Web trends in science: javascript

When I first started out writing simple web pages circa 1995, JavaScript was frowned upon. It was a security risk, browser support was poor, people tended to switch it off, there were different versions and we were instructed that web page code should be compact, since most people had dialup connections.

Jump forward 10 years and a WWW without JavaScript is almost unthinkable, since it’s a major component of AJAX, which powers all the Web 2.0 applications that we know and love. It’s also used in Greasemonkey scripts, which have proved extremely useful to bioinformaticians and even merit academic publication.

Why am I musing on this topic? I’m sitting here with Zoho Writer in one Firefox tab and my CiteULike references in another. I’m thinking: surely with a little JavaScript, I could choose a reference from CiteULike and drop both a numbered citation and a formatted reference into Zoho Writer. I find myself visualising a Firefox addon in which I enter a CiteULike tag, get a drop-down list of references and insert into an online document with one click.

Sadly, I just don’t have the skills to take this further or much time to learn them. I have plenty of bookmarks on del.icio.us pointing to online tutorials, how-tos and teach yourself guides. If anyone has a favourite resource that they used to learn how to code JavaScript, XUL, Firefox extensions and the like, feel free to leave a comment.

4 thoughts on “Web trends in science: javascript

  1. Hi Neil,
    I’m also still looking for a good reference about XUL. I bought O’Reilly’s “Programming Firefox Building Rich Internet Applications with XUL” but it is still difficult to start and build a project just because I can’t find what I need in the API-doc. On the other hand “JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, Fifth Edition” is THE reference and is a valuable resource to learn the langage.


  2. By the way, if you know java, the google web toolkit is another good way to make a great site without writing one line of javascript…

  3. Hi Neil, thanks for the interesting post. This is definitively on our radar for refbase. I’ve just developed an OpenSearch API for refbase which returns standard OpenSearch Atom XML that includes the record’s cite key as well as the formatted citation. I’d love to develop a Firefox plugin for it, but, unfortunately, I also lack knowledge of XUL, maybe some of the existing plugins can work as a good starting point… Use of OpenSearch Atom XML as exchange format would be especially useful since the plugin could potentially work with other applications as well. –Matthias

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