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    Forcing windows open

    October 28th, 2008

    Here’s a question?

    When you design a website with external links, add links to your VLE, do you force the link to open in a new window or in the same browser window?

    For me forcing new browser windows open on the user is both poor practice and annoying for the end user.

    Rather than do that use the following text next to any link.

    To open link in a new window right or ctrl click and click Open in a New Window

    Forcing new windows breaks all web usability guidelines and creates problems for users and importantly affects accessibility issues. International user accessibility guidelines recommend against the “new
    window” approach.

    When a new window opens in front of the old one a novice user is likely to think that the “back” button associated with the new window will take them back where they were before, and doesn’t know what to do when it won’t, this can be just as annoying as closing the whole window.

    Confident users can cope with the forced new window, new users can not.

    Similarly a disabled learner, using a head pointer or other assistance device, won’t be able to simply click on the back button to return if the code has forced a new window to open.

    This could be a significant problem for many learners suffering from quadraplegia, other disabilities or visually impaired learners.

    Also Firefox has an option which actually stops new windows from happening.

    Forcing windows open

    Other sources on why you should never force new windows on users.

    Check point #2 on Jakob Nielsen’s usability website.

    Opening up new browser windows is like a vacuum cleaner sales person who starts a visit by emptying an ash tray on the customer’s carpet. Don’t pollute my screen with any more windows, thanks  particularly since current operating systems have miserable window management). If I want a new window, I will open it myself!

    Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site. But even disregarding the user-hostile message implied in taking over the user’s machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Users often don’t notice that a new window has opened, especially if they are using a small monitor where the windows are maximized to fill up the screen. So a user who tries to return to the
    origin will be confused by a grayed out Back button.

    Another view from Sitepoint.

    Here are the top 5 reasons why you should beware of opening links in a new window:

    Unless you warn them, Web users are likely to expect the new page to load in the current window. Unexpected surprises can be fun, but not when you’re browsing the Web.

    The act of opening a new browser window resets the back button in that window. The back button is the second most used navigation function (after hyperlinks, source: useit.com), so resetting it is a big no-no.

    To open a new browser window can disorient very novice Web users and the visually impaired. They might not realise that a new window has opened and might struggle to switch between windows.

    Opening a new browser window disrespects the desires of your users. If they want a new window, they’ll ask for one. Don’t force a new window upon users unless there’s a very good reason to do so.

    New browser windows can make an already cluttered taskbar even more difficult to use. We’ve all spent ages hunting through the taskbar in search of the window we want. Don’t make this process even harder by increasing the number of windows the user has open.

    Do you have a view?


    Evernote – an online note keeping system

    July 1st, 2008

    Evernote - an online note keeping system

    I have been using Evernote for a while now.

    Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.

    Now what I like about Evernote, is not only can you use it online from any web browser, they also have clients for OS X and Windows. If you have a Tablet PC you can even use your “Pen” to make notes too.

    They also have a Windows Mobile client and one should also be available for the iPhone (and so the iPod touch) soon.

    There is this video which helps explain things a little better.

    Now from a learning perspective this could have real potential for learner in keeping all their electronic notes in one place. They won’t need to worry about if they are learning at home, in college, at work, whilst mobile or wherever they are.

    Pen support means that those learners who prefer to write notes can, whilst those that prefer to type will be able to.

    You can even add audio notes.

    Well worth checking out, it use to be invite only, but as of yesterday it is now an open beta which means anyone can sign up.

    Evernote is now in open beta! No more invitations required. Tell all your friends.

    Find out more.


    Virtual Windows

    June 5th, 2008

    If you want to run Windows on your Mac, you have had up until now four main choices, Boot Camp, Parallels, VMware and Crossover.

    Now there is a fifth (free) choice, Virtualbox from Sun.

    VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). See “About VirtualBox” for an introduction.

    Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), and OpenBSD.

    I have downloaded it, but not yet installed it or tried to run Windows on it. Certainly looks like it could be useful for a whole range of virtualization solutions.

    A lot of people say I can’t buy a Mac as I need to run Windows, well it’s never been easier to run Windows on a Mac these days, and with virtualization you can run both OS X and Windows XP (and Ubuntu. Vista, even Windows 3.1!) on a single computer.


    PhotoStory 3 for Windows

    March 5th, 2008

    At a recent MoLeNET podasting event, my colleague John Whalley spoke about PhotoStory 3 for Windows.

    Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or a Windows Mobile–based portable device.

    You can download the software from Microsoft (follow the link above).

    A quick demo of how it works.

    Windows Media Version

    iPod Version 


    Comic Life for Windows

    November 27th, 2007

    I have mentioned the beta of Comic Life for Windows quite a few times now. So it’s nice to tell you that Plasq have now released the full and final release of Comic Life for Windows.

    Comic Life

    Comic Life is one of my favourite applications and certainly is one of the easiest ways of making comics for use for print and online.

    A 1000 seat educational licence for Comic Life is only £511.77 which is quite good value if you ask me. A 25 seat licence is only £101.95.

    I will probably get a licence for my institution for staff use at least and for student use if required.