Why having open documents as horizontal tabs in text editors doesn’t make sense

For the last few years I’ve used the Brackets text editor for most of my coding work, I’ve used a few different editors over the years but there are a few features that I specifically like about Brackets. At the top of that list of features is that all open documents are displayed in some kind of “Working files” section a vertical list in the side panel of the main window.

Last year Adobe who originally created Brackets as an open source project discontinued their support for it, so as it seemed like the writing was on the wall for Brackets I thought it was time to check out some other text editors to see if there was an alternative that I might switch to sometime in the future.

I tried a few different editors, Nova, BBEdit, Atom, Visual Studio Code, amongst others, and one of the things I noticed about most of them is that when documents were opened they appeared in horizontal tabs above the document window. Atom and Visual Studio Code seem to have plugins / extensions that can possibly modify that behaviour and BBEdit has a “Currently open documents” panel available by default which is the closest I found to what I wanted.

Thankfully the Brackets project had a lot of people who still wanted to use it so it has actually continued as an open source project now separate from Adobe, so my need to find a new editor can thankfully be put on hold for the time being. Out of curiosity today though I took a look at a few editors again just to see if vertical tabs / list for open documents has become more common yet, however things don’t seem to have changed much since I last looked.

It’s surprising as horizontal tabs just make so little sense to me in this context, I realise it’s a common web browser feature to have horizontal tabs but even that has begun to change with Microsoft Edge supporting vertical tabs and the latest Safari on Mac OS adding Tab groups as a vertical list at the side of the browser window.

As an example of why horizontal tabs don’t work well I mocked up what another commonly used app would look like if it showed documents horizontally rather than a list: an Email app. Here’s a comparison to an email app with the standard vertical list of emails with what it would be like with horizontal tabs instead:

This is the normal type of email application UI with a vertical list of emails, it’s easy to scroll down the list of emails and select the one you want to view.
This is what an email application would be like if the emails were shown as horizontal tabs as is common in most text editor applications.

It would obviously be a bit of a nightmare to use an email application like that, but this is exactly what using a text editor without vertical tabs feels like to me when I try to use them!

RC Post Rating WordPress plugin

For a site I was working on recently I needed a function to let users give feedback on each page in the form of upvote / downvotes. I had used a plugin that did this in the past but it was quite old and its codebase was out of date, other plugins I found seemed to be focused more on star ratings e.g. 1-5 stars.

So to meet this need I’ve made a new WordPress plugin called “RC Post Rating”, it provides a two-button widget that can be added to pages, posts or other custom post types and allows users to submit positive or negative ratings for that specific content. You can find out more about it and other WordPress plugins on my Projects page.

“RC Post Rating” is available to install or download from the WordPress plugin repository, you can view more details about it, download the source code etc (licenced under GPL V2) from the plugin page in the WordPress plugin directory here:

Disable Login Language Selector on WordPress 5.9

With the release of WordPress 5.9 comes a new dropdown language selector on the Login screen for WordPress that lets users switch to any language that has been installed on the website. As long as there is more than one active language on the site then this dropdown selector will be visible and is a great feature for multi-lingual sites.

If, like me however, you develop a website which already has a language switcher in place, either via your own code or another plugin then you may not want the new language selector to appear. Thankfully WordPress 5.9 also comes with a filter that you can use to disable the selector, so you can use this simple line of code in the ‘functions.php’ file in your theme to do so:

add_filter( 'login_display_language_dropdown', '__return_false' );

Whilst it is fairly simple to add this to your theme for some people it may not be possible to edit your theme files and such it’s much easier to install a plugin, so I’ve made a simple plugin which is now live in the WordPress plugin directory. The “Disable Login Language Selector” plugin provides a quick and easy way to remove the Language selector that appears on the login screen in WordPress 5.9.

(Note that my other WordPress plugins have also been tested in WordPress 5.9 too so will happily work with the new release.)

iPhone view of 2021

I made a post last year “11 years of iPhone images” which included all of the short videos I’ve made each year since 2010/11 compiling all of the images from my phone each year. I made the 2021 video during the Christmas holidays and I realised I hadn’t posted it to my site. So here it is:

I hadn’t actually posted many photos to my Instagram account in 2021 but for various reasons there were actually a lot of photos taken with my phone in 2021 (a large amount due to having to clear out a storage unit and subsequently selling off a load of old Macs and tech equipment I’d collected as well as CDs, DVDs and more).

