The enhancement only appears in the weblog’s “preview”2 display. To the left of the heading for each article’s preview should appear a little triangle. Like this . Clicking on this will make the browser get the full article from the server to replace the preview. The triangle will be replaced by one like this . If the server is being a bit slow then one of these should appear to tell you to wait a while3. Once you have the full article you can click on the to collapse it again if you wish.
If the new feature doesn’t work on your browser just move around using the normal links.
If you want to bookmark an article, or you have your own site and want to add a link to one of the articles, then either choose the Read article link at the bottom of the preview or the Link link at the bottom of the full article once you’ve expanded it. Bookmark, or link to, that page since its URL will not change.
If you go elsewhere after clicking the triangle to get the full article and then return to the page using your browser’s “back” button you’ll find yourself returned to the original page with all articles in preview mode regardless of whether you expanded any of them. This is beyond my control and is something the browser manufacturers need to think about in my opinion; they had a similar problem when they first introduced framesets in the mid-90s.
Now that I’ve updated my Mac to OS X 10.4.1 (Tiger) I’ve been able to check things out in the Safari and Omniweb browsers. I am surprised and delighted to find that with both these browsers the back button problem does not occur. Coming back to the page via the back button returns you to the state it was in when you left it with expanded articles still open. Hurrah!
I’m hoping that this new feature will make the weblog quicker to use than the normal way where you have to have the browser fetch a whole new page from the server. If you don’t like it then simply don’t use it: the weblog will continue to work in the old way too. Most of the time, with a compatible browser, you only have to open previews and then click on the flippy triangles next to the articles you’d like to read.
I’d welcome comments by email about this as I intend, over the next few months, to use the same idea elsewhere on this weblog and possibly on the rest of the site.
There’s a minor problem with the system I’m using. I hope to upload a fix for it soon when I’ve had a chance to check it on more browsers than I have at home. Details here if you’re interested.
A fix for this is now installed.
The new feature works using a fairly recent (well, 1999) system introduced with Internet Explorer 5 on Windows. The feature, known as xmlHttpRequest, allows browsers to get stuff from the server without having to fetch a whole new page. The feature was later adapted and adopted for other browsers and now seems to be mature enough to use. It is not an “official”, W3C sanctioned system but will have to do for now until their equivalent system is adopted more widely.
It does work on Opera 9 on the Mac at least (I’ve not checked the Windows version). [1 July 2006]
2 I’ve now added flippy triangles to the ‘complete articles’ display so that you can collapse them if you like. It works in exactly the same way though it’s probably of less value than the triangles in the preview display (16 March 2005).
3 I hardly ever get the whirling thingummy when using the site from home though I do at work, where the network suffers from periodic hiccups probably due to dozens of kids all downloading ringtones (or worse ) at the same time.
4 Although, since I don’t know of a browser which supports xmlHttpRequest without also supporting writable innerHTML it probably doesn’t matter too much.
Posted 3 March 2005, 21:39 GMT