Poor man’s code repository and versioning with Dropbox

Dropbox Logo

By now just about everyone knows about Dropbox, the simple file syncing/sharing and online backup solution. The software is available for several operating systems and is very fast and intuitive. It even has a good online interface so you can access your dropbox from anywhere.

But did you think about using it as a poor man’s CVS? It’s actually a really good solution for personal projects, or for a small group of people working on a project. I have fallen in love with the service for several reasons.

Read more…

Friendly URLs in an ASP.NET app


Friendly URLs are a great way to improve SEO, promote linking and generally make your web application look more professional. If you have already hopped on to the MVC bandwagon then you don’t need to worry about it, friendly URLs are one of the great many benefits to using ASP.NET MVC. However, if you are still using web forms you will have to go through a couple extra steps to get the same effect.

Just in case you don’t know what a friendly url is, “friendly URLs” (aka “Pretty URLs”, “Beautiful URLs”, “URL Rewriting”, “URL Mapping”, “SEO URLs”, etc.)  I am talking about pages or resources that are identified by keywords in a pseudo-directory structure. For Example, you have a web application with a search page. In a standard web forms application your URI will probably look something like this:


In a friendly URL structure, your URI would look something like this:


This is a much leaner and cleaner looking link. Really better in every way, though if you are still using ASP.NET web forms you will have to go through some trouble to make your links look like that. As well as having to deal with maintaining the rules and code to support it. It may very well not be worth the trouble.

If your web application is consumer facing and relies on search engines for traffic then you should probably implement friendly URLs in some form for your app.

Read more…

Publishing XML to the web with XSLT: a replacement for the presentation layer


Most web APIs and data feeds are built to consume and produce XML data. RSS, SOAP, REST, ATOM, AJAX, web-services, indeed, even XHTML itself is a form of XML. If you publish anything to the web you’re probably publishing XML in some form or another. Many web developers work with some flavor of XML every day.

However few have heard of XSLT, a standard language adopted by the W3C a decade ago for styling XML data for user consumption. XSLT, or XSL Transform, is a real language, part of XSL, the XML Stylesheet Language. XSLT is a tool for reformatting XML data, literally an XML stylesheet. This powerful language lets you convert XML data into almost any other XML structure you could imagine, including completely valid and functional XHTML.

Simply put, if your web application has been built to produce XML for feeds or APIs, then you do not need to build another set of logic to make a web version. You can let web browsers hit the service, just as you would for feeds or APIs. Just create an XSLT and link it from your XML document. All modern browsers will render the XSLT and display it as a normal web page.

Read more…

External templates for the DataView control: Microsoft Ajax Library 4.0


One of the best things about templates is how portable they are. You can build a template for a particular piece of presentation and then use that template everywhere you need it. In fact you can have several templates to choose from, giving you themes and different ways of displaying the same data.

This is a very powerful and very maintainable technique. Portable template files are a great example of the Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) principal and are a good idea for any template that will see reuse.

The new DataView control in the latest beta of the Microsoft Ajax Library version 4.0 (aka the ASP.NET AJAX Library) has a fine template engine built into it. Unfortunately, those templates must be embedded in the page markup. If it’s your project then you can simply use an ascx User Control, or a ContentPlaceHolder or an Html.RenderPartial, but what if you need to be able to use the template on a static file, or a clients site, or even in another framework? You can’t have portable template files that you can just call anywhere. Well, you can, but you have to use a workaround technique.

This is one technique that I came up with for importing a template file into a page. This lets me have one (or a selection of) template files that I can use everywhere for a portable JavaScript widget. It has no dependencies other than the Microsoft Ajax Library.

Read more…

Must-have Firefox Add-ons for Web Developers & Designers

Firefox Logo

Mozilla Firefox is by far my favorite web browser. It is secure, feature packed, and very well maintained with a great community behind it. It is also the web developers’ best friend, with tons of built-in tools and user created add-ons to help people creating web sites. In my opinion, because of the array of tools available and the quality of the product, every web developer should already be using Firefox as their main browser.

This is an arbitrary list of my favorite Firefox add-ons for web development. These tools have fundamentally changed how I design and develop web pages. With these tools I can accomplish tasks in minutes that would have taken me hours just four years ago.

Read more…