B.7. Missing Parts

The tools highlighted so far are just some of the pieces needed to form a full-featured Mozilla development environment. Currently, several different areas of the application creation process would benefit greatly from a dedicated development tool. Some of the different types of needed tools are listed below.

B.7.1. Visual XUL Editors

XUL is a simple markup language that is similar to HTML. Some people prefer to create HTML code by hand, but others use programs that generate HTML code for them by using a simple point-and-click interface. The creation of a user-friendly XUL editing program would greatly simplify the creation of Mozilla applications and would allow many more people to start their own development projects.

So far, there have been at least a couple of attempts to create such a tool. A few projects, such as Vixen (http://www.mozilla.org/projects/vixen/) and XULMaker (http://xulmaker.mozdev.org), have started to create a visual XUL editor. So far, however, there isn't a tool that allows someone to quickly create a user interface without creating XUL and CSS code by hand.

B.7.2. Toolkits and Libraries

Mozilla applications currently have a lot of duplication due to a lack of standard libraries and toolkits. Different types of applications still need to do very similar things, so having common programming routines and interface widgets would greatly reduce the amount of time different developers spend recreating frequently needed parts of an application.

In this book, we discussed the JSLib project (http://jslib.mozdev.org), which is trying to create a repository of versatile functions that any Mozilla application can reuse. For a project like this to work, however, it needs to be widely available and accepted by the developer community. To ensure its wide availability, these common libraries and toolkits need to become a core part of the standard Mozilla development tools.

B.7.3. Integrating the Pieces

Popular development environments like Microsoft's Visual Studio bring together a cohesive set of tools; they provide the tool framework in which much of the setup, code generation, directory structure, linking, and other drudgery is handled automatically.

When used together, the tools described in this appendix can make your application development process easier. However, currently, all of these tools are located in different places and none of them interact with one another to provide a seamless development framework.

Even when all the tools do become available, it will be necessary to integrate each of these together to create a single development environment for Mozilla application builders. This single tool will allow you to create the shell of an application easily and fill it with XUL, CSS, JavaScript, and all other parts of a Mozilla application that can then be packaged easily when you are done.