< March 2007 >
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Thu, 29 Mar 2007:

Immediately after announcing the Y! mail unlimited storage, the webservices api for Y! mail has also been announced. The API is loosely modelled over NNTP and IMAP (and when I say loosely, I mean the designers read both specs *heh*) and has some really interesting features. But more importantly, now you can do cool things with it.

About 4 months back, one of the mail backend developers, Ryan Kennedy, visited Bangalore to talk about the internal workings of this awesome API. I'd gotten slightly interested because there was talk about a JSON based API which looked a lot easier to use from Javascript land. And when the hack day came around, I had managed to hack up a pretty decent Y! mail reader interface using XUL, which I named Tapestry.

Most of the XUL code is pulled out of Thunderbird code and a large amout of the UI is controlled by CSS. The XUL css selectors are really funky - take a closer look at my css for how the different styles for messages (read, unread, replied) is css based rather than with code in Javascript. Also I played around with image slicing with CSS to put all my toolbar images into a single image and using rectangle clips to use them in appropriate buttons. In short, I had a lot of fun learning stuff to write it. But the problem was that having done it, I couldn't really show it to anyone outside the company - but now I can.

But before the demo, let me quote my bloody stupid threading code which I wrote in under twenty minutes, which unlike jwz's threading algorithm, mine handles only In-Reply-To based mail threads. But the cool part is that this function is sort of "re-entrant", so calling it multiple times from async response code manages to simulate threading as an when a message is fetched - not having to wait for all the messages to load up.

Folder.prototype.sort = function() {
    for (var i=0; i<this.msglist.length; i++) {
        var msg = this.msglist[i];
        var parent = null;
            if(msg.parentid && (parent = this.msgidmap[msg.parentid]))
                msg.parent = parent;

I don't want to attract too much attention to the hack, because of some hosting issues. So if you'd really like to see it in action and have a Y! mail beta account & run firefox 1.5/2.0, keep reading.

Ryan had hosted an in-colo mirror of my hack - it might be slow to load the images because those are on-demand and not JS pre-fetched. It is my initial release and a lot of buttons and menus don't work there. Not much has been done on top of this, but the minimum functionality works and you should probably scroll through with the keyboard which is something I *really* need. I'm sure the layout code could do with a bit of work, especially on widescreen monitors - but it was something I did for fun. The code should prove interesting to anybody who wants to read it, because I've tried a few new things with javascript and generally that has come out really well.

Always do it right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
                -- Mark Twain

posted at: 18:45 | path: /hacks | permalink | Tags: , , ,