Postbox: yet another Mozilla-based email client?

There aren't a lot of Outlook Express competitors, but Mozilla's open-source Thunderbird is one of the best of them. However, since a while there's a new player in town: Postbox. Postbox is a new email client built on Mozilla technology that intends to offer a new and refined way of working with email and its media.

Still in beta, Postbox takes desktop e-mail toward Web 2.0, with contacts to sync with Facebook, pictures to upload to Picasa and messages to tag (which you can compare with "Labels" in GMail). Once you get going, Postbox's tabs can be used to filter out messages and focus on only attachments, images, links or contacts burried in your email, as well as organize your email.

Postbox

Postbox is written by a lot of (ex-) Mozilla folks, with the help of XUL, a Mozilla markup language for user interfaces. Although the application looks great on the Mac, I could tell after less than 5 seconds that Postbox wasn't a native Cocoa application.

Perhaps this is kool-aid talking, but in my opinion Apple Mail is much more functional, better designed and useful than Postbox. Although, I would have to admit it has some nice features and the UI looks great at first sight, the crowded layout, the non-native feel of the application and the general feelings of Postbox are left incomplete, but as Postbox is still in beta let's give the Postbox-team the benefit of the doubt for now and wait for the stable version to make a final judgment. After all, Postbox is currently the only Mac email client that supports features such as social network integration and tagging within an e-mail client.

AJAX-ify your Joomla! website

Since the release of CoolPlanet 2009, I often get the question how to implement AJAX in a Joomla! 1.5 component. As Joomla! makes use of the Model View Controller design pattern, it becomes very easy to make your brand new website even more shiny with a fresh mix off JSON, Mootools and PHP.

You probably already noticed, the filename of almost every view in a Joomla! 1.5 component is view.html.php, because most of these views output HTML. AJAX however, likes to talk with XML or JSON because the data gets sent from the server to client without a page refresh, hence the asynchronious in Asynchronous Javascript And XML.

Mootools
So the right question would be how to leverage right data the JSON. Simple! Besides your original HTML view, create a JSON view: view.json.php! As previously mentioned, a HTML view outputs HTML. A JSON view outputs JSON, meaning that you need to encode your data in JSON: JSON view snippet 1. No need to call JView::display(), as this methods will try to load a template file. We don't want a template file for a JSON view. Instead, we want just rough JSON data (json_encode()) to process in our HTML view.

You may wonder what the difference of JSON against HTML is. Let me just compare the output that both views generate: JSON/HTML comparison1. You clearly see in the HTML view the tags for markup purposes, while the JSON view just outputs rough data.

Next, we need some Javascript to retrieve and process this JSON-formatted data, and attach some DOM events to HTML elements. In my example, I attached a change event (Javascript snippet3) to my list, so when the selection changes the component makes a JSON call to the server to retrieve the data. This data gets injected into the page, so the body changes without a page reload. Note: you need tell Joomla! that you want the data in the JSON format, by appending format=json to your request URL.

This was a short introduction on how to improve your component with AJAX. You can achieve the same result with XML, if you don't like JSON that much. The only thing you need to create is an XML view, where you encode your data in XML.

You can download the sources to play with the component and review the code used in this example.

You can also look again at the code snippets, mentioned above:

  1. JSON view snippet
  2. JSON/HTML comparison
  3. Javascript snippet

United Nations Coolplanet 2009 Showcase

In my previous blog post, I talked about the CoolPlanet2009 website we developed for the United Nations. The United Nations recently launched a showcase movie to illustrate the goal of this website. Really cool!

Update: the video is currently offline, so in the meanwhile we posted a related video. Stay tuned for the original version though!

CoolPlanet 2009 — It's Cool to Care!

The United Nations recently launched their new campaign: CoolPlanet 2009.

Neuika Coral Reef, New Caledonia, France
The website is the centerpiece of the CoolPlanet 2009 campaign, a year-long European campaign to raise awareness on environmental issues and to mobilize citizens in support of a new climate agreement in Copenhagen later this year.

