As many of you probably know, I’ve started working for W3C Developer Relations since this August. Half of my time is devoted to WebPlatform.org, a very promising project to document the web with the help of all major players, in a vendor-neutral way. Even before I joined W3C, we discussed using a hosted, customized version of dabblet in WebPlatform.org, as a platform for live code examples. I recently started working towards making this happen.
A lot of changes and improvements need to be made to achieve this, but the good news is, most of these will be pushed to dabblet.com as well! In a nutshell, this is what I’m currently working on:
- Dabblets that are not stored in Github, but get their data through POST requests.
- Improving cross-browser support
- Strengthening security
- Integrating Prism. Dabblet’s syntax highlighter might have been Prism’s precursor, but currently Prism has solved many of its bugs, and these fixes need to be pushed to dabblet at some point.
- General bug fixing
These will probably be gradually rolled out in dabblet.com and tested by the community, before we integrate dabblet into WebPlatform.org. If a new feature is significant enough, there will be a new blog post about it here, but don’t expect blog posts about bugfixes. I’m really excited to see dabblet flourish, and I believe you will be too, once these updates are out!
I’ll post there about Dabblet updates and not flood my regular subscribers here who may not care. So, if you are interested on Dabblet’s progress, follow that blog or @dabblet on twitter.
That was also an excuse to finally try tumblr. So far, so good. I love how it gives you custom domains and full theme control for free (hosted Wordpress charges for those). Gorgeous, GORGEOUS interface too. Most of the themes have markup from the 2005-2007 era, but that was no surprise. I customized the theme I picked to make it more HTML5-ey and more on par with dabblet’s style and it was super easy (though my attempt is by no means finished). There are a few shortcomings (like no titles for picture posts), but nothing too bad.
I loved JSFiddle ever since I first used it. Being able to test something almost instantly and without littering my hard drive opened new possibilities for me. I use it daily for experiments, browser bug testcases, code snippet storage, code sharing and many other things. However, there were always a few things that bugged me:
- JSFiddle is very JS oriented, as you can tell even from the name itself
- JSFiddle is heavily server-side so there’s always at least the lag of an HTTP request every time you make an action. It makes sense not to run JS on every keystroke (JSBin does it and it’s super annoying, even caused me to fall in an infinite loop once) but CSS and HTML could be updated without any such problems.
- I’m a huge tabs fan, I hate spaces for indenting with a passion.
- Every time I want to test a considerable amount of CSS3, I need to include -prefix-free as a resource and I can’t save that preference or any other (like “No library”).
The thought of making some interactive playground for CSS experiments was lingering in my mind for quite a while, but never attempted to start it as I knew it would be a lot of fascinating work and I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else throughout. While I was writing my 24ways article, I wanted to include lots of CSS demos and I wanted the code to be editable and in some cases on top of the result to save space. JSFiddle’s embedding didn’t do that, so I decided to make something simple, just for that article. It quickly evolved to something much bigger, and yes I was right, it was lots of fascinating work and I wasn’t able to focus on anything else throughout. I even delayed my 24ways article for the whole time I was developing it, and I’m grateful that Drew was so patient. After 3 weeks of working on it, I present dabblet.
So what does dabblet have that similar apps don’t? Here’s a list:
- Realtime updates, no need to press a button or anything
- Saves everything to Github gists, so even if dabblet goes away (not that I plan to!) you won’t lose your data
- No page reloads even on saving, everything is XHR-ed
- Many familiar keyboard shortcuts
- Small inline previewers for many kinds of CSS values, in particular for: colors, absolute lengths, durations, angles, easing functions and gradients. Check them all in this dabblet.
- Automatically adds prefixes with -prefix-free, to speed up testing
- Use the Alt key and the up/down arrows to increment/decrement
- Dabblet is open source under a NPOSL 3.0 license
- You can save anonymously even when you are logged in
- Multiple view modes: Result behind code, Split views (horizontal or vertical), separate tabs. View modes can be saved as a personal preference or in the gists (as different demos may look better with different view modes)
- Editable even from an embedded iframe (to embed just use the same dabblet URL, it will be automatically adjusted through media queries)
Here’s a rough screencast that I made in 10 minutes to showcase some of dabblet’s features. There’s no sound and is super sloppy but I figured even this lame excuse of a screencast is better than none.
I’m hoping to make a proper screencast in the next few days.
However, dabblet is still very new. I wouldn’t even call it a beta yet, more like an Alpha. I’ve tried to iron out every bug I could find, but I’m sure there are many more lingering around. Also, it has some limitations, but it’s my top priority to fix them:
- It’s currently not possible to see or link to older versions of a dabblet. You can of course use Github to view them.
- It currently only works in modern, CORS-enabled browsers. Essentially Chrome, Safari and Firefox. I intend to support Opera too, once Opera 12 comes out. As for IE, I’ll bother with it when a significant percentage of web developers start using it as their main browser. Currently, I don’t know anyone that does.
- It doesn’t yet work very well on mobile but I’m working on it and it’s a top priority
- You can’t yet add other scripts like LESS or remove -prefix-free.
- Hasn’t been tested in Windows very much, so not sure what issues it might have there.
I hope you enjoy using it as much as I enjoyed making it. Please report any bugs and suggest new features in its bug tracker.
Here are some dabblets that should get you started:
Roman Komarov helped tremendously by doing QA work on dabblet. Without his efforts, it would have been super buggy and much less polished.
I’d also like to thank David Storey for coming up with the name “dabblet” and for his support throughout these 3 weeks.
Update: Dabblet has its own twitter account now: Follow @dabblet