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Related Topics: FormattedSearch, InternetExplorer, MozillaBrowser, MozillaSidebar, OperaBrowser, PopupPageIndexForEditing, SherlockAndMozillaSearching, WebChanges, WebSidebar, WebSidebarIE, Main.WebSidebarIEAll, WebSidebarIEUninstall, MacIESidebar

Sidebars in Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher

The InternetExplorer has a nice feature called Explorer Bars (screenshot here 26kb) - these are sometimes called sidebars, after MozillaSidebars.

The TWiki implementation of Explorer Bars is ideal for tracking recent changes on TWiki sites (through WebChanges), 'diffs', and a 'list all topics' pop-up window (copy and paste topic names into the edit field, like PopupPageIndexForEditing). For non-IE users, there's a screenshot of the new TWiki sidebar for IE here (200KB, NEW). This is now enabled on TWiki.org, and easily added to any TWiki site.

Why does this matter?

One key issue for adoption of TWiki is to remind people to visit the site. Many people are used to using email for knowledge sharing, where there is an automatic way to check for new content since everyone checks their email regularly. TWiki requires people to remember to visit the TWiki site, which is a habit that takes time to develop (see HowToGetInternalBuyInForTWiki).

IE sidebars are one way to flag new content easily, with a visual reminder of the TWiki site sitting right there in the sidebar.

Another powerful way to do this is to use a separate desktop-based Active Desktop newsfeed reader (or TWikiSyndication using a tool such as FeedReader) to flag TWiki changes in a similar way. Currently this functionality isn't implemented, but it probably will be soon. smile

Get sidebars now!

Sidebars make it much easier to track changes to TWiki if you're an IE user. To add (or uninstall) TWiki.org sidebars to your IE 5.0+ browser, you just need to apply a simple .reg file to the registry.

  • NOTE: You are advised to install the BackFromPreviewLosesText and RefreshEditPage patches (also in TWikiAlphaRelease as of 26 Mar 2002) - these avoid loss of edit text when using the sidebar's pop-up windows, and are a good idea for any use of IE with the TWiki Dec 2001 release or earlier.

The easy way, for Windows (recommended)

FrankHartmann came up with this very useful technique, which does not require any registry edits, unlike the main technique documented on this page. It is much quicker and easier to install than the alternative. It has not been that widely tested but works on IE 5.5 at least.

  • Click here to view the all-web sidebar. Try it now - it has no permanent effect on your browser setup. You can also drag this link onto your IE 'Links' toolbar, letting you click into the IE sidebar at any time.

Notes:

  • This is particularly useful if your desktop PC is locked down for security reasons, or if you use Citrix type 'Windows application servers' whereby IE is running on a server.
  • Some extraneous search-related buttons do appear at the top of the bar, and the TWiki sidebar vanishes if you do an IE search.
  • If you open a new window you'll get a search sidebar rather than a TWiki sidebar. However, you can get the TWiki sidebar quickly if you've created a Links toolbar entry (just drag the link onto the Links toolbar).
  • To enable your TWiki users to add a sidebar to your web, install Main.WebSidebarIEAll in your Main web, and then add the following to a suitable TWiki page, in any web - customise the 'Codev' string to point to a suitable start web for the all-webs sidebar:
<a href="javascript:void(_search=open('%SCRIPTURL%/view%SCRIPTSUFFIX%/Main/WebSidebarIEAll?web=Codev&skin=plain','_search'))"><b>Click here to view the all-web sidebar</b></a>.  

The easy way, for MacOS (recommended)

MacOS users should check out MacIESidebar for instructions on installing the all-webs sidebar in Internet Explorer on a Macintosh. It is similar to the above technique and doesn't involve any complicated setup work.

All-webs sidebar

This technique requires registry updates and doesn't support the Links toolbar, but it does look somewhat nicer and persists into new windows.

