Status of the "Compose in a tab" experiment

Jim squibblyflabbetydoo at
Tue Apr 5 20:34:49 UTC 2011

On Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 3:11 PM, Jonathan Protzenko
<jonathan.protzenko at> wrote:
> My point is many people are more proficient with HTML than with XUL. Andy
> Chung, for instance, does nothing but HTML designs. And he's using
> -moz-box-flex, which *is* the XUL box model. What's left that XUL has and
> HTML hasn't? <xul:description crop="end"> to emulate text-overflow: ellipsis
> that gecko *still* hasn't implemented.  What else? Menus, but these will
> come somehow with HTML5. A few native widgets...

The native widgets are pretty important for me, since things like
splitters, group boxes, notification boxes, progress meters, etc. are
all pretty useful in Thunderbird. Additionally, XUL <key>s are a
pretty simple way to implement keyboard accelerators. The last time I
tried to do something like that in HTML, I just gave up. Relatedly,
the <command> tag seems pretty useful for intelligently
enabling/disabling multiple UI elements (menu items, buttons) that act
on the same command. <preference> tags seem pretty useful, though I
haven't used them much, and you could probably implement those fairly
easily with some Javascript anyway.

There are certainly more useful UI elements in HTML5 (though not all
of them have been implemented in Gecko), and some of the ones I
mentioned above are probably due to be added (I believe progress
meters are in HTML5, but not implemented yet), but there are still
some significant gaps which I'm not sure will ever be closed by HTML.

> There's little fresh blood coming to the Thunderbird world. I don't think we
> can afford to be picky. Anyone who's talented with HTML could be help on
> this project, imho :-).

Well, from my perspective, learning to work in XUL (while having HTML
experience) was one of the easier things about contributing to
Thunderbird. I think in terms of getting more people to contribute,
there are bigger issues than XUL. High up on the list for me are
writing tests (I still just copy-and-paste from other tests) and
getting Thunderbird builds set up, which is non-trivial especially if
you're not on Linux.

I hesitate to post too much more on this, since it's veering
dangerously off the original topic, which was about how
compose-in-a-tab was coming along. :)

- Jim

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