Again, I had only thought about this as an effort for Extensions, but could easily be incorperated (with Djst's help ofcourse =) ).

Just a few extra cents I have lying around =P.
(I'm sure Clav has many more ;) )

willll

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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 8:57 pm

A dialog box like that would kind of make it seem like all extensions/themes are "official" and supported by mozilla.org (i.e. through Bugzilla). I assume that after 1.4, extensions like DOM inspector will be official, but there are plenty of other useful extensions that could be approved, but still have bugs in them. By this "approval" it makes it seem like they are approved to be bug-free or to work properly with all builds of Phoenix, but I think we would want to include useful extensions that are not perfect so its easier for people to find them and there are less junk posted here. I'm tired and I'm not really sure what I'm saying so this may not make any sense.

minh

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Post Posted May 10th, 2003, 11:43 pm

Do you mean "approved" as in software checked to be free of malicious code or stable code?

Spewey
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Post Posted May 11th, 2003, 12:37 am

minh wrote:Do you mean "approved" as in software checked to be free of malicious code or stable code?
Yeah, you know you'd be saying "certificates approved by mozilla.org" without actually saying it unless you disavow all association with extension authors. I don't mean to be overly blunt but I haven't heard a good answer for this yet.

boutteau@APC
 
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Post Posted May 11th, 2003, 2:47 am

Why not signed by Mozilla.org with a certificate when "official" and not signed when "non official"?
(ie "official" means "validated" or "released with a release number" like for moz or FB.....) :idea:

scragz

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Post Posted May 11th, 2003, 1:27 pm

asa wrote:See the text editor JEdit for how this can be done really well. The JEdit plug-in dialog is clean and effective......

--Asa

That was exactly what I was thinking of when I read the title of this thread. Another thing that jEdit does is allow you to check for new versions and update your extensions from the gui.

Also, some of the urpm frontends would serve as a good model. They break them up into categories, let you search in names and descriptions, add different sources, and other cool stuff.

Jason_P
 
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Post Posted May 11th, 2003, 1:42 pm

Personally, I think it's a grest idea.

Here's my interpretation of how the idea would work:
<img src="http://jason-parker.com/images/Phoenix-Concept.png">

:)

Hendikins

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Post Posted May 11th, 2003, 1:46 pm

boutteau@APC wrote:Why not signed by Mozilla.org with a certificate when "official" and not signed when "non official"?
(ie "official" means "validated" or "released with a release number" like for moz or FB.....) :idea:


I'm sure we could work out some form of certification system involving trusted QA folks and developers. That way extensions and themes that are known to work with a milestone without problems can be "certified" for use with that milestone.

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