Tag Archives: Tools

Minimus: The OS X JavaScript and CSS Minifier

Users like fast websites. That’s one of the universal rules of web development. To attain faster speeds, it’s common to use a process known as “minification” to compress the file size of JavaScript and CSS. Yahoo developed one of the most commonly-used tools for this, a command line program called the YUI Compressor. This open source project has become integrated into many other tools, including numerous websites that will minify any JavaScript or CSS you paste into a form field.

That’s rather inconvenient, though. Wouldn’t it be easier if you had a nice OS X application that would let you minify your code right from your Mac? Enter Minimus, the app I just finished.

Minimus is a handy GUI frontend for the YUI Compressor. All you have to do is drag one or more files onto the dock icon, hit a button, and in seconds you will have minified copies.

It’s a free download, but if you like it, feel free to send me $5 or so with the in-app PayPal form. ;)

Websites as Graphs

This is either a useful tool or a fun toy. Websites as Graphs is a Java applet that renders your website’s (X)HTML structure as a graph of colored dots.

You enter a sites’ URL into the form, and the applet puts a black dot on the screen (representing the root <html> element). Quickly, more connected dots expand outward. Each dot is color-coded to match a group of elements. The blue dots are links, the red ones are tables, etc. The graph shown to the right shows this site (note the lack of red dots :D ).

It’s fun to enter a bunch of your favorite websites and compare them (maybe it is a toy rather than a useful tool…), and compare them to your own as well. Try it out, it’s fun to watch if anything.

SimplePie: Parse RSS With PHP

LastRSS. MagpieRSS. Neither have been updated in over a year. What’s the best way to parse RSS feeds and output them with PHP? Simple, use SimplePie.

What is SimplePie? It’s a file you include in your PHP scripts, allowing you instant access to RSS-parsing capabilities. You can display RSS headlines/items on your website, combine several feeds into one, and anything else that you can think of. If you know a little PHP, the possibilities are endless.

You see this PHP code:

require('simplepie.inc');
$feed = new SimplePie("http://feeds.feedburner.com/Webmaster-source");
$feed->handle_content_type();
echo "<h1>".$feed->get_title()."</h1>";
foreach ($feed->get_items() as $item) {
echo '<h2><a href="'.$item->get_permalink().'">';
echo $item->get_title().'</a></h2>';
echo '<p>'.$item->get_description().'</p>';
}

That’s all you need to display a feed’s headlines and descriptions. Of course, that was only a simple example. It’s unbelievable what you can do with SimplePie.

Over at NTugo, SimplePie is used extensively. The MyNT RSS reader is powered by SimplePie. The “Recent blog posts” and “Recent posts from the NTugo Network” boxes on the home page are built with SimplePie. The RSS feed aggregated from all of the NTugo blogs? SimplePie again! It’s amazing what you can do with SimplePie.

If you know PHP, you’ll definitely want to take a look at SimplePie.

MyNT (My NTugo)

RSS is one of the greatest web technologies invented in the last ten years. It enables us to keep up with our favorite sites, listen to podcasts, and get niche news easily. Forget annoying old newsletters! Who needs them when you can just open your RSS reader and skim through headlines, looking for things of interest?

Ah, the RSS reader. Like with web browsers and email clients, everyone has a different preference. Some like desktop programs, while others like web-based apps. There’s no shortage of choices. You have Feedreader, Netvibes, Bloglines, etc. I don’t like any of the choices. I’m a big fan of RSS, but I’ve never really liked any RSS reader other than Firefox‘s Live Bookmarks feature. Recently I’ve had two problems. Number one, my feed collection outgrew Live Bookmarks. Number two, I’ve often wanted to read my RSS feeds on other computers.

What did I do? I threw together my own web-based RSS reader. I call it MyNT (say “Mint”), which is short for My NTugo. It’s a little innovative, as I added a few…different features to it.

My favorite feature: You can read your RSS feeds without logging in at all (just go to http://my.ntugo.com/yourusername.html). Just bookmark that URL and you can check your feeds with a single click (let’s see Bloglines do that).

Take a look at MyNT, you may like it. I can’t guarantee everyone will like MyNT. After all, I made it mainly for myself (and anyone who thinks that most feed readers are too bloated). I wanted to capture the simplicity of Live Bookmarks in a different form, and I think I did a pretty good job at it.

Well, MyNT’s URL is http://my.ntugo.com, and you can read the official press-release-sort-of-thing here.

AjaxLoad: Free “Throbber” Image Generator

Attention AJAX programmers! Do you need a good “loading image” (or “throbber”)? Take a look at AjaxLoad.info, the only throbber-image generator I know of (as of this writing). You pick an image style, then enter some hex odes for the foreground and background colors. Hit the generate button, and if you like what you see, download the animated GIF. Simple, or what? Here are some examples:

Those are just a few examples of what AjaxLoad can do.

Google Apps

So, you’ve got yourself a domain. Sure, it helps people get to your website, but what else can you use it for? Google’s got the answer. Do you hate your webhost’s webmail program? Do you like GMail? Well, now you can have your own copy of GMail (with 100 free email accounts)….but at your own domain. That’s right, you can have your own mini-GMail with email addresses resembling you@yourdomain.com. You get more than just email, but the email’s the best part. Forget your host’s SquirrelMail system, switch to Google Apps.

Script.aculo.us

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could easily manipulate HTML elements onscreen? Wouldn’t it be nice if AJAX requests could be sent with only one line of code? Take a look at Script.aculo.us.

What is Script.aculo.us? It’s a set of JavaScript files (based off the Prototype JavaScript library) that lets you do numerous cool and/or useful things with ease. Fading, sizing, and movement actions are only a couple lines of JavaScript away. Not to mention easier AJAX techniques.

Socialinks v.2

Nearly every blog, or blog-like site, on the web offers several icons that allow you to submit their articles to Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, and other “social bookmarking” sites. Have you wanted an easy way to add icons like that to your blog? Enter Socialinks v.2. Pick the social bookmarking services you want, enter some data, and you can download a bit of javascript code to paste into your blog template. There’s also an optional WordPress plugin available on the site.

Just so you know, the “infos” fields are the places where you paste you’re blog’s template tags. For example, if you have a blogger blog, you’d paste <$BlogItemPermalinkURL$> into the “url” field.

This site is a great way to add social bookmarking links to your site.

CSS Column Length Adjustment Script

Frustrated with CSS’s inability to make your navigational sidebars the same length as your content (or vice versa)? Project Seven‘s got a script that’ll help. This JavaScript library adjusts your CSS columns to be the same height. Technically you can do this with CSS, though it’s a big pain.

DynamicDrive

DynamicDrive is a huge repository of DHTML scripts. Some of their scripts have little practical value, but others are truly useful. Their IFRAME resizing and RSS ticker scripts can be useful, for instance. It has nearly zero practical use, but the snow script is cool (it makes snow fall from the top of the screen). I like their “CSS Library,” where they have numerous CSS menus. Take a look, it’s a great site.

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