Archive for September, 2004


For me, BBEdit is one of those applications that I just have too much time invested in. What it does is rather simple, and there are dozens of similar apps out there that accomplish the same thing. But having used BBEdit for so long, exclusively — it’s like an old baseball cap that fits just perfectly after years of wear. It’s just comfortable.
Documents drawer screen shotThat said, I finally upgraded to version 8.0 and have found the single feature that made it worth the purchase: the Documents Drawer. Instead of having multiple windows (one for each file) scattered all over the desktop, they’re now contained in a single window. Toggling between or closing each file is handled in the new drawer that sticks off the side. This is good.
Now, I know what most of you are saying — this feature is in every other text editor out there. And it probably is. Nothing ground-breaking being introduced here. But if you’re a BBEdit user, there is reason for celebration.
I’m sure there are many other new features to be discovered, but this one makes it worth the upgrade alone.

Oops I Quit It Again

Here’s something that’s more than a just a bit annoying. Have you ever quickly shot the mouse up to the upper left-hand corner of the browser window in Safari to hit the back button, only to have clicked the “close window” button instead? I’ve been making a habit of this lately. And it’s awful.
Safari closeupThere’s just not enough space between the back/forward buttons, and the close/minimize/maximize buttons in the interface. You’ll notice that the back button (an oft used task) sits just a few pixels below the close button. Clicking the close button unintentionally when you have several tabs set up with whatever you’re working on will ensure certain anger, swearing and regret. Whenever I click it, for a split second I wish for an “undo” keystroke to cancel my missed mouse target. Sadly, all my current sites disappear and I’m back to square one.
Firefox closeupNaturally, you may suggest that I use a different browser — and indeed Firefox has a larger target for the back button, reinforced by a further separation of the browser’s controls from the window options. And I’ve also heard there are ways to strip Safari of it’s “chrome”, perhaps changing the spacing between the buttons. But I’m just here to complain about the initial design choice that Apple chose to make.


I’ve just returned from TOevolt in Toronto, where I spoke on “Bulletproof Design”. Joe Clark, Javier Velasco and Adrian Roselli also gave informative talks yesterday on the 3rd floor of a large building on the University of Toronto campus.

roof photoIt was a quick trip for me, and luckily I was able to squeeze in a two-hour power tour of downtown. The picture to the right was taken of a roof of a clothing store in the Kensington (I think) (thank you, Suzanne) neighborhood of Toronto.

Many thanks to Tara Cleveland for organizing the event, and to my many tour guides this afternoon. It was a pleasure meeting everyone north of the border.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the event, check out writeups by Mathew Hoy (with photos), and Frank Manno.

Items carried in the BP:

  • Passport
  • Airline tickets
  • Customs forms (one of these was slightly too wide)
  • Maps (folded)
  • Taxi receipts
  • Train ticket

Needless to say, the BP was invaluable on travel days this weekend.

Double Meanings and Search Terms

From the SimpleBits inbox just a few days ago:

I enjoy your Skoal Classic product, but 4 times within a 2 month period I recieved mint Skoal in a can marked Skoal Classic, at 7 dollars a can, living in Canada, this can add up rather quickly. I am a loyal consumer but not knowing what is inside a can of Skoal Classic does make me look for an alternative. Wondering what your organization will do.

At first glance, I’m a little confused. So I run a search for “skoal” and sure enough, result #7 makes everything cystal clear.

Skoal means “cheers” (or equivalent) in Swedish, and was part of the title of a notebook post I had written about a recent trip — but it’s also a popular brand of chewing tobacco. The double meaning was compounded by the fact that a comment on the SimpleBits entry had actually mentioned the words “chewing tobacco”. Perhaps an odd coincidence.

Seeing how people search for, and assume credibility from, those results is what’s interesting to me. It’s apparent that some may not look closely at the results, but rather, if a site appears near the top — they must know what they’re talking about. And they will solve my problems.

I’m afraid I can’t help those that are receiving mint Skoal in a can marked Skoal Classic. But I sure wish that I could.

Realities of Self-Employment: Part 1

I have emerged from a temperature of 102° with a certain realization. When you get sick the world doesn’t stop. Email doesn’t get put on hold. Deadlines don’t get sick. Granted, I was only down and out for maybe 48 hours — but it’s enough to throw a wrench in the works.
thermometerIt goes without saying that it sucks to get sick. It happens. This is magnified significantly when you work for yourself, and your company is comprised of one employee. Those that work for businesses that have greater than one employee have the benefit of the company not completely shutting down should they call in sick.
Simply an observation, as well as another learning experience.