  • Windows 2000/XP: Install Sidebar / Uninstall Sidebar
    • Right-click on the install/uninstall links above, and choose 'Save Target As' - then double-click the downloaded .reg file to modify the registry
  • Windows NT/98: Install Sidebar / Uninstall Sidebar
    • Using IE, right-click on the install/uninstall links above, and choose 'Save Target As'
    • For the Install file, edit this as described at start of WebSidebarMakerIE, replacing c:\YOUR_WINDOWS_DIR_GOES_HERE with your Windows directory, e.g. c:\windows
      • NOTE: This edit is only required for the Install Sidebar file, not for Uninstall Sidebar
    • Double-click the edited .reg file to modify the registry

You will need to close down IE (including Windows Explorer windows) for the sidebar to take effect. In some cases, you may need to reboot.

Single-web sidebars (not recommended)

These are more complex to use, since you must use View | Explorer Bar to switch webs - the all-webs sidebar is recommended for most people.

Click on one of the links below and follow instructions, if you're unfamilar with merging registry files. You will need to make some edits for Windows NT/98.

Main:   Install Sidebar / Uninstall Sidebar

TWiki:   Install Sidebar / Uninstall Sidebar

Codev:   Install Sidebar / Uninstall Sidebar

Plugins:   Install Sidebar / Uninstall Sidebar

Support:   Install Sidebar / Uninstall Sidebar

  • WARNING: Please be careful when working with the registry, as you can potentially cause problems with your Windows setup if you change something you're not supposed to. However, these registry edits don't seem to cause any problems, even if they don't work - and they can be easily uninstalled.

Sidebars for your own TWiki site

If you use the above links to create sidebars for your own wiki (whether cross-web or single-web), be sure to change the GUID values to a different, valid GUID value to avoid overwriting other twiki InternetExplorerSidebars.

Running a Google:GUID+generator search yields some good GUID generators.

  • To generate GUIDs using Perl on Windows: this CPAN directory has a Win32::Guidgen module (must be run on ActivePerl for Windows, requires Win32::API) - you will probably need to download manually, then just copy the Guidgen.pm file over to your ActivePerl's c:/perl/site/lib/Win32 directory.
  • A good command line GUID generator is guidgen - may be useful in doing a SidebarInstaller that can generate GUIDs and handle Windows NT/98.

Search TWikis Directly from the Location Bar!

If you have IE6 and TweakUI, you can setup search strings (aliases) to auto-search a particular twiki web with specific search options. This somewhat mirrors the fancier SherlockAndMozillaSearching system. (SherlockAndMozillaSearching cannot be easily be implemented in IE6 because Microsoft has apparently hardcoded the search bar to use their GUI).

To do this, add an entry under the IE/Search tab of TweakUI similar to: http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/search/Codev/?scope=text&search=%s and associate it with a text string (possibly codev...so typing something like: codev cool hacks) in the address bar (easily accessed by pressing F6 btw) would search the body of pages of the codev web for 'cool hacks'.

You could add as many of these as you like. Searching using the various options (topic titles only, all webs, bookview, etc.) can be accomplished too, just add the appropriate arguments to the html fragment above as appropriate. An easy way to find these out is to just run a twiki search using the options you want in the shortcut, and note the different ?name=arg arguments.

How sidebars work in IE

The user just double-clicks on the user-created registry file to add the sidebar, see the examples above. You can easily look at the various files created to see how to add your own custom sidebars.

TWiki's neat FormattedSearch made it very easy to support this with no code changes - you can add this to your own TWiki site just by creating a few pages, and perhaps attract some avid IE users. I've added a single page to Codev, Codev.WebSidebarIE, that uses this, then added suitable

Warning: Can't find topic ""."" -based pages to some other TWiki.org webs. This is really for everyone's benefit, others will hopefully find this useful and improve it.

Background

The files generated using the URLs above effectively edit the Windows registry.

If you don't have IE, try http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/view/Codev/WebSidebarIE?skin=plain and have a look at the HTML - it's very simple, no XML involved at all. The code is almost identical to that of RichardDonkin's WebSidebar, discussed thoroughly in MozillaSidebar.

I've now created the Codev.WebSidebarIE page and corresponding WebSidebarIE pages in other webs (using

Warning: Can't find topic ""."" from the Codev page). These all use ?skin=plain, which provides a nicer looking sidebar when combined with an inline stylesheet.

