With Firefox 3 getting ever closer to release it is time (well, past time) to start thinking about the future. The Extension Manager has seen quite a number of improvements since Firefox 2. Many were designed to be invisible, generally improving stability and fixing oddities. Some are extremely visible such as the new security requirements and the addons.mozilla.org integration. The question is, what’s the next step for add-ons management?
Here are a few ideas that are floating around my mind to get you started:
- Installing add-ons without restarts
- Presenting more detail in the install dialog
- Simplifying the UI
- Deprecating install.rdf and replacing with a simpler xml or json format
- Add-on dependencies with automatic resolution
So what have I missed? Please keep any comments restricted to add-ons management, either as a user installing and using add-ons or as a developer writing add-ons. While I am interested in the future of Firefox as a whole I don’t want this to be a mass feature request for the product.
In the past the Gecko SDK was somewhat limited. You could compile against it, but only if you were using frozen components, of which there are exceptionally few. You can build an application with only them, but I’d be startled if any moderately complicated app or extension gets by with only them. Thankfully this has changed for 1.9 and the new style SDK contains all interfaces and headers, frozen and unfrozen. This gives you access to lots more, though has the minor disadvantage that you have to keep an eye on what you are using as it could break in the future.
Just one snag with this new SDK though. The Mac version was missing something. Like a bunch of the tools and the XUL framework snapshot. It turns out that the method of packaging the SDK really didn’t work too well when you’re building a universal XULRunner, which is of course what we do.
After a bunch of work by plasticmillion and myself and a bunch of reviewing and generally dealing with our pesky questions by bsmedberg, the Mac XULRunner tinderbox is now producing working SDKs for every build. And I do mean the plural there. Building just one unified SDK is pretty tricky, even manually, let alone trying to make the Mozilla build system do it. Instead two SDKs are build, one for the powerpc architecture and one for intel. This actually works out well if you are producing an unified application using the Mozilla build system. All you really need are these magic lines in the mozconfig for your application:
ac_add_app_options ppc --with-libxul-sdk=<path to powerpc sdk>
ac_add_app_options i386 --with-libxul-sdk=<path to intel sdk>
I’m just about to update the McCoy application to use the SDKs rather than having to build a full XULRunner alongside. This will make building McCoy simpler, particularly a unified Mac version which for the initial release I pretty much had to stitch together by hand. It will also I hope resolve some stability issues on Linux. I hope to have a new version out soon with some popularly requested new features.
I should note that the powerpc SDK is not a pure powerpc SDK. It is designed to be used to compile the powerpc portion of an applicaton using a build machine that is intel based. Unfortunately some of the important build tools cannot be cross-compiled for the powerpc architecture since the dependencies are only one architecture. Hopefully this will suit the majority of people.