3.3. Application Widgets

Like most applications, yours may rely on menus and toolbars as part of the basic user interface. Menus and toolbars are common, multipurpose widgets that are familiar to most users. Menus often appear as part of a menu bar that organizes all of the capabilities of the program, or they can be single menus for presenting a simple list of choices. Buttons provide quick access to the most commonly used tasks and help get information back from the user. Beyond these basics, however, XUL provides widgets for creating almost any kind of interface (and the flexibility of Mozilla's presentation layer means you can make even the most prosaic menus look any way you want).

3.3.1. The Toolbox

As your applications grow in complexity and provide more services to the user, the toolbox can be a good way to organize menus, toolbars, and other widgets. A <toolbox> is a special container for holding one or more toolbars and/or menu bars. A Mozilla toolbar implements a toolbargrippy and a box that contains children. The toolbargrippy is a bar on the lefthand side used for collapsing and expanding the bar. This useful method allows users to control the space that is available to them onscreen. Toolbars

The <toolbar> element shown in Example 3-4 contains buttons used to carry out various application functions. Buttons are the most common children of a toolbar, but they are by no means the only widgets or content you can put in there.

To apply spacing between elements, the <spacer> element can be used. In Example 3-4, all space that remains after the buttons are drawn goes after the buttons because the spacer there is flexible and the buttons are not. Space added elsewhere with other <spacer> elements is determined by ratio of the flex values on the elements competing for layout space. Extending the toolbar in Example 3-4, you can add a print button on the far right:

<toolbarbutton id="newfileBtn" label="New" oncommand="doNew( );" />
<toolbarseparator />
<toolbarbutton id="openfileBtn" label="Open" oncommand="doOpen( );" />
<spacer flex="1" />
<toolbarbutton id="printBtn" label="Print" oncommand="doPrint( );" />

The <toolbarseparator> element does not create additional spacing between the first two toolbarbuttons, but there is space between them and the print button, which is pushed to the far right because the flex attribute of the spacer in between is set to 1.

3.3.2. Selection Lists

There are a number of ways to create lists in Mozilla. This section provides three alternative ways of presenting the same choices to the user. The options are illustrated in Figure 3-3. The one thing these three selection list widgets -- menus, pop ups, and menu lists -- have in common is they all use menu items to display individual choices:

<menuitem label="Tachinidae"   oncommand="changeF(1)"/>
<menuitem label="Tanyderidae"   oncommand="changeF(2)"/>
<menuitem label="Tipulidae"   oncommand="changeF(3)"/>
<menuitem label="Syrphidae"   oncommand="changeF(4)"/>
<menuitem label="Tephritidae"   oncommand="changeF(5)"/>

When you wrap the menuitem elements above in a menu, a menu list, and a pop-up window, you see the variations in Figure 3-3. Menu lists

Another manifestation of the pop up is in the use of menu lists. A menu list is a choice of options presented to solicit a single choice, usually in the form of a drop-down menu, for which XUL provides the <menulist> element. Example 3-8 presents a straightforward menu list with a selection of items to choose from. As in the other pop-up examples, selecting an item executes the code defined in the oncommand event handler for that item (e.g., changeF(1) for the menu item "Tachinidae").

The menulist widget provides functionality beyond that of a regular menu. The menu list can be made editable when the user should be allowed to enter a value not represented in the menu items. In this case, the menulist element definition in Example 3-8 would change to something such as:

<menulist id="FlyInput" editable="true"
    oninput="onInputFly( );"
    onchange="onChangeFly( );">

A true value on the editable attribute allows input in the list. Input can be validated immediately by using the oninput attribute. The addition of the onchange attribute can be used to carry out an extra script when a new selection is made.



Free-floating because their location in the interface is not determined by their position in the XUL markup, as it usually is for items like menus and buttons.