07.27.11 - 07:30am
Tilt is getting closer and closer to a beta development stage, let’s see what’s been going on.
The most important added feature is the html preview window, currently using the Cloud9 source code editor Ace. Each time a node is double clicked, a popup panel shows up, displaying the formatted, syntax colored inner html for that particular node, along with the class and id if available. Since it would have been a tremendous work to implement a rich text edit box in WebGL, the easiest hack was to use an iframe containing a simple html document embedding the Ace editor.
This simple page is contained in an iframe defined in xul, inside a panel. On a double click event, all we needed to do was to get the iframe content document, access the <pre> editor element by id, set its inner html to the corresponding inner html of the selected node, then call a function to format and highlight the text. It’s really easy to implement such panels in Firefox, as ‘openPopup()’ and ‘closePopup()’ functions do all the heavy lifting.
The xul responsible with the iframe:
This isn’t, however, all the planned functionality for the html panel. A great and useful feature would be to actually edit and update the webpage rendering in real time as the code changes, and this is planned to be implemented in the following months. This behavior can lead to interesting functionality, and combining it with the Style Editor and Style Inspector would make a nice development/debugging environment. Thus, the next best move is to replace the Ace editor with the Orion Code Editor, actively developed in the devtools area.
The way rendering webpages is done has changed quite a bit in the past months. The first experiments were focused on a more translucent visualization and now, all the nodes are rendered opaque. The community feedback has been great in both cases, so the best idea is to keep both rendering methods, and also adding customization functionality. The best way to achieve this is to implement a simple UI with sliders and other elements controlling hue, saturation, brightness, contrast and render mode (wireframe or opaque) for the visualization. Thus, transitioning between multiple ways of visualizing the webpage can be done seamlessly, and fine tuned values can be perfect for different goals.
The current GUI is a work in progress implementation in WebGL, as it would have been too much of a performance hit to implement simple sliders and buttons in XUL. The first mockups for the user interface have been finished:
A couple of other things are planned for the user interface, the most important ones being:
- zoom and rotation sliders (+ auto rotation)
- customizable thickness and spacing between nodes
- preview pane in the lower right (showing the visible area of the webpage, like a map)
- DOM tree structure in the lower left (along with a search field, go-to-node functionality)
- reset, zoom in, zoom out buttons
- menu in the upper right (including the export button)
For now, the major focus is implementing all of the UI functionality, to make Tilt more useful and friendly for debuggers both from the HTML and CSS world. It’s been quite a tremendous effort to create a special UI library and event modules in WebGL, but now that most of the elements have been finished, implementing the actual UI should be the next step.
As a final note, Tilt has been released as an alpha preview last week on hacks.mozilla.org, receiving a lot of feedback from the community. Most of the suggestions will make it into Tilt in the near future, the most interesting ones being:
- exporting the visualization to different formats (especially 3D models – COLLADA, .OBJ), feature which would add a lot of possibilities like importing into games; the visualization will also be exported to other WebGL supporting browsers
- modifying and updating the 3D webpage mesh on the fly (as the webpage changes, exposing CSS transforms for each node), meaning that interactive movies, animations and even “DOM art” can be done using Tilt (see this video, creating a 3D Reddit logo).
- adding a zoom control which isolates a DOM node and it’s children only
- display useful information on the sides of the nodes too (also a color code to make the most common html elements appear clearly)
- implement CSS editing functionality, along with the HTML editor panel
- using head tracking from a webcam to modify the perspective of a webpage