Chromeless windows:
December 13, 2000 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Chromeless windows: Spawn new IE windows without any GUI borders.
posted by riffola (36 comments total)
Nice... I do like it. But I think Jakob Nielsen'll have something to say about this. ;)

The only thing I fear is the full screen chromeless window... that'll do a number on newbies.
posted by hijinx at 6:28 AM on December 13, 2000

Doesn't appear to work on the Macintosh platform . . .
posted by aladfar at 6:49 AM on December 13, 2000

Your "full screen chromeless window" is already built into IE, since at least version 4. I was working on a kiosk project using IE in that mode a few years back.
posted by harmful at 6:53 AM on December 13, 2000

In fact, that "full screen chromeless window" is how this trick is accomplished -- they open the fullscreen window and resize it, with a DHTML/JavaScript titlebar so you can still move the window.
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:58 AM on December 13, 2000

The chromeless window is a full screen window resized. Since the window doesn't behave like a normal window, they added some dhtml to it, so that it would have a title bar and a close button.
posted by riffola at 6:58 AM on December 13, 2000

Oops CrayDrygu beat me to it. :)
posted by riffola at 6:59 AM on December 13, 2000

preeeeety! me like! Works pretty well on win2k.
posted by salsamander at 7:36 AM on December 13, 2000

well dammit. now that i want to show it to a friend, it's down.
posted by pnevares at 10:00 AM on December 13, 2000

What I especially don't like about this page: surfing away from the underlying page, then watching the content disappear from the chromeless floating window, and then wondering if most people would find a way to close it. Wooo! Plus the usual REALLY SMALL TECHNO FONT THAT IS HARD TO READ.
posted by tranquileye at 10:01 AM on December 13, 2000

FWIW, I have a modified version of the Chromeless Window scripts that are a little more configurable. I never fully implemented all my ideas, but you're welcome to grab the ZIP file and play with it yerself. View source on launch.html to see how it works.
posted by scottandrew at 11:08 AM on December 13, 2000

That's evil, that a browser script can position a window such that standard controls (including close box) are not available. Browsers should not allow that to happen without the user explicitly requesting that mode.
posted by kindall at 11:15 AM on December 13, 2000

I disagree completely! The more control designers have over the look of their application, the better! Down with media stagnation!
posted by SilentSalamander at 11:54 AM on December 13, 2000

I just wish the chromeless window (needs an acronym, any volunteers?) would allow me to right click on it in my taskbar, so I could minimize it or close it. [Yeah I know Alt F4 is faster.]
posted by riffola at 12:07 PM on December 13, 2000

Damn, I'm glad this doesn't work on the MacOS. What an incredibly evil invention! As if those javascript pop-up advertisement windows weren't bad enough already, now they're going to be able to create sticky annoying gadgets that take over your screen and won't go away. You thought ad banners containing frames were bad, or those geocities floating ads, or those on-window-close banner-spawners? Just wait...

Even in its intended "good" use, this is evil. In what bizarre alternate universe would it be a good idea to have different windows with different UIs and UI widgets on the same monitor at the same time? The entire point of putting the UI-drawing code into the operating system is to ensure that all applications create and manage windows and controls in the same ways - so that all windows are recognizable and controllable as windows without having to learn how each window works individually. Yes, certain programmers over-impressed with their own cleverness have come up with ways to circumvent this, and there's a distressingly common trend toward ignoring the UI-standard interface controls in favour of custom-hacked idiosyncrasies, but this has been the exception rather than the rule. Making it easier for every two-bit geocities html junkie to spawn off broken unrecognizable windows is just going to make the Web Experience that much more miserable.

The more control designers have over the look of their application, the better!

NO NO NO! My computer exists for ME TO DO THINGS WITH, not as a canvas for designers to express their overweight egos on. If I want my windows to look different, I'll install a different GUI theme/window manager/skin/whatever, and thank you very much for respecting my decision. It's my computer, not yours, and the fact that I accidentally misstepped onto your misbegotten website does not give you permission to fuck my screen up any more than the fact that you gleaned my email address off some newsgroup gives you permission to mail me MAKE_MONEY_FAST advertisements.

