Creating Applications with Mozilla
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Released: September 2002
Pages: 480

Mozilla is not just a browser. Mozilla is also a framework that allows developers to create cross-platform applications. This framework is made up of JavaScript, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and Mozilla's XUL (XML-based User-interface Language) as well as the Gecko rendering engine, XBL (eXtensible Binding Language), XPCOM (Mozilla's component model), and several other components.

Creating Applications with Mozilla explains how applications are created with Mozilla and provides step-by-step information about how you can create your own programs using Mozilla's powerful cross-platform development framework. This book also shows examples of many different types of existing applications to demonstrate some of the possibilities of Mozilla application development. One of Mozilla's biggest advantages for a developer is that Mozilla-based applications are cross-platform, meaning programs work the same on Windows as they do on Linux or the Mac OS.

Working through the book, you are introduced to the Mozilla development environment and after installing Mozilla, you quickly learn to create simple applications. After the initial satisfaction of developing your own portable applications, the book branches into topics on modular development and packaging your application. In order to build more complex applications, coverage of XUL, JavaScript, and CSS allow you to discover how to customize and build out your application shell. The second half of the book explores more advanced topics including UI enhancement, localization, and remote distribution.

Mozilla 1.0 was released on June 5th, 2002, after more than four years of development as an open source project. This book has been written so that all of the information and examples will work with this release and any of the 1.0.x maintenance releases. In addition to Netscape's Mozilla-based browsers (Netscape 6.x and 7.x), the Mozilla framework has been used to create other browsers such as Galeon and Chimera, and chat clients such as ChatZilla and JabberZilla. Developers have also used Mozilla to create games, development tools, browser enhancements, as well as all sorts of other types of applications.

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oreillyCreating Applications with Mozilla
 
2.6

(based on 10 reviews)

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(3 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

 
1.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By Henning Follmann

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

I actually do not like that one of the authors rates his own book. for this I entered a secaond rating to correct this :-)

(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

 
1.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By Henning Follmann

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

Too many mistakes,

I have the impression this book was printed prematurely. It took me over 4 hours to get the example of chapter 2 to run.

Do not buy this version wait until a corrected version comes out. If you apply all the errata from http://books.mozdev.org then you have to change almost every page. Actually I would like to get my money back, but...

(1 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

 
4.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By David Boswell

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

In the year since this book was published, new Mozilla releases have continued to improve and evolve. The book's contents were written with Mozilla 1.0.x in mind, so it is important to be aware of this when trying to use more recent versions such as Mozilla 1.4 or one of the Phoenix/Firebird releases. In fact, Firebird didn't exist at all when the book came out so there's no information at all about the next generation XUL toolkit it uses.

To help deal with the ever changing new Mozilla releases, the book's authors have tried to write new articles and to keep the online version of the book more current. If you are having problems using the book with a recent Mozilla release or with one of the Phoenix/Firebird releases, I'd recommend taking a look at some of the following links:



The Future of Mozilla Application Development

Corrections for the online version of the book">Reviewers mailing list where the authors and other community members will be available to help you with your questions



I'm obviously a little biased, but I think the book does a very good job of providing a useful snapshot of what's involved with creating applications with Mozilla at the time it was released. A little frustration is inevitable when new releases don't work as advertised in the book, but in conjunction with online resources the book is still a good guide for how to use Mozilla to create your own application.

 
1.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By elmegil

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

This book does not even begin to work as a tutorial. Chapter 2, "Getting Started" is poorly organized, with continuous forward references "we show you this here, but we explain it in 3/5/10 pages or in chapter X". Getting Started should be giving an overview from the top down, which doesn't require forward reference, whereas this basically starts describing detail after detail, incompletely, and as mentioned, with forward references that only obfuscate the topic.

At the end of Chapter 2 it's noted that you should grasp this material before moving on, but quite honestly, I can't see how that's possible. I can't even get the examples to work with Mozilla 1.2.1 or Phoenix 0.5, and I know this stuff works generally because I've installed extensions from mozilla.org into both browsers. When I finally set up my installed-chrome.txt file (which BTW didn't exist until I created it), the path is somehow wrong somewhere so my browsers can't find the xfly application, but there is nothing like sufficient information in Chapter 2 to help me figure out what's wrong with the path--I've set the directory structure exactly as described and all the dirs are 755 and files 644 permissions.

I have to say this is the most disappointing O'Reilly book I have ever purchased.

(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

 
3.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By MC

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

I read the article after reading a few book chapters and I have to agree with the criticisms about the support files and downloads. But thats easily rectifiable by someone at OReilly I would have thought...

I also agreew ith the comment about deep directory structures. This is something I had a lot of probs with early in in moz hacking. So much so that it took me four attempts before I stored up enough patience to persist with it.

