I use Firefox as my main Web browser because I am totally hooked on its extensibility. It may not be the greatest browser in the whole, entire universe straight out of the box (though it’s a damn good one), but once you’ve tricked it out with extensions and Greasemonkey scripts specific to what you use your browser for, nothing else will do. I simply can’t use Safari or Opera, no matter how many people tell me it’s faster or better integrated with other Mac applications or better at rendering certain websites, because . . . where’s the Greasemonkey? How am I going to add Convo and GMail Manager and save my browsing sessions and, and, I can’t even describe to you what modifications I’ve got on this application, because I don’t ever think about them unless I have to use someone else’s computer, and then that person’s browser—even if it’s Firefox, too, but without the exact same array of extensions and preference settings—is just broken.
But there is one thing that’s been driving me up the !@#$% wall with Firefox, and I’ve never managed to troubleshoot it away: sometimes (not always!) when I’m typing in a text area, what’s on the screen gets out of sync with my mouse, and though I can type as much as I want, when I go back to edit, I can’t ever seem to get the cursor where I want it. It’s something about fonts, I’m sure, and probably Mac-specific, but I know I’m not the only person who has this problem. I usually struggle with it using a lot of “undo” if I’m writing a short post or comment, but for anything longer, I have to select all and copy the text into some application that renders the text correctly—Eudora, if I’m not going to be typing in a lot of markup, or BBEdit, if I’m doing more demanding HTML. It’s an annoyance. I’ve been working around it for many months.
At my new job, meanwhile, I have to work in what appears to be a one-off content management system, which I’m guessing is optimized for Internet Explorer for Windows, even though most of my colleagues seem to use Firefox on Windows at work and have Macs at home. The interface is more primitive than probably any blogging platform you can think of, built by people who don’t have to use it. Character entities that you type in as escaped code (— for —) get displayed as the character itself when you hit “save.” If you re-edit and save again, they become garbage characters. Text that was typed in by a PC user breaks when a Mac user edits it. Some of the most heavily used text areas are uncomfortably small.
For these reasons and more, I have been editing all my text for the website in TextWrangler. (I do still intend to get a more full-featured program, but I haven’t felt a burning need yet.) I select everything in the CMS’s nasty text box, copy it into a new document, search-and-replace all the unescaped special characters with proper code, do all my editing, and then paste it back into the CMS and hit “save.” If I need to make further edits, I make them to my TextWrangler version and paste the whole thing in again. It’s a pain.
So imagine my delight when yesterday Lifehacker pointed out a extension that automates this round-tripping between Firefox and a text editor. It’s All Text! by The Doctor What places a faint little blue “edit” button at the lower right-hand corner of every text area, and if you click it, it opens the contents of that box in the application of your choice. (This extension is for Mac OS X only, I believe; maybe Linux.)
It’s all Text! gives the file a gobbledygook name and stores it deep in your Firefox application support folder.
This also means you have a backup in case—as has happened to every blogger at least a hundred times, I’m sure—your browser crashes the moment you’ve put the final edits on your most brilliant post ever.
When you’re done editing, you hit “save” in your text editor, and within a few seconds the text refreshes in your browser window. The form box flashes yellow and then fades back to white, to let you know that the view has been updated.
It’s brilliant. It makes my life so much happier.
The only tricksy thing you need to note is that this extension speaks Unix. When you go into the extension’s preferences (Tools > Add-ons) to specify your favorite text editor, the file browser starts looking in usr/bin for a reason. Unless your favorite editor happens to be emacs or vi (and maybe it is; I’m not that hardcore, myself), you’ll need to dig around a little to locate the magic path. If your chosen editor is TextWrangler or BBEdit, going into the editor’s preferences and enabling the command line tool (e.g., BBEdit >Preferences > Tools >Install command line tool) will make it show up in usr/bin.
If you’re using another program, the following comment from user Marc on the extension’s home page explains how to find the right path (I haven’t tried this yet):
First, in the Finder, click with right mouse button on Application icon, choose “Show Package Contents”, then navigate through Contents to MacOS. Second, in the preference of this add-on, click on the browse button and then drag&drop the executable within the folder MacOS from before into this “Choose your Editor” window. Third, in the drop-down menu of the “Choose your Editor” go up one level to “Contents” and then navigate to the executable in the “MacOS” folder. Finally, you have chosen your editor! This might look like “/Applications/Smultron.app/Contents/MacOS/Smultron”. If the developer would just make the “Editor” field manually editable we could just add the paths ourself or copy&paste paths from the Terminal.app.
Note also, if you try to use this extension before going into preferences and selecting an editor, a modal sheet (which, as you already know, I dislike) will pop up asking you to choose your editor. There is no “save” or “cancel” button on this dialog, nor—because it’s a sheet—any red “close” button like you see here:
Do not freak out and quit Firefox. I found that hitting “Escape” closed the window and saved my settings. Hey, the extension’s only at version 0.3.3, and you get what you pay for. But for that price, I think it’s textcellent.