&ot Information Gift: June 2003 Archives

June 29, 2003

508 State

Most web developers by now, especially those who have clients in education & government, have at least a passing familiarity with the Section 508 guidelines designed to provide "disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others."

However, few of us really understand what it's like to experience sites as a visually-impaired person. Here's a mp3 recording (4.19MB, @15min) of a screenreader user commissioned by Upmystreet.com to review their site and relay his experiences while doing so.

Note: I've mirrored the file to offset any bandwidth costs incurred by the original poster, a blogger and employee of the company at the time. Much thanks to Stef Magdalinski and Upstreet.com for sharing.

Stef also points out the Accessibility study of BBCi: Problems faced by users with disabilities (.pdf, 1.7MB). Probably a good case study for those of us responsible for meeting Section 508 compliance.

Posted by Lewis Francis at 7:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 12, 2003

The End of History

Big news from the last couple of weeks I didn't cover: AOL/Netscape settles their antitrust suit with Microsoft by going to bed and Microsoft says goodbye to browser development.

Ok, so I'm exagerating the second story. What Microsoft really said was that IE 6SP1 would be the last standalone IE web browser, and that "further improvements to IE will require enhancements to the underlying OS". As has been commented on more eloquently by others (and here's another), presumably we can take this to mean that we will see no improvements in interface and standards support until the next WinOS (codenamed Longhorn) is released sometime in 2005, and then we'll have to wait for everyone to upgrade their OS.

On the Mac side of things, Microsoft has updated their browser, but only for users of MSN, Microsoft's competing AOL-like service. Mac IE 5.x already had better standards support than it's Windows big-brother, and the latest version of MSN Mac fixes many more CSS bugs. However, following the course charted by the Windows operating group, Microsoft will no longer develop a standalone browser for the Mac platform, ceding the field to Apple's well-received and soon to be released from beta Safari browser.

Clearly, Microsoft understands the competitive advantages of browser/OS bundling. Mac IE 5.x, rip.

Returning for a moment to the first story: AOL/Netscape sues Microsoft for exercising its monopolistic advantage in the browser wars, wins (sorta), and the spoils of victory are $750m, the right to use Windows Media (think rights managment), to open up AOL's IM userbase to MSN Messenger's, and finally the right to continue using the very Microsoft technology that sank Netscape in the Windows AOL client? Who's the winner and who's the loser?

And where does this leave AOL's Netscape?

AOL may keep a hand in the browser business, such as it is, but I'd venture to guess with this agreement that we won't see an official Gecko version of AOL for Windows users, which ultimately is bad for the consumer and the developer. A Mozilla-based AOL was the only real threat to browser monoculture—without competitive pressure, why would Microsoft feel the need to improve their browser?

Keeping their contribution to the Mozilla effort alive only as a warning to Microsoft, if not something to fall back on in the event Microsoft does, well, what Microsoft does, is what I think the old, technology-friendly AOL/Netscape would have done. The new content-friendly AOL Time Warner, however, may have entirely different ideas about where the money is, and where the money should go. Time will tell.

Lastly, here's an amusing idea of how the browser war could ultimately turn out from Brad Choate.

Posted by Lewis Francis at 10:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 7, 2003


It's often handy to screengrab, to take a picture of your screen, whether you need to reference an error message, capture an application's interface, or document a page layout problem.

Both Mac and Win platforms allow basic screengrabbing, but while Win OS offers two methods, both of which require the use of an additional application, Mac OS offers six, count 'em, six methods of grabbing entire screens or portions of screens, across displays, half of which save directly to disk without the need for an intermediate application.

The Printscreen button on Windows boxes let you place a bitmap copy of your screen, or, if you use Alt-Printscreen, the front-most window into your clipboard; from there you can paste into a graphics program like Microsoft® Paint to crop out just what you need and save to one format or another.

Macs have long had a bit more flexibility, including the above functionality and the ability to automatically save screengrabs to disk in a native Pict ("Classic Mac OS") or .pdf (OS X) format, and saving selections of the screen to disk or clipboard.

What follows is the sometimes byzantine key-combination required for each operation and the MacOS platforms supported:

Screengrab save action
Key combination
Display(s) to disk
Display(s) to clipboard
Selection of the display to disk
Selection of the display to clipboard
Active window to disk
Active window to clipboard
Active window to disk
Active window to clipboard
Lock and move selection
Hold down spacebar and move mouse
Constrain width of selection
Hold Shift and move mouse vertically
Constrain height of selection
Hold Shift and move mouse horizontally
Shrink/Expand from center of selection
Hold Option and move mouse towards or away from center of selection
Abort selection of display

Note that Classic Mac save-to-disk screengrabs save pict files on the root directory using a sequential naming convention: "Picture 1", "Picture 2", etc. On OS X, the pdf screen grabs follow the same naming convention but are instead saved to the desktop.

Workflow Tip:
While pdf is the native screen format in OS X, if you need to send screengrabs, your recipients may appreciate an easier to work with format. While it's easy enough to use the Control key modifier to push your grabs to the clipboard for pasting into an image-editing app, sometimes it's more convenient to grab and save screens to work with later.

Enter high-school senior Kevin Wojniak's DropJPEG, a wonderful freeware tool that's earned a coveted place in my dock and handily converts image files into jpeg files via drag and drop, including OS X PDF screengrabs, GIF, BMP, TIFF, PNG and more. Operation couldn't be much simpler, simply set the desired amount of compression, whether the original should be deleted, and whether or not to capitalize the extension, the latter two options are off by default.

Posted by Lewis Francis at 10:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)