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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Favorite bugs

No, don't worry, this is not an entomology post.

There is just some awesome work out there on open source projects, but often the bugs or missing features drive a person even more crazy to want to see them implemented (especially if you are a developer, as your feeling may be compounded by guilt for not learning enough to make the patch yourself).

Here are two missing features in two open source projects that I'm just dying to see implemented, and I invite anyone who feels the same to consider registering and voting on them.

(Note that feature requests on such trackers are often still described as "bugs".)

Songbird: Selectively disable rather than delete individual songs

Songbird is an awesome open-source music player, working similarly to iTunes, but missing one feature of iTunes and which is keeping me from moving my songs to it: Bug 15011, the ability to disable songs in the interface without deleting them.

External DTDs in Firefox/Mozilla

Another feature request I'm dying to see is for Firefox/Mozilla to support external DTDs over the web. DTDs, while a bit outdated for one of their purposes (schema validation, for the techies here), offer a simple way for a person to define shortcuts (potentially even for XHTML) which can be used in one's documents to:

  1. represent an often larger piece of text

  2. offer a means of translating a document--just swap the DTD, and you get the document in another language without having to repeat the code

  3. represent characters in one's document such as © with a simple code like © instead of having to find and paste the symbol. While HTML already offers many such shortcuts without a need for a DTD, you cannot define your own, add to them, and if you are using another XML language (such as TEI used in classical or important religious texts, or DocBook for technical writing), you must use a DTD.

While this is easily doable by those who have a server and familiarity with scripting languages, for those who wish a simpler means of localizing or defining shortcuts, DTDs are the easiest means of doing so. We have the ability to define external stylesheets or scripts, but not for something so basic as this (text replacement). Moreover, many such documents already exist off the web, but some have, I feel, mistakenly argued that there is some dichotomy between on-web and off-web. If someone has a use for a document offline, why wouldn't one wish to have the ability to share it online, if so desired?

While it is possible to define these shortcuts at the top of each document (internal document subset), this reduces the usability of this functionality, as you do not have the option to reuse one frequently used file--you have to combine these into each of your documents rather than just making a quick reference to an external file.

Mozilla is already using external DTD's for translating its own documents, yet we cannot use these DTD's for remote XUL or other XML.

If you want this feature too in Mozilla, vote for it!!!!! Otherwise, there are many XML documents that one cannot put them as is on the web.

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