Javascript Drag and Drop Toolkits

The new WordPress Widgets use a javascript toolkit to create the drag and drop interface. There are several excellent kits available that provide lovely drag and drop functionality to ease the job of writing rich web interfaces. I spent a good portion of last Thursday looking them over to find one to use in the Widgets. Here I write my conclusions about two of them in the hopes that someone will take the best parts of each one and construct the perfect drag and drop script.

James Edwards a.k.a. Brothercake‘s Docking boxes (dbx) is already included in WordPress; it powers the draggable boxes in the writing interface. With dbx, you can take semantic, structural markup and make it work well and look sharp prior to adding scripted behaviors, then use id attributes and some external scripts to upgrade it into a beautiful and highly usable interface. What I find most impressive about this script is that the interface is 100% accessible via keyboard. If you don’t appreciate the full value of keyboard accessibility, go and break your wrists snowboarding and try to use your browser. If your insurance or your stomach won’t allow such drastic action, at least unplug your mouse until you appreciate it. The downside to dbx, and the only reason I couldn’t use it for this project, is that it doesn’t permit dragging items between different columnar lists.

Thomas FuchsScriptaculous, which name would probably never have occurred had God not invented the .us top-level domain, is a lovely set of scripts indeed. The demos are nice but the promise of a documentation wiki was not met by any obvious linkage to said wiki. Configuration was therefore accomplished by mimicking the demos. When I wanted to customize the UI to show a message in any empty columns, I found the exact interfaces I needed after a quick look at the well-organized code. The limitation I found with the Scriptaculous drag and drop tool is that it is not natively accessible via keyboard. I’ll have to add my own list manipulation controls to make the interface work without a mouse or without javascript.

The perfect toolkit have dbx’s keyboard accessibility and ability to be used without javascript, all while providing the multi-column sorting and powerful API of Scriptaculous. Is somebody already working on this?

What are WordPress Widgets?

I’m not a big fan of newspapers. Planets will line dance before I read more than a handful of column inches in any given rag. One of my beefs with print media is that I can’t customize it. Sure, I can tear up a newspaper and shuffle the parts around on my kitchen table but the parts never fit together again.

Enter WordPress Widgets. A few hours ago, Matt launched this little feature that we designed and I wrote. This may not be a time for comparing small steps to giant leaps but it’s still pretty cool. Widgets are sidebar elements that you can move into or out of, up or down your sidebar any way you like. This sidebar thing is starting to sound like fun!
Continue reading What are WordPress Widgets?

Importing From Blogger to WordPress with Comments (really)

I can’t give you the exact time or date but it looks like we’ll have Blogger importing available to everyone very soon. The Blogger importer is online! I just ran it on this blog and it worked like a dream. Donncha imported his old Blogspot blog into a test blog and it looks very hunky-dory to me! There would be comments, too, but Donncha’s old blog lived in the dark ages of blogging, before Blogger had comments. 🙂

Here’s a little advanced information on the importer:

  1. It’s super-easy. I’d call it a “one-click importer” but it’s really more like two.
  2. It’s pretty fast. My 100+ posts and 200+ comments were imported in under two minutes.
  3. It’s pretty safe. To make it so easy to use, I had to get the WordPress server and the Blogger server to talk and the conversations get pretty intimate. It will modify your template to make your blog easier for the machine to understand, then restore your old template and settings afterwards. However, if you have spent much time modifying your Blogger template you should make a backup copy before you run the importer. I never lost my template during testing but hey, you never know. (It’s perfectly safe for your posts and comments.)
  4. It’s capable of importing as many Blogger blogs as you have access to.
  5. It’s better than ice cream (but not gelato).

Danger: Publishing

Let’s see if I can post from my handheld, or hiptop, or Sidekick II, or whatever Danger is calling them these days. On my WordPress 1.5 blog I can save a draft but it won’t go into Publish status until I use a regular browser or update the database entry.

I am standing outside right now, enjoying the sunny Kentucky day and looking forward to a 5-day trip to Vermont to see family and, I hope, friends. I am really looking forward to martinis with my grandfather.

Being a Multi-User user

I am not the first person to write on this topic but it bears attention. Moving from WordPress 1.5 Strayhorn to WPMU is like moving from a stunt plane to a locomotive. Where before I could tweak and break any part of my blog, now I am barred from editing any PHP: the theme, the plugins, all are out of my reach. Some folks might not like that but for me, it’s a blessing. My Strayhorn admin pages would dance around my screen like little devils taunting and tempting me to tweak one thing or another. Now it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” Now it’s all about blogging and it’s full steam ahead!