Related pages

MozillaSidebar spawned the concept of adding sidebars to IE, this page's structure and the actual web sidebar code are based on this design. I merely came up with a simple implementation of Micro$oft's instructions of how to add sidebars (found here).

Sidebars in other browsers

Check out MozillaSidebar for similar information to install sidebars in Mozilla or Netscape 6, and on ideas for how to do this in OperaBrowser.

Things to do

  • Create a TWiki variable to make it easier to create the 'add sidebar' link, e.g. %ADDSIDEBAR{'Codev'}% - or just use InterwikiPlugin
  • Work on refresh issue.
  • Make wiki-wide sidebar

Resources

  • I don't know of any cool sidebar or active desktop sites off-hand, but please add links to them if you know some.

Problems?

Please post any problems via Codev.BugReports for now, and be sure to supply:

  • Your exact Windows and IE version
  • (Pasted in) copy of the .reg file you actually used.

Comments, questions

Any comments are welcome... Comments regarding Mozilla or Opera should be added to the MozillaSidebar page. If you find this useful, I'd like to hear about it!

-- MikeMaurer - 16 Mar '02 (borrowed heavily from RichardDonkin)

I am suitably impressed - very neat! Just tested this in IE 5.5 and it works fine - this means I can deploy sidebars on our local TWiki, which will be really useful (everyone at work uses InternetExplorer). Thanks for developing this - I gave up when MSDN said to write a COM object in C++ smile

I didn't have to restart the computer, but I did close all the Windows Explorer windows (which are really just IE windows in disguise of course). This was with IE 5.5 SP2 on Win2000.

One other idea - check out the use of 1 in the SidebarSearch topic used by SherlockAndMozillaSearching - this should enable you to write a single topic that uses URLPARAM to insert suitable web names (Codev etc), using a URL that ends in ?web=Codev. With some user instructions to save the file as .reg, this would avoid having to create separate .reg files for each web. You could even use InterwikiPlugin so that an Interwiki link such as SidebarIE:Codev would generate the correct URL to invoke the 'registry generation' topic for a Codev sidebar - all without writing any TWiki code.

Also, you could use something like the http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/view/ used in WebSidebar, to avoid making this dependent on the specific URL and script suffix.

On the TweakUI search sidebar for IE - I haven't been able to find this despite installing the 1.33 version of TweakUI and rebooting.

-- RichardDonkin - 16 Mar 2002

Thanks, it wasn't too hard, I just followed the instructions on the Microsoft page, exported the registry entries, and had to figure out how to delete registry keys via a .reg file (this potentially could be added as an option to uninstall the sidebars) from other sites...MS doesn't seem to want that information to be easily accessable.

I thought about making a modular system using something like URLPARAM, but each entry also requires a unique MS GUID entry (that long hexadecimal entry in most of the entries...notice how they differ between the Codev/Plugins one...). This potentially would complicate things, but something could probably be hacked together using another URLPARAM, I'll try out some stuff. I just read up on the InterwikiPlugin feature and don't quite see how this would simplify anything.

I think I already am using the SCRIPTURL/viewSCRIPTSUFFIX coding, but feel free to change it or point out where the change could be made (The code is basically what you had again, as I've removed all the stuff I was doing to test out the _top target issue, I did make a few minor changes allowing stuff to resize if necessary for small screens/narrow sidebars though.

Regarding TweakUI 1.33, it's a stand alone program, as opposed to it being a control panel applet (very confusing as I always go to the control panel for it first, as I've used the tool since win95), so if you're looking at the control panel applet, that's the old version. But it may just not show up because you're using IE 5.5 or Win2k (I'm running XP).

-- MikeMaurer 16 Mar '02

I wasn't able to get the registry settings for the sidebar to work for me. I'm running IE 6.0 on Win2k-Pro.

I've been using TweakUI since the earliest days of NT 4.0 when I got it internally while contracting at MS. I've never seen it run as a standalone program. I did have to right-click on the control panel menu and then on "sort by name" to get it to show up this time though.

-- DavidLeBlanc - 16 Mar 2002

Ok, got the reg settings to install by downloading the reg file and then installing it from a local file (compared to clicking on "install" from the File Download menu). However, the version of TweakUI that I just installed a few minutes ago doesn't seem to have an IE/Search tab.