What's that old saw again? Form follows function, right? Well, this is a big step backward in function, and $deity help us all if it becomes popular. Consistency is a good thing. Recognizability is a good thing. Functionality is a good thing. A sufficient level of these things are necessary for a tool to even be usable. Breaking all of these things for no purpose other than to make your site recognizable is a disservice to everyone.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:23 PM on December 13, 2000

You know, I went on this kick myself recently about bloggers who force every link to open in a new window. Control of the browsing environment needs to be left to the user, not the designer. Bad idea, no matter the intent.
posted by Dreama at 3:56 PM on December 13, 2000

Windows / IE only

This is a browser and platform dependent hack. This should be enough to disqualify it.

posted by lagado at 4:12 PM on December 13, 2000

NO NO NO! My computer exists for ME TO DO THINGS WITH, not as a canvas for designers to express their overweight egos on.

The moment you open a browser to a website which you haven’t built, you’ve relinquished any desire to control that site. It’s rather presumptuous of you to believe that you know what good design practices are for all websites, and not at all presumptuous for a designer to believe he knows what is best for his. You basically disqualify any working knowledge a designer has over his project.

People hated frames when they first came out, Nietzsche’s colleagues couldn’t stand The Birth of Tragedy and the luddites smashed Model-Ts. I’m not comparing any of these to chromeless windows, but you should remember progress — in this sense the progress of visual communication on the web — can be an act of creative destruction. If the destruction here consists of GUI usuability in favor of experiential web environments, destroy-away.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 5:33 PM on December 13, 2000

you’ve relinquished any desire to control that site.

Site yes, my computer, no. Browser tricks and new windows and whatnot are all good and well, and when properly implemented are fine, but my computer is my computer. It even says so, right under that icon that looks nothing like my computer.

If a site designer wants to force something on me that I feel breaks my expectations of what my computer is supposed to do (like that annoying Javascript window jiggle thing that breaks everything except End Task) they aren't going to get me to visit again.

Personal sites, fine, whatever, my readership is no loss, but a commercial site is about repeat business, stickiness to use the slang the kids are all talking these days.

Creativity is one thing, and I actually do encourage it, but creativity that hurts your business? That's just plain stupid.
posted by cCranium at 5:50 PM on December 13, 2000

Communication, even on the web, is not irreparably linked to making money.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 7:03 PM on December 13, 2000

cC, you mean you don't like Earthquakes? =]

Here's the way I've always looked at this: anything within the browser window is fair game for a designer. The rest should be left for the users to customize as they see fit. I suppose that's why sites that launch in full-screen mode have always bugged me. I agree with Mars; this is not a Good Thing.
posted by Aaaugh! at 7:27 PM on December 13, 2000

we are now confronted to a problem.

are experiences Evil ?
i don't think so.

are people that play with [ currently ] browser specific functions, Evil ?
i don't think so.

if you don't experiment, you cant' keep your imagination high. You can't work on concepts that are unreachable for most current browsers [ or much longer to implement ].

i experienced that microbian hack, and it was a really good material to play with.

And nothing, absolutely nothing forbiddens you to develop a concurrent version of your experiment, accessible to NN-like browsers.

Furthermore, it's not because you do quick browsers hacks that you can't do cross-brows complient sites as your dayjob.

it mostly depends on the context.
my experiments for exemple work mostly on WIN2000/NT.
Because i don't have time to test them on Macs, because they use proprietary extensions, because it's a personnal site that i make for my own pleasure and because i have the right to make it accessible to the audience I WANT.
posted by deboute at 2:57 AM on December 14, 2000

capt.crackpipe: "Communication, even on the web, is not irreparably linked to making money."

I never said it was. What I said was that any site that wants my (me, myself, I, uno, I speak for no one else) to come back isn't going to dick with my browser. I don't care if it's the Most Fantabulous Place In CyberSpace (oer! a rhyme!) if I get annoyed merely by visiting the site the experience is soured.

deboute, the same thing applies. I'm all for experimentation, and if you want to use proprietary extensions that's great, you're probably able to do some pretty nifty stuff with them.

