Wednesday 31 August 2011

Would you switch back to IE9 now that they have finally made a good browser?

Now that IE9 is standards compliant and actually good will you switch back to using it?

A few months ago I wrote an article about why I hated debugging in IE8 which revolved around their single threaded event model (window.event) and the delay it took before debug messages were outputted to the console.

A member of the Microsoft team commented that he had run the test case I had created in IE9 and that it had run perfectly. No high CPU, no frozen console, no high memory usage or other performance problems at all.

As you cannot install IE9 on WinXP, which is what I use on my home laptop (due to Vista being shite), I haven't had the pleasure of using Internet Explorer 9 a lot until I installed Windows 7 on my work PC.

I have to say that Windows 7 is actually a great operating system and I especially love the way it has incorporated many of the features of clean up and performance tuning tools like Tune Up Utilities and CCleaner into the main OS.

I also have to say that Internet Explorer 9 is the first IE browser I actually like.

Not only is it blindingly fast they have finally listened to their customers who have been complaining for years and made their JavaScript engine standards compliant.

Obviously this makes the Browser / Document mode spaghetti even harder to detect and I haven't been able to find a way as of yet to detect IE 9 browser mode running as IE 8 or 7 on 32 bit machines but that is not a major issue at all.

What I am wondering though is that now that IE9 is actually a good browser, with a good inbuilt development console and element inspection tools, how many developers will actually return to using it either as their browser of choice for surfing the web or for their primary development.

My browser development survey which I held before IE9 was released showed that developers would rather use Chrome or Firefox for surfing and would also always choose the development tools that those browsers bring than use IE 7 or 8.

I know that I changed from using IE to Firefox as my browser of choice some eons back and I changed from Firefox to Chrome for both surfing (speed is key) and developing (no need for Firebug or any other plugin) the other year when Firefox started to suffer major performance problems.

These performance problems are always either to do with having far too many plugins installed. Setting the browser up to check for new versions and any installed plugins on start up which cause long load times, Firebug issues and errors in the Chrome source. This is on top of all the constant problems that Flash seems to bring to any browser.

I use Chrome for surfing due to it's speed but if I leave a few tabs open all night that contain pages running Flash videos then by morning my CPU has flat-lined and memory has leaked like the Titanic.

This is more a problem with Flash than Chrome and I try to keep this browser for surfing as clean and as fast as possible by not installing plugins. Then if I need to hack around or do some hardcore web development I will use Firefox and all the great plugins when I need to.

I don't think I could really get hacking with Chrome alone as when I am really getting stuck into a site I need my key plugins e.g the web developer toolbar, hackbar, header modifier, Request and Response inspectors e.g HTTP Fox, Firebug, ColorZilla, YSlow and all the Proxy plugins that are available.

However for basic development, piping out messages to the console, inspecting the DOM and checking loaded elements and their responses then Chrome has everything Firebug has without all the JavaScript errors.

In fact it's surprising how many developers don't even realise how much is possible with Chrome's inbuilt developer tools, speed tests, header inspectors, element inspectors and DOM modifiers and other great debugging tools that used to be the preserve of Firebug alone.

Which leads me back to IE9.

Yes it's fast and it's developer tools are okay with options to clear cookies, disable JavaScript, inspect the DOM and view the styles but it's no Chrome or Firebug yet;

Therefore what I want to know is how many people (and by that I mean developers) will switch back to using Internet Explorer 9 for pure web surfing?

For sure it's fast, supports the latest CSS standards and all the great HTML 5 features that we have all seen with floating fish tanks and the like. But is this enough for another browser switch?

I have all the major browsers installed at work on Win7 including IE9, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, SeaMonkey and a number of others I cannot even remember the names of they are that obscure.

Before upgrading I even had Lynx and Netscape Navigator 4 installed as I used to be so anal that any code such as floating DIV's had to work in the earliest browsers possible. However I only use these browsers for testing and I stick to Chrome (for surfing) and Firefox (for hacking) which leaves little room for IE9 at the moment.

I know it's a good browser. It's standards compliant and it no longer crashes when I try to output anything to the console so why shouldn't I try it again.

Maybe one of my readers can help me decide on the browser of choice for surfing and development and how IE9 fits into that toolset.

Maybe I am missing some really cool features that I would use all the time but to be honest I am not into throwing sheep at randoms or constantly voting sites up and down and writing comments on them. Therefore for me to switch back from Chrome to another browser such as IE9 there has to be a really good reason for me to do so.

So does anyone have any reason why I should re-consider using IE9 at work for my web surfing or development?

Wednesday 3 August 2011

HTML Super Trim Functions

Remove non breaking spaces and other white space either side of strings

Most languages have a Trim function that removes white space from either side of a string.

However a lot of the time these Trim functions will only remove standard white space e.g if you hit the space bar a couple of times and not other forms of white space such as tabs, new lines or HTML space characters such as non breaking spaces whether they are HTML entity encoded: or Numerically encoded e.g

Therefore sometimes you may need a "Super Trim" function that will handle the removal of all types of space characters including HTML entities.

The following have been written in PHP but can easily be converted into C# or VB. The main part to take away is the regular expression used within each function which replaces a string containing one or more space characters whether they be control characters or HTML entities from either side of the string.

// wrapper function to do trim both sides
function HTMLTrim($text){

// call both functions at once
return HTMLLeftTrim(HTMLRightTrim($text));

// removes spaces and at the beginning of strings
function HTMLLeftTrim($text){

// remove space to the left of the text
return preg_replace("@^( | |\s)+(\S+)@","$2",$text);


// removes spaces and at the beginning of strings
function HTMLRightTrim($text){

// remove space to the right of the text
return preg_replace("@(\S+)( | |\s)+$@","$1",$text);


You can test this out in a simple PHP page with the following code:

$str = "     hello there        ";

echo "before trim its '" . $str . "'";

echo "<br><br>now its '" . HTMLTrim($str) . "'";

Which returns the following output:

before trim its '     hello there      '

now its 'hello there'

I find it very useful when I am scraping content from the web and need to handle the removal of a mixture of standard spaces and HTML spaces.