-- DavidLeBlanc - 16 Mar 2002

Ok, finally got it to work, but I had to use WebSidebarMakerIE and reboot to get it to work. Found it works in Windows Explorer too!

Is there any way to make the font bigger in the sidebar - it's bit small for me. Also, is there any way to control the update frequency? It seems fairly fast right now.

BTW, i've not yet seen the drop down arrow on the search icon in IE as shown on the image above... ?

-- DavidLeBlanc - 17 Mar 2002

I've done quite a bit of editing above to clarify a few things - hope this looks OK! In particular, I've shortened the bits about Mozilla and Opera, just pointing to MozillaSidebar, so that this IE page can focus on IE. Ultimately we may end up with a good solution for Opera too - and perhaps even for non-sidebar-capable browsers such as Netscape 4.x, Lynx, etc (by embedding the sidebar HTML into a suitable skin), which would be in line with the TWikiMission's goal of low client side requirements.

The 200 KB screenshot mentioned above is a broken link, but it would be good to do a new screenshot anyway and use that instead.

I now have the sidebar working in IE 5.0 on NT4! I applied the generated registry file to IE 5.0 on Windows NT 4.0 SP4:

  • First line of registry file needs to read REGEDIT4 for it to be entered into registry on NT4
  • File went in OK and created a TWiki sidebar, but for some reason it appears as a grey blank. UPDATE: Fixed this by setting the default value for InProcServer32 (as in your comment in WebSidebarMakerIE). I think this is all down to using NT4, based on your comments - the fact that it's IE5.0 is coincidental.

This means that virtually any IE user can now have a TWiki sidebar. We should put some extra comments in WebSidebarMakerIE, saying how to modify the .reg file text, and mentioning the REGEDIT4 issue. Unfortunately TWiki can't (yet) do conditional logic within a page smile

On my Win2000 box, the downloaded TweakUI 1.33 version is definitely a .cpl file (Control Panel applet), and there is no IE/Search option. Also on that box, the second sidebar I installed wouldn't appear under IE5.5, so presumably a reboot is needed (quite a change from Mozilla, where you don't even need to restart the browser... clearly integrating IE into Windows is a big win smile ).

On the earlier comment about using SCRIPTSUFFIX etc - I was referring to using these in the URL that links to the 'maker' page, the idea being that this URL could be standard across all TWiki sites. The Interwiki idea was just to shorten the URL, so you could write IESidebar:Codev to generate the customised link to WebSidebarMakerIE, but that's just syntactic sugar. This may still be possible, since you are using standard pre-generated GUIDs.

One other issue is that the use of standard per-web GUIDs does imply that you can't have a sidebar that includes the same web (e.g. Main) on two different TWiki sites in the same IE browser. Ultimately, it would be nice to have a single sidebar that can be configured to point to TWiki webs on more than one site, which would only require one GUID.

-- RichardDonkin - 17 Mar 2002

Cool, being able to use the sidebar on anything above IE5 should include just about all IE users.

I've changed the references to use SCRIPTURL, etc. as needed. The only concern is now that if people copy and paste, they need to come up with unique GUID values, as each sidebar needs its own GUID. Considering the huge length of GUID's, it's pretty hard to come up with one that will conflict with ones already in use, but it should be noted. It may make more sense to simply have the web-wide bar, but it relies on javascript to link to pages, which would potentially limit the number of people able to use it.

The naming I used for the bar was intended to be: wikitoolname webname, I'll change this, it wasn't clear the way I set up the file, this could be changed in the MozillaSidebar javascript: links as well, if that is what your naming intent was as well. That would avoid duplicate menu names.

-- MikeMaurer - 17 Mar '02

It's all coming along pretty quickly... I found Win32::Guidgen, a Perl module to generate GUIDs - pointer added above. For Windows-based servers this could be included as another tool, but there really needs to be a Unix-based GUID generator.

-- RichardDonkin - 17 Mar 2002

I added a screenshot, linked near the start. Also, I noticed that the auto-refresh of the sidebar (the cross-web one if it makes a difference) continued even when the sidebar was closed in all IE windows. This is a bit wasteful... It would be good to have an option to turn off the refresh by passing in a parameter when generating the .reg file text - perhaps Refresh=0 does this (if it doesn't set it to continuous refresh!).

