18 Dec 2000 jct   » (Journeyer)

Vacation! Three glorious weeks of nothing to do but sit around the house and work on personal projects. No emulator bugs to fix, no new emulator features to think about. Actually, it's now two weeks of vacation; I spent the first week trying to finally sleep off this nagging cold (it's still with me) and generally being lazy.

Like I do for most vacations, I have made myself a long list of things that urgently need doing and, like most vacations, the majority of them will go undone. I've started on a couple of the projects: the update of jimthompson.org and the release of ODS. I expect to get ODS out before Christmas; likewise, my web site should soon be updated. The other major home project is to lay Pergo in my study - it's the only room of the house to escape the recent reflooring - and Wendy is not going to let it go undone. We'll be buying the materials next week, and will probably lay the new floor on Friday.

* * *

As I've been updating my web site, I've been using a variety of browsers to look at the new code (HTML4/CSS2, as generated by PHP3) to see how the different browsers render it. The list I've used so far is:

  • Netscape 4.x
  • Mozilla M17
  • Mozilla M18
  • Netscape 6.0
  • Internet Explorer 4.5
  • Internet Explorer 5.x
  • Opera 4.0 Beta
  • Lynx 2.8.2
All of the above, except for the IE browsers, I run under linux. I test my pages, both my HTML and my CSS, against the validators run by the W3C, so I know that both my HTML and my style sheets are legal, and should produce similar results, at least among the more recent browsers. Here are some things I have learned about each browser:

Netscape 4: It's not surprising that this venerable old browser does the worst layout job on my pages. But I suspect that, at least among the linux/unix crowd, it's still a widely used browser so it's good to know how my pages look in it. Not that Netscape 4 does a bad job, but it ignores some of the margin properties in the CSS, which tend to make its layout look very different than most of the other browsers. This layout can be corrected by using Netscape-specific attributes in the <body> tag, but then the HTML doesn't pass the W3C validator. I'd rather be standards-complient than pretty.

Mozilla: These three browsers (M17, M18, and Netscape 6) seem to do as good a job as any on my pages. Best as I can tell, layout is exactly as it should be and except for variations in font size, layout seems to be exactly as in the MSIE browsers (this is a good thing).

I like Netscape 6 very much; it seems to be the best yet of the Mozilla series. I would throw away my old Netscape 4 were it not for a very troubling problems. The most annoying is with printing; for some reason, the Mozilla print engine has real trouble laying out the page correctly when preparing PostScript for the printer. It seems to have the most trouble on pages that use both tables and graphics (in other words, most every page). I've printing several articles off the net in which the first page of the printed copy consists of nothing but a single banner ad, with the text following on subsequent pages. Why is layout for a printer so different than layout for the screen? Netscape 6 also seems to have some form-related problems with Advogato. Together these problems mean I won't be uninstalling Netscape 4 any time soon.

Internet Explorer: I'm no fan of Microsoft, but I have to say that its MSIE browsers are some of the best around. Both 4.x and 5.x seem to be fast and easy to use (if not exactly stable). I had heard that one or the other of these browsers had "broken" CSS support, but I haven't seen any sign of breakage. Both MSIE browsers render my pages exactly right so far as I can tell.

Opera 4.0 Beta: I probably wouldn't be testing with Opera except that I had heard such good things about it, so when a new beta version was recently announced on Slashdot or Freshmeat, I downloaded a copy. What a huge disappointment! It doesn't handle my CSS correctly, specifically in margin values and fonts. I specified my font family as "helvetica, ariel, sans-serif" which pretty much covers all worlds, but Opera insists on rendering my pages in a serif font, probably Times.

I also don't like its cluttered UI (all the browser makers need to learn that sometimes less is more). I especially loathe its windowing system in which documents float within a virtual desktop internal to Opera, in much the same way that documents float around within a Microsoft product like Word. Note to Opera: the application shouldn't be doing window managament - that's the Window Manager's job.

Needless to say, I'll be uninstalling my copy of Opera's browser the minute its 30-day eval license expires

Lynx: Good old depenable lynx. I don't use it on a day-to-day basis, but it somehow makes me feel good to know it's out there, still alive and healty and being kept up to date. My pages won't look beautiful in lynx, but they will at least be usable.

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