Friday, March 19, 2010

ToolBox III - Public Beta Trial

It's been a couple of months now, that I have been designing the next version of ToolBox and last night I managed to finally get a beta version out on my web-site.

It's been hard work trying to refactor code (clean it up/modernize it along the way), then build new functionality and incorporate a few libraries and technologies I've been playing with these past few years (for example a new image manipulation engine, a new TileGrid component).

This beta has the potential of becoming a release soon, I had to draw a line on new features and stop there, otherwise I wouldn't be able to release it soon enough. The new version has many changes underneath, but in terms of user interface it allows you to fully customize a ToolBox.

For the first time users can choose to display text below an icon and also create a secondary text comment for each icon and display that on the ToolBox. What is more, the primary icon text that is displayed is now decoupled from the hint, which can be quite descriptive and long. The hint is only displayed as a floating (and trasparent) panel or on the status bar of the ToolBox window. Many thanks for these suggestions are down to users who have contacted me through the web, asking or suggesting new features.

I have also decided to extend the image effects a little bit and allow people to choose their own images for wallpapers which can now be positioned on the ToolBox in a number of ways (tile, center, fill, stretch). The effects are a little "PhotoShop" within ToolBox, applied in layers (e.g. emboss then color tint). My personal favourite is to create a sepia version of the Windows wallpaper behind the window.

A number of customizations is now available around text display. For the first time you can have bold and italic text, you can change the color of the Title Bar text, Status Bar test, primary, secondary, overlay text of an icon. You can easily inherit text properties from the primary text and icons can override only select text properties to display things in a certain way.

Another big new feature is the Web Browser support. ToolBox discovers the browsers that are available on your system and when you create URL shortcuts (try dragging a URL from Chrome straight onto a ToolBox!!!) you can then select which browser to launch it from. A web designer, for example, can create shortcuts to the same page using different browsers in order to be able to quickly launch and check for display differences.

All of these customizations of course generate the need for theming. The ToolBox properties dialog is more equivalent to a "Theme Builder" interface as absolutely everything can be customized there, however I realise that most users would not want to have to learn what all these buttons and selectors do :-)

My plan is to introduce a few themes and allow the users to create themes which they can then share on the web. Then probably have an alternative easy interface for setting the properties of a ToolBox that allows less customization. We'll see.

The new beta requires a lot of testing and there are areas that I am still improving. Most importantly there seems to be a Windows API bug in the function that gets the bitmap contents into a memory array which seems to break the ToolBox redrawing when the picture is more than 512K in size :-( I am trying to move away from having to use this function, but I didn't have the time as yet to do it.

Looking forward to some suggestions and bug reports :-)

New ToolBox here.

2 comments:

vpapanik said...

Very very well done once again !!!

Yosef Mamotza said...

Hi,

sent you a support question via cylog web site today,

Really like Toolbox and hope development doesnt get forgotten :)