In fact, it would be a good idea to disable the auto-refresh by default, until we find a way of making it not happen when the sidebar is closed (or maybe set it high, e.g. to 1 hour). I don't want to add unnecessary extra load to SourceForge's servers when people are not actually using sidebars. Also, people on analogue/ISDN autodial would find their system dialing out all the time after installing the sidebar, as long as IE is open - since European dialup users typically pay for each call, and a 5 minute refresh means 288 calls per day, each costing perhaps 10 cents (US), this could cost someone about $28 US per day without their realising it...

-- RichardDonkin - 18 Mar

Thanks for getting the screenshot made, I should have done that. I noted that the sidebar continues to refresh as long as the IE window that originally displayed the sidebar stays open. A simple url param could be used to allow a simple link to turn auto-refresh on (or off, depnding on how things are setup). I doubt there's a way to detect if the sidebar has been closed, so this would be a limitation. It's possible that javascript could be used to detect mouseovers of the sidebar, and then start a timer to countdown to refresh in 5-10 minutes. This would still allow for updated data, while keeping from making needless auto-refreshes. This would in-effect require someone be actively using the sidebar to cause auto-refreshes. This might be overdoing things, but it would get around there not being any obvious way to detect if the sidebar is open. I removed the auto-refresh in the site-wide bar.

-- MikeM - 18 Mar '02

Good ideas about auto-refresh, I think the idea of driving it from mouseovers is reasonable although possibly complex to implement (I'm not a JavaScript person though) - as long as the default is no refresh, but it's easy to configure to refresh, I and many other Euroids will be happy :)... I actually have ADSL at home, but I hear horror stories about chatty apps that cause ISDN routers to silently dial up hundreds of times a day, resulting in a massive bill at the end of the quarter - so it would be nice if this sidebar is not one of them!

It would also be good to set the 'home' web, e.g. I'd like it to start in Codev but others may prefer Main or Support. This is quite easy to do through the .reg file's URL of course - would be good if this could be generated into a textarea like the other ones.

Ideally the drop-down box would start pointing at the home web, and would use JavaScript to act as soon as the web is selected (plus a tiny 'Go' button for those who don't like JavaScript, although I think it's required for the all-webs sidebar...). This would let the drop-down sit where the web name sits now, although we would lose the WebHome link.

Finally - how about a toolbar button to invoke the Explorer Bar, like the History button and the buttons installed by AIM and Yahoo Messenger? This is documented on this MSDN page and doesn't look too hard - just needs a couple of icons, which can be stolen from HighResolutionLogos. Would be great to see TWiki up there alongside AIM and Yahoo smile

  • See DLL Helpers page for info on building DLLs under CygWin (to package several icons into single file)

Anyway, this is all very cool stuff - will make our internal TWiki site look much nicer when I finally deploy the Dec2001 code!

-- RichardDonkin - 19 Mar 2002

More comments

One interesting point is that it's now possible to use Windows Explorer (i.e. the file explorer with left-hand list of folders) and replace the left-hand pane with a TWiki sidebar! Very neat, it looks like TWiki is practically integrated into the operating system, practically. All we need now is a TWiki toolbar icon for IE, then you can flip between a filesystem view and a TWiki view ...

-- RichardDonkin - 21 Mar 2002

To address DavidLeBlanc's question about font size settings:

The sidebars (IE and Mozilla) are driven by embedded CSS stylesheets - they should probably use a variable such as %SIDEBAR_CSS% that points to a CSS file hosted on TWiki. This would let you set this in your home page to point to a different file (hosted on TWiki or elsewhere) and thus change the font sizes without having to edit the page itself. Unfortunately I had to get into specific point sizes when developing the MozillaSidebar - perhaps there's a clever CSS way of getting around this but I don't know CSS that well.

Anyway, a CSS file variable is probably a better solution than having lots of specific font-size variables, as it lets the sidebars evolve without breaking personal settings. TWiki main pages could also do with using a similar CSS file of course.