The United Nations decided to pick Joomla! as underlying content management system. Therefore, they partnered up with Syncleon, in association with RocketTheme and Bulletproof Templates, to take care of the development. While RocketTheme and Bulletproof Templates took care of the template and styling of the website, Syncleon was responsible for the technical challenges and custom development, more specifically the Wall of Events.

User Control Panel on CoolPlanet2009
Users or organizations who will be hosting an event that is related to environmental issues, can register and manage their events, along with media. Interesting side-note, while the website has only been online for ten days, there are already more than 130 events registered!

The Wall of Events is a community oriented, geographical-based Joomla!-powered event calendar. We used Mootools for subtle effects and AJAX.

The Coolplanet2009 website made it possible for the United Nations to scale and manage this campaign. By taking care of the implementation, we try to contribute in the battle against climate change.

iPhone, meet Joomla!

Just like many of you, I have a crush on the iPhone. Not only because this fancy device is capable of just doing what it needs to do, but also because of the underlying technologies, more commonly known as the iPhone SDK. After having a beer with a fellow iPhone user, I decided to dive into the iPhone SDK to check out its potential deliver as a publishing tool.

iSyncleon
There are hundreds of thousands of iPhone users out there, and even more Joomla!™ users. Wouldn't it be great to connect these users on the road? Therefore: Joomla!: meet iPhone and iPhone: meet Joomla! Both of you, meet iSyncleon: a full blown iPhone application for the Joomla! content management system.

What does it do?

Simply said, iSyncleon allows you to manage your Joomla! website from the iPhone. At this moment, we've developed a proof of concept with the following features on the roadmap:

  • Home: an overview of what's happening on your website;
  • Articles: the ability to edit your articles;
  • Users: a list of your users, and the ability to communicate with them;
  • Inbox: your own personal Joomla! mailbox.

iSyncleon is far from complete. We've identified features we tend to find useful, but we can only make sure with your input! To make sure we can hear your voice, we added a Feedback button on the left side of the blog where you can add ideas and vote on others. After a while, the ideas with the highest ranking will be implemented in iSyncleon.

We believe that this iPhone application perfectly illustrates the goal and meaning of Syncleon: to synchronize the web like a chameleon in as many ways as possible. To sync the web in the best way possible, dependent on the environment the end-user is in.

User experience, isn't that what it's all about?

Some reptiles can change their spots

With appropriate inspiration from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, we'd like to say we're having the words "Don't Panic" inscribed onto our desks here at Syncleon.

Without being too cryptic, we want it on the record that we are officially the big daddy of Syncleon. And no, we don't need a Babelfish translation to prove it. Like all proud fathers we want the world to know about our baby's first steps and here's where all of the exciting news will be announced.

Definition of Syncleon: a morphing of synchronisation and chameleon — to sync the web in different ways. And we like to think of our desktop application as chameleon-like in that you'll hardly realise it's there, camouflaging highly-sophisticated code.

We think Syncleon's desktop application is the tool of power and simplicity for online content and will become the metaphor for Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster initially for Joomla!™, with plans to release it for Drupal and possibly other popular content management systems.

We know the web can be a complex place and that's why we've decided to step up and be counted. As some of you may already know, we are well known in open source land. We're currently committing for Eclipse and have been working as software developers at the United Nations.

So what does this desktop application do? Quite simply, it will allow you to log in to and edit multiple Joomla installations within one application. Very cool considering it will allow you to edit content offline and the changes will magically 'sync' the next time you reconnect to the Internet. Whether you're a blogger, storyteller or business and marketing person will determine how often you turn to Syncleon's desktop application to work your communication magic. Oh and did we mention that it won't matter if you're using Linux, Mac or Windows? Syncleon's desktop application will operate seamlessly on all modern platforms.

Stay tuned for more updates, exciting times are ahead of us!

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