XUL

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XUL
Paradigm(s) Declarative (markup language)
Developer Mozilla Foundation
Major implementations Mozilla
Influenced by HTML, XML
Implementation language C++
Platform Gecko
OS Cross-platform
License MPL
Filename extension(s) .xul
MIME type: application/vnd.mozilla.xul+xml
Website https://developer.mozilla.org/En/XUL

XUL (/ˈzl/ ZOOL), which stands for XML User Interface Language, is a user interface markup language that is developed by Mozilla. XUL is implemented as an XML dialect; it allows for graphical user interfaces to be written in a similar manner to Web pages.

XUL can be used to write cross-platform applications such as Mozilla Firefox, where it is interpreted by the layout engine known as Gecko which renders Firefox's user interface and Web page display.[1]

Design[edit]

XUL relies on multiple existing Web standards and Web technologies, including CSS, JavaScript, and DOM. Such reliance makes XUL relatively easy to learn for people with a background in Web programming and design.

XUL has no formal specification and does not inter-operate with non-Gecko implementations. However, it uses an open source implementation of Gecko, that was tri-licensed under the GNU GPL, GNU LGPL, and MPL[2] until Gecko upgraded to GPL-compatible, MPL 2.0.

Mozilla provides experimental XULRunner builds to let developers build their applications on top of the Mozilla application framework and of XUL in particular.

XUL provides a portable definition for common widgets, allowing them to move easily to any platform on which Mozilla applications run.[3]

XUL documents[edit]

Programmers typically define a XUL interface as three discrete sets of components:

  1. content: the XUL document(s), whose elements define the layout of the user interface
  2. skin: the CSS and image files, which define the appearance of an application
  3. locale: the files containing user-visible strings for easy software localization

XUL elements[edit]

XUL defines a wide range of elements, which roughly belong to the following types:

Top-level elements
window, page, dialog, wizard, etc.
Widgets
label, button, text box, list box, combo box, radio button, check box, tree, menu, toolbar, group box, tab box, colorpicker, spacer, splitter, etc.
Box model
box, grid, stack, deck, etc.
Events and scripts
script, command, key, broadcaster, observer, etc.
Data source
template, rule, etc.
Others
overlay (analogous to SSI, but client-side and more powerful, with higher performance), iframe, browser, editor, etc.

One can use elements from other applications of XML within XUL documents, such as XHTML, SVG, and MathML.

Mozilla added some common widgets — <scale/> (sometimes called "slider"), <textbox type="number"/> (spinbox), time and date pickers — during the Gecko 1.9 development cycle.[4]

XUL applications[edit]

While XUL serves primarily for constructing Mozilla applications and their extensions, it may also feature in Web applications transferred over HTTP. The Mozilla Amazon Browser, a former XUL application of this type, provided a rich interface for searching books at Amazon.com.[5]

However, many of the powerful features of Mozilla (such as privileged XPCOM objects) remain unavailable to unprivileged XUL documents unless the script has a digital signature, and unless the user obtains grants of certain[which?] privileges to the application. Such documents also suffer from various limitations of the browser, including the inability to load remote XUL, DTD, and RDF documents.

As Gecko provides the only full implementation of XUL, such applications remain inaccessible to users of browsers not based on Mozilla. Mozilla-programmers sometimes refer to XUL applications running locally as chrome.[6]

Other applications using XUL include:

  • The Ample SDK open-source GUI framework provides a cross-browser implementation of XUL in JavaScript.
  • The ActiveState Komodo IDE uses XUL as well as the Open Komodo project announced in 2007.
  • The Songbird music-player and Miro video-player both use built-in XUL.
  • The Elixon WCMS/XUL Content management system uses exclusively remote XUL, thus overcoming some of the aforementioned limits of remote unprivileged XUL documents.
  • The developers of the Celtx media pre-production application used XUL.
  • The Flickr Uploadr was built using XUL, and source code is available under GPLv2.[7]
  • Kiwix, the offline Wikipedia-viewer

With the release of Firefox 4, support for remote XUL was disabled by default, due to security concerns. Loading an XUL page via HTTP would now display an error unless the domain was added to a hidden whitelist.[8]

The name[edit]

The name "XUL" references the film Ghostbusters (1984), in which an ancient Sumerian deity called Zuul possesses the character Dana Barrett and declares, "There is no Dana, only Zuul". Since XUL, like MXML, uses XML to define an interface rather than a document, its developers adopted the slogan: "There is no data, there is only XUL". Hence the XML namespace URI at the beginning of every XUL document:

http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul

The linked document displays the slogan in large letters in the center of the screen.

"Keymaster" and "gatekeeper" also refer to elements of the Ghostbusters plot-line. (Other references to Ghostbusters also occur within Mozilla products: for instance, the JavaScript debugger component is called Venkman, after one of the main characters in the film.)

Example[edit]

This example shows three buttons stacked on top of each other in a vertical box container:[9]

Boxes-ex1.png
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<?xml-stylesheet href="chrome://global/skin/" type="text/css"?>
 
<window id="vbox example" title="Example 3...."
xmlns="http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul">
  <vbox>
    <button id="yes1" label="Yes"/>
    <button id="no1" label="No"/>
    <button id="maybe1" label="Maybe"/>
  </vbox>
</window>

Similar languages[edit]

Based on HTML, DHTML, and JavaScript, Microsoft's HTML Application resembles XUL as it provides a stand-alone capability to run applications on Windows, outside of a Web browser.

The Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) defines XAML, another declarative UI language similar to XUL — it runs on top of the .NET Framework stack.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gecko FAQ". Mozilla Developer Center. Mozilla Foundation. 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  2. ^ Mozilla Foundation. "Mozilla Code Licensing". Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  3. ^ "The Joy of XUL". Mozilla Foundation. 2007-09-09. Retrieved 2009-03-26. 
  4. ^ Firefox 3 for developers
  5. ^ "Remote Application Development with Mozilla, Part 2: A Case Study of the Mozilla Amazon Browser (MAB)". Oreillynet. 2003-02-05. 
  6. ^ Feldt, Kenneth C. (2007). Programming Firefox: Building Rich Internet Applications with XUL. O'Reilly Media. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-596-10243-7. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  7. ^ Getting your stuff onto Flickr
  8. ^ "Firefox 4 for developers". 
  9. ^ The Box Model - XUL | MDN. Developer.mozilla.org (2012-12-16). Retrieved on 2014-03-28.

External links[edit]