A good location for all TWiki stylesheets would be TWiki.StyleSheets - that way, any add-ons or plugins that need stylesheets can all be configured by attaching .css files to a single page. It might make it more difficult to upgrade and install addons, though, in which case perhaps TWiki.SidebarStylesheet would be a better idea.

-- RichardDonkin - 22 Mar 2002

I am not allowed to tweak the registry of our servers here, so I am not able to compare the approach here directly with this way of doing it.

Which would not involve access to the registry, but requires javascript. Do I miss here something?

-- FrankHartmann - 11 Apr 2002

You don't need to modify the registry on the servers to get a sidebar - just install the relevant TWiki topics on the TWiki server, then update the registry on a client to get the sidebar there.

However, your JavaScript technique is very interesting - you can also use this link to get the cross-web sidebar. The only disadvantages are that there are some extraneous search-related buttons at the top of the bar, and that the TWiki sidebar vanishes if you do an IE search. (I couldn't get this javascript link to work from the IE Links toolbar - perhaps it needs to be on a web page?)

Your technique is much easier to use than a registry hack, and probably more reliable - the sidebar registry edits have proven quite painful to get working across various flavours of Windows.

Which IE version are you using? This worked for me on IE5.5.

-- RichardDonkin - 11 Apr 2002

I meant, that in order to access the Internet, I have to login to special servers, where I am not allowed to modify the registry. These servers run MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.0 according to my apache log files.

I must admit, that I do not know what the JavaScript does. I found it on the http://www.sixdifferentways.com webpage, which is a extremly funky looking page. Works even now from home with mozilla 0.9.9

I am now wondering if it is possible to create a wiki template based on this style, which would allow me to move the extra views (like WebChanges or InternetExplorerSidebar) of my twiki around.

-- FrankHartmann - 11 Apr 2002

I see - presumably these are Citrix type servers where a 'desktop' app such as IE runs on the server? Definitely a good reason to avoid registry hacks anyway!

When you are using Mozilla, the native MozillaSidebar is nicer, as it lets you keep the sidebar persistent - however, it needs updating to produce an 'all-webs' sidebar.

-- RichardDonkin - 12 Apr 2002

I've added some documentation of FrankHartmann's excellent technique for adding sidebars without touching the Windows registry - see above.

-- RichardDonkin - 05 Jul 2002

Anyone got a way of having all Webs show in the Sidebar? In particular I'd like it to mirror the structure faked by KoalaSkin, but I don't want to recode it every time I add another Section (web) to the system.

-- MartinCleaver - 09 Jun 2003

Anyone know whether it is possible for every change of the content of the main window to drive the population of an associated view in the Sidebar?

  • I thought it would be way cool to use it to show the backlinks, an associated google search or maybe what normal users call the history (AKA 'Diffs' for UNIX heads)

-- MartinCleaver - 09 Jun 2003

Re the web list - should be possible to do a FormattedSearch like TWiki.SiteMap, but be aware that this will be quite slow.

Re changing the window every time - may be possible with JavaScript, but you might as well use a framed site or (preferably) a skin using CSS to generate a box on the left with this information. This would be easier and less client dependent than using a sidebar, though a sidebar is interesting because it is user-controlled.

-- RichardDonkin - 10 Jun 2003

The all-webs sidebar at Main.WebSidebarIEAll has partly stopped working, at least on TWiki.org: the drop-down no longer lets you select a web, so the sidebar always shows Codev (also, it used to start on Codev). This happened in the last few days - perhaps something changed in a recent alpha release?

-- RichardDonkin - 19 Jan 2004

Topic attachments
I Attachment History Action Size Date Who Comment
Registry filereg twikidotorgsidebaradd.reg r1 manage 1.3 K 2002-03-17 - 03:39 MikeMaurer Adds a site-wide IE Twiki.org sidebar
Registry filereg twikidotorgsidebarkill.reg r1 manage 1.5 K 2002-03-17 - 03:39 MikeMaurer Deletes the site-wide IE Twiki.org sidebar
Edit | Attach | Watch | Print version | History: r33 < r32 < r31 < r30 < r29 | Backlinks | Raw View | Raw edit | More topic actions
Topic revision: r33 - 2004-01-19 - RichardDonkin
 
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