But personal sites and commercial sites are two different things. Commercial sites that expect to garner traffic - and more importantly repeat traffic - are shooting themselves in the foot if they piss off visitors.

That's all I said.
posted by cCranium at 6:30 AM on December 14, 2000

In what bizarre alternate universe would it be a good idea to have different windows with different UIs and UI widgets on the same monitor at the same time?

Sun's and Mozilla's worlds? Both Java and Mozilla do exactly what you are complaining about, and their designers think it's a Good Thing.
posted by daveadams at 9:07 AM on December 14, 2000

Rob, I will kick your ass in CS, suckatash.

Business practices, whatever. My original counter-point was about a “Uniform Design Theory” that stretched across all sites, all the time. Of course there isn’t, and just the idea of one existing is odious.

Can you tell I’m not a big fan Nielson?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2000

Captain, my captain, you most certainly will. :-)

daveadams, correct me if I'm wrong, it's been a while since I used Java or followed Java Best Practices, but don't Java developers, when creating an interface, tend to use native widgets where available?

Of course, I like the concept of good (the optimal word here) application skinning, but have yet to encounter anything that's more than just a different theme organzier. I like the ability to manipulate my interface the way I choose.

Note the "I choose" bit.

Captain, back to you. We aren't talking so much about site design as we are application manipulation. I'd certainly disagree with anyone who told me all sites have to act the exact same way - blech, boring - but outside the portion of my computer I dedicate to the site (the portion inside the browser, not including the actual browser UI) back off.

Note also that I think popups done properly look quite nice without the UI chrome, it's that much more the designer can do to envelop the user in their site, but an adequate (and obvious) replacement for the window tools is more important than style. If you kill the chrome and put your own chrome with the same functionality (close window and minimize window and a maximize window fobs and the ability to move and resize windows) that's cool. I have no problems with that.

Qualifier: when implemented properly. I can't say that enough. And I can't say what that is until I see it done poorly, unfortunately.

The problem is with sites that won't do that sort of thing, and make me resort to the task manager to kill the bastards off.

Also, going to the trouble of reimplementing your special version of UI chrome is, quite frankly, pointless. That's what the Operating System is there for.
posted by cCranium at 11:30 AM on December 14, 2000

daveadams said:
Sun's and Mozilla's worlds? Both Java and Mozilla do exactly what you are complaining about, and their designers think it's a Good Thing.

Every review I've read about Netscape 6 has complained about its weird non-native widgets. Maybe there are people who like them, but as far as I can tell the consensus is that Mozilla's designers did the Wrong Thing there.

As far as Java - I didn't know that they used custom widgets too. I wonder whether that feature has anything to do with Java's spectacular success as an GUI application development language.

cCranium explains half of why this is a problem:
Also, going to the trouble of reimplementing your special version of UI chrome is, quite frankly, pointless.

It is basically impossible to improve on the functionality of the native window widgets, because there is so little you can do with a window - you can close, collapse, zoom, resize, and move it, but that's all.

Even in the optimal case that your custom window widgets can do all of those things in as convenient a manner as the native GUI widgets did, you still experience a net loss, because the user has to learn your system. They can't apply their existing knowledge of How Windows Work to your window; they have to spend time learning your design, decoding your icons, shifting their expectations about where to click. Maybe it's a small amount of time, but you, the designer, still lose - unless you think your design is more important than the user's convenience, in which case you need to have your designer's license taken away.

Creating your own window chrome is, in the best case, worse than pointless.

capt.crackpipe said:
The moment you open a browser to a website which you haven’t built, you’ve relinquished any desire to control that site.

You are missing the point entirely. At no point do I relinquish desire to control MY COMPUTER. I didn't launch a web browser for the privilege of offering up my machine as a platter from which to sample the brilliance of somebody's glittering web design.

If what the web designer does inside the browser is bizarre, incomprehensible, or encrusted with flashy-boingy animations, I will simply go elsewhere. If I really wanted to see what was on the site, I'll swear at them a bit as I leave.

