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Java pretty dates

First of all, sorry for not posting as frequently as before. I’m feverishly working on a new project with a really tight deadline and I don’t have as much time as I previously did.

For reasons that are irrelevant to this post, I have to write lots of Java code. So, sorry if I disappoint my fellow readers, but this post isn’t about JavaScript or CSS, it’s about Java. I wanted to display “pretty dates” (a bit like Twitter’s, for example “yesterday”, “5 minutes ago”, “last year” and so on) in a few places and I couldn’t find a Java implementation, so I decided to code my own.

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Articles Original

Better usability in 5 minutes

In this post I’m going to share some tips to increase a site’s usability that are very quick to implement. Not all of them are cross-browser, but they are the icing on the cake anyway, nobody would mind without them.

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Cross browser, imageless linear gradients

I have to write a color picker in the near future and I wanted it to have those little gradients on top of the sliders that show you the effect that a slider change will have on the selected color. Consequently, I needed to create imageless gradients, in order to easily change them. My very first thought was creating many div or span elements in order to show the gradient. I rejected it almost instantly, for ovbious reasons (*cough* performance *cough*). My second thought was SVG for the proper browsers, and gradient filters for IE. As it turned out, inline SVG was too much of a hassle and I didn’t want to use Data URIs. My final thought was canvas for the proper browsers and gradient filters for IE.

Since I consider such a script very entertaining, I didn’t google it at all, I started coding right away. Time to have fun! 😀 After finishing it though, I googled it just out of curiosity and didn’t like the other solutions much (either the solution itself, or the code), so I decided to post it in case it helps someone. I also made a little test page, so that you may test out how it works. 🙂

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Original Tips

Mockup viewer bookmarklet

I usually view mockups in a browser, so that the impression I get is as close as possible to reality (I learned this the hard way: A mockup that seemed great in the neutral and minimalistic environment of a picture viewer, ended up looking way too fancy when viewed in a browser, something that I realized after having worked for 6 months on the site). If you do the same, I’m sure you’ll feel my pain: Every time I do that, I have to carefully scroll down just as much as to hide the margin that the browser adds, and left just as much as to center the image. Not to mention the click required to enlarge the image to full-size.

Not any more!

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Check whether the browser supports RGBA (and other CSS3 values)

When using CSS, we can just include both declarations, one using rgba, and one without it, as mentioned in my post on cross-browser RGBA backgrounds. When writing JavaScript however, it’s a waste of resources to do that (and requires more verbose code), since we can easily check whether the browser is RGBA-capable, almost as easily as we can check whether it suppports a given property. We can even follow the same technique to detect the support of other CSS3 values (for instance, multiple backgrounds support, HSLA support, etc).

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Apps & scripts Articles Original

Bulletproof, cross-browser RGBA backgrounds, today

UPDATE: New version

First of all, happy Valentine’s day for yersterday. 🙂 This is the second part of my “Using CSS3 today” series. This article discusses current RGBA browser support and ways to use RGBA backgrounds in non-supporting browsers. Bonus gift: A PHP script of mine that creates fallback 1-pixel images on the fly that allow you to easily utilize RGBA backgrounds in any browser that can support png transparency. In addition, the images created are forced to be cached by the client and they are saved on the server’s hard drive for higher performance.

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Find the vendor prefix of the current browser

As you probably know already, when browsers implement an experimental or proprietary CSS property, they prefix it with their “vendor prefix”, so that 1) it doesn’t collide with other properties and 2) you can choose whether to use it or not in that particular browser, since it’s support might be wrong or incomplete.

When writing CSS you probably just include all properties and rest in peace, since browsers ignore properties they don’t know. However, when changing a style via javascript it’s quite a waste to do that.

Instead of iterating over all possible vendor prefixes every time to test if a prefixed version of a specific property is supported, we can create a function that returns the current browser’s prefix and caches the result, so that no redundant iterations are performed afterwards. How can we create such a function though?

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Extend Math.round, Math.ceil and Math.floor to allow for precision

Math.round, Math.ceil and Math.floor are very useful functions. However, when using them, I find myself many times needing to specify a precision level. You don’t always want to round to an integer, you often just want to strip away some of the decimals.

We probably all know that if we have a function to round to integers, we can round to X decimals by doing Math.round(num*Math.pow(10,X)) / Math.pow(10,X). This kind of duck typing can get tedious, so usually, you roll your own function to do that. However, why not just add that extra functionality to the functions that already exist and you’re accustomed to?

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JS library detector

Ever wondered which JavaScript library (if any) is hidden beneath the bells & whistles of each site you gazed at? Since I am a curious person, I find myself wondering every time, so after a bit of research, I wrapped up a little bookmarklet that instantly told me the answer every time.