Atari XP collection – never-released and rare Atari games from the 1970s and 1980s

Atari XP are releasing some actual cartridges for games that were never actually released back in 1970’s / 80’s.

They describe it as “Never-before released Atari® 2600 game cartridges. Available for the first time”. The games are described as:

Games that were completed but never received an official release, or were only released in very limited quantities. 

Games for which physical media has become extremely rare, and therefore hard to find.

A wide variety of classic games that would benefit from small improvements to graphic rendering on modern devices and the smoothness and accuracy of controls. These games will be carefully ‘reconditioned’ and then re-released.

The first three games they are releasing are “Yars’ Return“, “Saboteur” and “Aquaventure“.

Unfortunately they are only for sale in the United States at the moment but hopefully will become available elsewhere in future. But it’s pretty cool that I could possibly buy new cartridges for my own Atari 2600 console! :)

Run early Macromedia Director CDROM apps with ScummVM

I hadn’t heard of this software before but ScummVM is a program which allows you to run certain classic graphical adventure and role-playing games on modern hardware and operating systems. They just recently announced support for some early Director 2 and 3 CDROM software:

After 5 years of active development, we are glad to finally announce the first MacroMind/Macromedia Director-based games to be supported.

https://www.scummvm.org/news/20210817/

As someone who spent quite a bit of time developing CDROM software whilst studying and working at DJCAD in the 1990’s it’s great to see efforts like this. So much interesting software from that era is unavailable for people to try out unless you’ve got old hardware and OS to run it on.

The CDROM era boomed in the 1990’s, as the internet and world wide web was still it’s infancy bandwidth was a huge limitation for distributing multimedia content. So alongside more mainstream uses such as Microsoft Encarta the CDROM became a way to try more experimental output such as bands including additional interactive content on music CDs and publishers making CDROM magazines such as Blender.

Cover of Blender magazine (Photo via WikiCommons)

Ultimately a lot of these efforts were unsuccessfully financially, but there were so many great, experimental CDROM made by artists and musicians so it’s unfortunate that so much of it is inaccessible from a historical perspective.

For people studying interactive media today I think being able to use and try out some of the CDROMs from the 1990s / early 2000s would be really useful in regard to understanding trends and seeing what experiences did and didn’t work, as well as just what it was like to use interactive media back in those days.

I’ve often thought that the big rush to create interactive iPad apps to “save publishing” after the iPad came out in 2010 would have greatly benefited if more people were familiar with some of the failed experiments in the 1990s as I think they basically repeated some of the same mistakes with iPad apps as were made with CDROMs.

So any efforts like ScummVM are great to see, I’m hoping they will eventually be able to support later versions of Director so that I can try out some of the CDROMs I still have in my collection. In the meantime I can still run pretty much all of it on my tangerine iBook G3 :)

“The Gaze” – by Barry Jenkins

I came across this on Kottke.org, I’ve been planning on watching Amazon’s new “The Underground Railroad” series so it caught my eye. It’s effectively an unplanned side-project they made whilst filming the actual series, it portrays an array of actors standing before the camera:

I don’t remember when we began making the piece you see here. Which is not and should not be considered an episode of The Underground Railroad. It exists apart from that, outside it. Early in production, there was a moment where I looked across the set and what I saw settled me: our background actors, in working with folks like Ms. Wendy and Mr. and Mrs. King – styled and dressed and made up by Caroline, by Lawrence and Donnie – I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost to the historical record. Without thinking, we paused production on the The Underground Railroad and instead harnessed our tools to capture portraits of… them.

(I’ve also been replaying “Red Dead Redemption II” which has an incredible level of detail of late 1800’s America and the scenery and costumes of the video above reminded me of some of the areas of the RDII environment. RDII is actually set in 1899, so almost 50 years after the time of The Underground Railroad series, it kind of blew my mind that the house I own here in Scotland was built in 1899!)