End of Bookstack, but Looking Forward to Firefox 57

Back in 2007 I was a Firefox user and wrote my extension Bookstack, which is now dying due to the changes to Firefox. But I am looking forward to the improvements Firefox brings, even though this seems like the end of an era of extensibility in the browser.

Why is Bookstack done?

My own browsing habits have changed since I wrote it. In recent years, I’ve continued to use Bookstack, but more as a speed dial than as it was originally intended as an inbox system for links. I’ve thought about writing a new sidebar to do something that suits my current usage, but for now I’ll see how life without Bookstack is before I embark on another extension.

There are some users of Bookstack out there, and I’m sorry I won’t be able to support them, but the source is available if anybody wants to take it up. The fact is that under the changes to Firefox, Bookstack would require a full rewrite anyway, and it would lose features in the process. The main painpoint would be the UI.

In the early years, Bookstack did most of its own work to build the sidebar until I worked in XUL long enough to realize I could piggyback on Firefox itself for a lot of that code, which reduced the maintenance burden on Bookstack considerably. With the change to webextensions, that’s no longer the case.

I enjoyed the project while it lasted. Ten years is a good time for it to retire.

Why Firefox will still rock

The change that Firefox is making is the first step toward a next-generation browser in terms of speed and memory use. I haven’t tested the 57 beta yet, but it’s purported to be fast. That’s great, and the changing to webextensions reduces the burdens on Firefox to let it continue to improve much more in the years to come.

End of an era

But that change comes with a cost, as mentioned with my own EOLing of Bookstack. The customizability of the browser is being limited. It’s not the Fisher-Price Apocalypse some might fret over—that won’t happen as long as the underlying browsers and protocols have open source roots—but it is limiting.

Browsers are supposed to be agents for the user. They are supposed to do the user’s bidding. Limiting the ease of modifying the agent isn’t great, but other limitations have always thwarted some types of user choice, whether it’s each browser keeping its own data (with some ability to import/export between them), or browser security getting in the way of the user (there’s an inherent clumsiness in trying to interact with iframes in userscripts, for example).

Return of the User

The next act for the web will hopefully be a resurgence in users finding new ways to work around the limitations of browsing and webextensions. There are always new threats to the dream of a web that serves users, and Google Chrome has invited a certain amount of complacency among the multitude. With a bit of luck, a resurgent Firefox will help to ignite a new generation to work for an open web again.

Softpedia Reviews Bookstack

I must say I’m surprised and delighted to find out that Mac Softpedia has reviewed my Firefox extension, Bookstack. The review is fresh off the presses, added today. [Read: Mac Softpedia Review of Bookstack]

One thing that this review does is shows me how the current interface looks on Mac OS X. I’m not sure how the screenshots of Bookstack they have compare to other extensions and interfaces in Firefox on Mac, but hopefully I can take a look and possibly make things more consistent for Mac users. I’m probably going to get a Mac at some point down the road, which will greatly facilitate the testing.

One thing I’m pretty sure isn’t there for Bookstack users on Mac yet is middle-clicking to add links. There’s no middle-mouse button. If you use a Mac and use or want to use Bookstack please post to the Bookstack release thread on Mozillazine or add an issue to the issue tracker on the Bookstack project on Google Code or e-mail me (unusualtears at gmail dot com).

Anyway, things are a little slow other than this in the Bookstack world. I’m letting it kind of simmmer while I consider the next steps forward for the interface.

bookStack 0.4.3

Get it while it’s hot: bookStack 0.4.3 in AMO Sandbox

Note this is only for Firefox 3.0b3 through the current preb5 releases. This extension will not work in Firefox 2.0

Documentation is now at: bookStack Google Code Project wiki

If you do try it, please please let me know what you think.

Finally, a few words of thanks to the awesome developers at mozilla and the community on the mozilla.org irc server that makes developing and using extensions possible. And to the people who made the new Places system in Firefox 3, it completely rocks.

Thanks,

Adam

Changes in 0.4.2:
* Dropped support for Firefox 2
* Now supporting Firefox 3b3+
* Fixed several memory leaks (observers that weren’t being properly removed when not needed), thanks to Leak Monitor extension!
* Added Multi-Stack support (one stack at a time)
* Independent settings for:
* Add items to top
* Clear on exit
* Remove items on view
* Added special Trash folder
* All items that are removed from a stack are moved here.
* It is cleared out on exit from Firefox
* Added sidebar context menu with keyboard support and accesskeys
* Items: Open in This Tab
Open in New Tab
-separator-
New Item
New Folder
-separator-
Copy Item Location
Move in Folder
Top
Up
Down
Bottom
Move to
{List of Folders}
Move to Trash
Purge Item
* Added aforementioned New Folder dialog
* Added sidebar menulist for choosing the current stack folder
* Added sidebar button to toggle between adding to top or bottom
* Removed Clear Stack Tools->bookStack menuitem (Tools menu only shows bookStack Settings item now)
* Removed Menu button (only sidebar button available to navigation toolbar now)
* Removed pop first button from sidebar (alt+c still does this)
* Removed ‘remove and view’ item from content area context menu
* Removed manual add button from sidebar (context->new item now does this)
* Rearranged Preferences dialog into general settings and stack settings