CSS Centering 101

The following is documented in order to provide a neat and tidy way of responding to a frequently asked question here at SimpleBits:

How do I center a fixed-width layout using CSS?

For those that know, it’s simple. For those that don’t, finding the two necessary rules to complete the job can be frustrating. So here it goes.

centering diagramIn the markup, we’ll need a container to hold everything. In this container will sit the entire layout that we’d like to center on the page. We’ll suspiciously name this container: “container”:

  <div id="container">
    ...entire layout goes here...

Using CSS, the following two rules force whatever is contained within #container to be centered:

body {
  text-align: center;

#container {
  margin: 0 auto;
  width: xxxpx;

We’re aligning everything within body to be centered, while giving the #container a specific width (whatever you’d like). The margin: 0 auto; is the second piece which makes it all work. We’re specifying 0 pixels on top and bottom, with auto margins on the left and right.

That’s it. The only problem we’ll run into now is that, because we haven’t specfied otherwise, everything on the page will be centered. We’ll want to override that from the container level down with the addition of the following rule:

#container {
  margin: 0 auto;
  width: xxxpx;
  text-align: left;

With that single declaration, everything within #container will be left-aligned, yet leaving our centered layout unhindered. The same principle could be applied not only in centering entire layouts, but other block-level elements and page components.

Now I’ll just need to keep the URL for this entry handy the next time the question is posed, helping me respond to emails that inquire about this seemingly simple goal. And these days, anything that helps me respond to email is a true asset, as I’ve been absolutely terrible at the task lately.

Update: Several people have written in, either to ask why text-align: center; is necessary, or that using that rule is plain wrong. The reason it’s used, is for the benefit of IE5/Win users. Without the rule, most browsers will still center the layout just fine using auto left and right margins — but not IE5/Win.

Regarding the Porta-Poti in Maine

Porta-PotiThe highlight of a relaxing weekend in Maine is best illustrated by a photo I took just outside a Porta-Poti in downtown Damariscotta. By clicking the thumbnail, you’ll notice the large sign in front of a pair of portable toilets which reads, “Porta-Poti Contributions”. I got more than a mild juvenile chuckle after reading this, figuring that after I used the Damariscotta Porta-Poti, perhaps my name should be added to the list.
I felt honored that alongside Barnswallow Bed & Breakfast, Narragansett Leathers, and even McDonald’s (perhaps a catch-all for the entire family?), I too have used these convenient public restrooms.
This also reminded my how clever the naming is for these foul places. “Porta-Poti”, “Porta-John”, etc. — it’s as if the goofy name will somehow lessen the terrible experience of having to use one.
DamariscottaBut to say this was the highlight would be actually far from the truth, as we had a wonderful time just north of Portland, hiking and checking out small-town Maine. A nice way to say an early good bye to summer.

Sluggish Mail, Unsatisfying FTP

For awhile now, I’ve been using Apple’s own Mail app for all my electronic mail tasks. Overall, I’m happy with the features — but lately I’ve noticed an annoying sluggishness.

letterIt appears that the longer I keep the application open, the slower and more unresponsive it becomes. The problem is solved by quitting, then restarting. After a restart, it’s back to its peppy self. But aside from the annoyance of having to quit, it just seems like something must be wrong. I store a lot of mail in sub folders on my Mac. It’s a POP account, and not IMAP. So I’m wondering if anyone else has experienced the same performance?

I had been watching Jon Hicks’ comments regarding similar issues with Safari, which turned out to be a third-party plugin. No plugins involved here, but I’m guessing there’s a fix out there somewhere.


In other Apple application-related thoughts, I’ve been a long-time user of RBrowser for all of my FTP and SFTP needs. I love many features, but am continually frustrated with the performance and lackluster updates.

I’ve briefly given Transmit a spin and found it to be much snappier, but it (seemed to) lack the things I like about RBRowser the most:

  • OS X “column view” for navigating directories.
  • Double-click to open files in BBEdit.

So I’m asking you, the highly esteemed readership of SimpleBits, to prove me wrong: does Transmit make you smile — or are there better alternatives out there for FTP on a Mac?