Honing in on browser incompatibility issues in Web development, Adobe Systems is launching CSS Advisor , a Web site that documents these problems and offers solutions.
The site is geared to users of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and features best practices for Web page development.
"With CSS Advisor, the problem that we set out to solve is that people are wasting a huge amount of time trying to make their pages look the same across different browsers," said Kenneth Berger, Adobe product manager for the company's Dreamweaver technology.
CSS Advisor provides a central resource to show developers what they might run into, such as dealing with content overflow on an Internet Explorer page that was not a problem with Firefox, Berger said. Developers can access lists of issues focusing on margins, he said. About 30 browser issues are featured now.
CSS itself has introduced a lot of compatibility issues, Berger said. "There's a major change in Web design, with people changing from table-based layout to CSS layout," said Berger. But CSS offers advantages such as making pages more lightweight so they download faster. CSS pages also are more searchable and more easily accessible by disabled persons.
Adobe has seeded CSS Advisor with a lot of information but the community-driven site allows for user input as well by anyone with an Adobe account. Adobe is administering the site to prevent inaccurate information from being posted.
Adobe plans to integrate its Dreamweaver technology with CSS Advisors next spring. "What you'll be able to do is automatically detect top issues within Dreamweaver proactively," Berger said. Dreamweaver is Adobe's HTML-based tool for building rich Internet applications that do not use the company's Flash technology.
CSS Advisor is a "great idea," said Dreamweaver user Jason Brightman, Web director at Harris Publications.
Serving as central repository, CSS Advisor gathers together information now scattered over hundreds of sites, Brightman said.
Developers are running into all sorts of cross-browser compatibility issues these days, Brightman said. "A lot of them have to do with IE 6, which is not a very CSS-compliant browser," he said. CSS itself allows for faster development of Web sites and it separates design and content layers to make it easier to redesign or update, he added.
"Essentially, the problem with AJAX is that it's really not as easy as folks would like, to get started with," Berger said.
Version 1.4 is a preview release that features a higher level of maturity than the initial 1.0 release offered in April. Developers can use version 1.4 in production systems.
Featured in version 1.4 are form validation widgets, enabling pages to feature forms that can be validated by users on an e-commerce site. Data such as credit card information can be validated.
A general release of Spry is expected with the 2007 availability of Dreamweaver.