The author does go on though to praise Mozilla and the platform though, so I reckon its a balanced article.

MC

-webmaster of Extra reviews

 
3.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By MC

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

I read the article after reading a few book chapters and I have to agree with the criticisms about the support files and downloads. But thats easily rectifiable by someone at OReilly I would have thought...

I also agreew ith the comment about deep directory structures. This is something I had a lot of probs with early in in moz hacking. So much so that it took me four attempts before I stored up enough patience to persist with it.

The author does go on though to praise Mozilla and the platform though, so I reckon its a balanced article.

MC

-webmaster of Extra reviews"

(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

 
3.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By Scott Means

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

I happened to be experimenting with XUL and Mozilla at the time that I ran across this book, so I was very eager to get into it and see if it could help clarify some of the gaping holes in the existing XUL documentation within Mozilla. As an exhaustive reference to XUL and the associated technologies that are used to build Mozilla applications, it was very successful. As a higher level tutorial that explains the relationships between the different technologies and their uses, it was not quite as successful.

Chapters 1-6 lead the reader through the progressive steps required to build and package a Mozilla-based application. The authors create a demo application called xFly which is used as a test bed to show the different features of XUL, CSS, and JavaScript. By the end of Chapter 6, this application contains a tree control, a bunch of sample menus, and various other assorted UI widgets. But it doesn't really _do_ anything. Maybe I'm too picky, but I'd rather see an application that has some function, even if all it does is play tick-tack-toe. Then, to me at lease, it's much clearer how the different pieces would fit together in a "real-world" application.

Chapters 7-12 cover more exotic and difficult aspects of Mozilla programming such as the Extensible Binding Language (XBL), XPCOM (Mozilla's component object model), and accessing web services from XUL applications. These chapters are very dense in technical details, with good references to online resources for further study.

Overall, I found this book to be a very succinct source of accurate information about building applications with Mozilla. Its only weakness seems to be that it focuses too much on low-level implementation details without giving the reader (who may be new to the idea of XML-based GUI application programming entirely) a good high-level overview of the benefits of this type of development and which technologies serve which purpose. Chapter 1 is the only chapter that explicitly addresses high-level application architecture, and it is only 8 pages long. The bottom line is that this is a good reference book for people who already know how and why to build applications based on Mozilla, but a not-so-good introduction and tutorial for people who are completely new to the XUL-CSS-JavaScript paradigm of application development.

 
3.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By kasey castle

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

The book is fascinating and covers a lot of territory.

What decreases the book's usefulness is that only the examples in Chapter 2 work. The rest of the examples all have errors that prevent rendering.

The code in the zip files likewise has errors.

 
3.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By kasey castle

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

The book is fascinating.

What decreases the book's usefulness is that only the examples in Chapter 2 work in Mozilla 1.1. The rest of the examples all have errors that prevent rendering.

The code in the zip files likewise has errors.

(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

 
4.0

Creating Applications with Mozilla Review

By Bud Gibson

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Creating Applications with Mozilla:

Mozilla web applications are another attempt to do what Sun tried to do with Java Applets. However, the Mozilla effort comes after the web has had 7 more years to mature (1.0 released in 2002, with Java making the scene in 1995).

Perhaps the greatest advance has come with XML. Mozilla puts it to good use as: (1) an interface specification language (XUL); (2) a declarative programming language (XBL); and (3) a data definition language (RDF). This removes a lot of the need to write procedural code (a la applets) which is one of the hardest parts of writing distributed applications. Javascript is used for any procedural bits that remain, mainly client-side interaction effects.

Creating web applications with Mozilla does a great job of laying this architecture (and more) out and giving the novice an idea of where to start. Even if you already know XML, javascript, CSS, and all the other components that go into creating Mozilla applications, you need this book to tell you how mozilla synthesises them.

The problems I see with this book are the problems I see with mozilla. Mainly, it's the issue of maturity. For instance, there is mounting evidence that mozilla is going to evolve from its current monolithic approach of providing web, email, chat, and whatnot all in one package to individual applications. One imagines that that will bring about a paradigm shift in how one creates mozilla applications. Is there a way to code with those possibilities in mind. The book is silent on this point because I suspect too much is unknown. It will probably require a major update at that point.

Other issues: (1) What are best coding practices? How would one implement model-view-controller, a popular web application paradigm, using mozilla? (2) Are there standard solutions available so that people do not have to go around re-inventing algorithms and packages? A mozilla coookbook might be in order. (3) How can one write remote applications? The book gives one tantalizing chapter, suggesting this is a growth area. Eventually, it might warrant a book on its own, once things have become clearer.

All in all, I rate the book very good because I think it is a great start. There's more to do.

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