inessential by Brent Simmons

Embedded browser changes

NetNewsWire 2.0 browser tabs screenshot

The browser in the latest beta of NetNewsWire 2.0 has a few changes. One is an updated look for the browser tabs. (Click the thumbnail to see a screen shot.)

Also there is now a Feed button in the lower-right corner that appears when a page you’re viewing has a feed. NetNewsWire looks for the proper link tag in the source of the page, as described here.

Click the button to subscribe to the feed. (The subscribe sheet appears with the URL filled in.)

When we first added this feature, I found it oddly addicting—I just surfed around looking to see which sites would make the Feed button appear. What I found was that lots of sites make the Feed button appear: I was happily surprised.

(Note: the Feed button doesn’t appear for a site that you’ve already subscribed to. So if it doesn’t appear for your weblog, it’s probably because you’ve subscribed to your weblog.)

More about the look of the tabs...

The look of the tabs is tricky because there is no standard tab widget that works for browser tabs. Yes, there is a standard Cocoa tab widget, but it’s not good for browser tabs. (Note how Safari, Firefox, etc. use custom tab widgets.)

We ended up making them rectangles instead of rounded, since in this context it looks sharper. And, instead of a single gradient, it’s a two-tone, two-gradient look, kind of a “glass” look, that you see in other parts of the OS X user interface.

With the standard tab widget, the selected tab is blue-ish (or graphite-ish)—but with browser tabs this is highly distracting. Since we couldn’t use color, it was quite a challenge to get enough contrast between active and inactive and highlighted tabs. We iterated over it a bit, and ended up quite happy with the results.

I suspect that one of these days there will have to be a variant of the standard Cocoa NSTabView that works for tabbed browsers (and similar). More and more apps are using the idea (not just browsers)—eventually a consistent look will be a good idea. But, for now, people are experimenting, trying different things, which is cool.