The point at which bad design ceases to be bad design and becomes outright evilness is the point at which the site reaches outside the browser and starts breaking my system. That's why javascripts that pop open windows are evil; javascripts that resize and move windows are even more evil; javascripts that turn off window chrome are vapors from the abyss.

I'm sick of designer ego. I'm here because I want something, so make it easy for me to find it, and then get the hell out of my way.

I'm also tired of seing all these upstart web designer people casually disregard the vast body of knowledge gleaned from years of application UI development as though what they were creating were something completely new and not at least half just a modern spin on an idea as old as the mainframe.... but I'd better stop myself before I go off into grumpy irrelevant old-timer mode.

Rant off.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:16 PM on December 14, 2000

Preach on, Brother Mars!
posted by beth at 1:25 PM on December 14, 2000

We’re obviously looking at this from different perspectives. You guys basically look at the web/internet as an information appliance, I look at it as that and an as-yet underdeveloped expirmentation space. So, in my mind, anything that breaks these evil rectangles is a plus in my book.

Do you know rectangles don’t occur in nature? The rectangle — four 90° angles — is artificial. Yet, every day we sit in front of a box when turned on opens more little boxes. I type into a little box inside a box, and you guys won’t be able to read this until I click on a little yellow box just below this box. This interaction is fundamentally differnet than any in history. A tyranny of squares.

You think all those boxes in web logos is a coincidence? The k10k krew understand this, and in their own way, revel in it.

Being inundated with all this artifice changes humanity. Shaking our faith in these boxes, even crashing them, makes us reevaluate our faith in the technology itself. And what good is art — design is art — if it doesn’t ask questions of our lives, or at least, the project the design is communicating? If all you want is access to information, why did you upgrade from Gopher?

When I say “break the rules” I’m not quoting an ad campaign (which they tried to sell one of my former companies, and we kicked them in the ass on the way out the door), I’m talking about real innovation in media. cr00ked mile changed the way I looked at frames. Most of the stuff at Day-dream and E13 are genre bending. Potatoland shows me that dhtml isn’t just for sliding toolbars around. These examples break rules, break expectations, and if you’re lucky, will break your computer.

You can understand why I simply don’t understand your whole ego bit. I trust designers to communicate to me in a way that words, or the facts, simply can’t. In the end, the questions they ask and the answers that come in reply will stand longer than a piece of data.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:56 PM on December 14, 2000

but I'd better stop myself before I go off into grumpy irrelevant old-timer mode.

That's a fun mode to be in though.

Or at least, that's how I justify it to myself.

As far as Java - I didn't know that they used custom widgets too.

From what I understand (but like I said before, my Java knowledge is somewhat outdated) Java developers have the option (and when I was learning it was encouraged) to use the native widgets, but sometimes widgets aren't implemented across all the OSes you want to use the application on.

To remedy that, the Java developers also created some new widgets specific to Java itself.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

because the user has to learn your system.

While I do agree with pretty much everything said in this portion, there are situations where I could see it being desirable to implement a chrome-less window.

If the browser truly is to be the interface to all applications from here on out (which is a concept I don't really enjoy, but will obviously adapt to if need be) then having greater control of the chrome could be important if you're implementing, say, some kind of virtual environment.

Immersion into a "world" is a pretty important facet of gaming, to pick a really easy example, so if I bend my mind in disturbing and uncomfortable ways, I can see the potential use of reimplementing UI widgets.

It's a reasonably large stretch though, to find justification for it, and it's a justification that doesn't currently apply to anything except online artistic expression.
posted by cCranium at 2:00 PM on December 14, 2000

Those were some interesting sites crackpipe, thanks for the links.

Though I'll never go back. Not because they're especially annoying (they stayed within my rectangles :-) but because they don't really offer me anything other than some eye-candy that looses it's flavour quickly.

I can admire the coding technique that went into those, and the people that make sites like those are definetely stretching the limits and figuring out what works where and how, but they just don't fill any void I'm lacking.

Y'know, I'd find them far more interesting if they included a "how we did this stuff" section, or some thoughts on what they were trying to accomplish, what it means to them.

My Internet really is an information source. But that information isn't limited to how much product x costs or why it's good or whatever.

That information includes stuff like learning about why the artists did that, what their technique is. Speaking of grumpy old-timer mode, my Internet includes the open nature. Not "This is my art, piss off" but "This is my art. Here's how and why I did it."

I don't think I'm expressing myself properly, and to do so would probably require a whole lot of vague "y'know?"s and sentences ending in "kind of." And I've already gone so far off chromeless windows I don't think I'll find my way back.

I want to know more about what drove the person to create what they've created, what they see when the look at what they've done, what it means to them.
posted by cCranium at 2:34 PM on December 14, 2000

Revisiting an earlier point: Mozilla Chrome wasn't developed to be a "lookit how kewl it is!" feature. Chrome is part of the overall XUL package which allows developers create web apps and brand them with their own look. But XUL goes way beyond simple "themes" or "skins." A company with a killer app can grab Mozilla for free, write the app GUI in XUL, re-brand it with the company colors, logo, etc. and market it as part of the package. XUL allows you to create GUI elements you normally wouldn't have the option of creating, so you're not stuck with the Windows API to build your app. And XUL practically eliminates the need for DHTML tricks like drop-down menus. Why bother why you can use real UI elements?

All the standard WIMP elements are there in XUL. I have yet to see any "weird non-native widgets." Even the most radical implementations I've seen (there aren't many) still have recognizable elements.

Inevitably there will be people who see Chrome/XUL as a useless toy; all I can say is they're missing the bigger picture.
posted by scottandrew at 4:55 PM on December 14, 2000

all through the day, i preach ergonomy.
all through the day, i preach standards.
all through the day, i preach usability.

when nights falls, i give myself the right to do stupid things with my browsers, just to learn to think outside the box.
in a place with a lot of warnings.

the job of a webdev is to deliver standard complient and usable products.
but where you make a personnal site, you don't have Jakob Nielsen sticking a gun in your face.

is freedom a cardinal sin ?

but don't test.
don't test XML, don't test XSLT, don't test ECMA, don't test CSS, don't test Flash.
don't try the limits of client-server interactions.

posted by deboute at 5:15 PM on December 14, 2000

I want to know more about what drove the person to create what they've created, what they see when the look at what they've done, what it means to them.

some people don't want.
some people have only the urge to produce.
some people want the watchers to wander.
some people want the site to be unusable.

other people want.


do you know why Picasso painted 'Montres Molles' ?

posted by deboute at 5:22 PM on December 14, 2000

He didn’t.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:02 AM on December 15, 2000

RE Java's use of native and non-native widgets...

Actually, originally Java did use native widgets through a method called "peering" where the VM would request certain native components be displayed and would map events relating to those components to AWT (Java's toolkit) callbacks. The system was (quite obviously) thrown together with little planning and didn't work very well. There were problems in that various GUIs didn't support all widgets in the same way. Sun fixed some of the event structure issues with JDK 1.1 but the widget issues were still there.

So with the introduction of Java 2TM (JDK >1.2), Sun added an option to use non-native widgets with a LookAndFeel object. Java runtimes came with one called "Metal" and there were LAF objects for Windows, Mac, and Motif. It's been a while so I can't remember if these were implemented to use the old AWT peers or if they were just drawn to look the same as native widgets (in which case you could run an app that looked like Motif in Windows, but like I said, I can't remember now). I imagine they used peers. Anyway, you could detect the platform you were running on and use the appropriate LAF object, or just use Metal for everything.

In any case, it's much easier to just stick with Metal, and some developers even create their own custom LAFs. Anyway, yes, Java has a set of custom widgets.
posted by daveadams at 10:51 AM on December 15, 2000

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -NO NO NO! My computer exists for ME...
Yes... I'm with you on that point your computer is yours and nobody may go inside it and change it... but Chromeless Windows don't do that... all you see is HTML and nothing comes out the site so it don't go outsite the limits xD
PD: Mars this is not for you... dont read that last line xD
New Chromeless Windows version is up on for everybody [._-]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

posted by powerzone at 3:11 PM on December 27, 2000

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