XUL Explorer – Updated!

XUL Explorer is a small tool I started a while ago to allow me to quickly create and preview short snippets of XUL. At the same time, I used the process of building XUL Explorer as a use case to help me discover and learn various parts of the Mozilla platform. With the help of some great contributors, it’s been extended beyond simply previewing XUL.

As a tool, XUL Explorer has been serving me well, but I have been wanting to refine it as an application. As I continue to discover how to use the Mozilla platform to it’s fullest, I want to push those concepts back into XUL Explorer. Therefore, I give you XUL Explorer 1.0a1pre, with the following changes:

  • Proper build system – Project is now using the Mozilla build system which makes building on all three platforms a breeze.
  • Auto-update system – The built-in Mozilla auto-update mechanism has been enabled. The application will periodically check for updates on my server and download/apply them as needed.
  • Updated XULRunner – The bundled XULRunner runtime is now based on the 1.9.0.x branch (same as Firefox 3.0.x). Now you can play with the new XUL elements and platform features.
  • Updated DOM Inspector and Venkman – XUL Explorer now bundles the newest versions (from the 1.9.0.x branch) of these extensions. Using the Mozilla build system makes this simple too
  • A couple small bug fixes and UI tweaks

With the build system changes, I can finally start taking localizations in a manageable fashion. If anyone has a translation you’d like me to add, file a bug here.

Install Windows, OS X (Intel) and Linux versions from here.

A big thanks to Dave Townsend and Matt Gertner for providing some great samples and documentation. Also, the work I have been doing on Prism and Fennec has been helping me expand my knowledge of the Mozilla platform too.


  1. skierpage said,

    October 20, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

    I installed on Windows XP but chose not to install the XULRunner runtime. It created an “Uninstall XUL Explorer” start menu item that points to …\XUL Explorer\unins000.exe , but I don’t have that executable.

    I changed application.ini to MaxVersion=1.9.1.* and it works fine with Firefox 3.1 nightlies using the
    >”C:\Program Files\path\to\firefox.exe” -app /path/to/xulexplorer/application.ini
    trick Very nice! I get a a resize triangle with odd location and behavior if I put a progressmeter in a statusbar.

    I think XUL apps would get more uptake if they were also packaged as lean “Run this with Firefox 3″ packages. It’s currently too hacky, I still have to create a start menu shortcut and there’s no icon. Could they be packaged with a “Run XUL Explorer” batch file or executable that has the program’s icon and if necessary asks “Please locate your XULRunner or Firefox 3 program” and remembers it thereafter?


  2. skierpage said,

    October 21, 2008 @ 4:38 am

    Sorry, ignore the bit about unins000.exe, it showed up when I refreshed my folder view.

  3. Paul Medlock said,

    October 28, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

    Mark, If you have a few minutes, I would like to offer several ideas for an IDE by way of some XUL that I wrote a few months ago. It’s at http://paul.medlock.com/xuleditor.xul. It’s incomplete and has some bugs, but the layout should tell you what I have in mind.

    Especially the left tabbed panel and the Information tab panel where you would click the XUL entity about which you want information, and the appropriate Mozilla page shows up in the Information tab.

    Any ideas that you like and want to incorporate into XULExplorer would be great, just as long as you don’t mind that I, too, can “plagiarize” your XUL. :-)

    Anyone else want to finish this IDE, feel welcome to do so. Do what you can, leave your name in the comments, and pass it around until it’s done. I don’t know how it could be passed around, but if anyone is interested, I imagine there is a way. The project is fairly ambitious. I just would like to have a copy of it myself. Eventually, I would like to incorporate it into another IDE I’ve written for translating XUL into Java Swing, C# .Net, etc.

  4. Paul Medlock said,

    October 28, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

    Sorry, it doesn’t display correctly when you click the link. You have to save-link-as and then use the File/Open file menuitem in Firefox.

  5. Jason Oster said,

    October 29, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

    Personally, I prefer Firebug over both Venkman and DOM Inspector. XUL Explorer is a great prototyping tool, and having Firebug would make debugging a snap.

  6. Mark Finkle said,

    October 29, 2008 @ 8:28 pm

    @Jason Oster – Currently, Firebug doesn’t debug XUL. Chromebug is the work-in-progress to rectify that situation.

  7. Fabien Tassin said,

    November 1, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

    I just prepared preview packages for Ubuntu (both Intrepid and Hardy). I’ll try to get xul explorer officially in the next release of Ubuntu (Jaunty, aka 9.04).

    My packaging code is linked to the project page in Launchpad: https://launchpad.net/xul-explorer

    Mark: do you have a nice logo that could be used there?

  8. aharvey said,

    November 29, 2008 @ 9:39 am

    Hi – I installed XULExplorer and have been unable to use File | New Extension on either Mac or Windows. Here’s the error and maybe I am just doing something wrong. Is this feature functional in the 1.0a1pre release?

    [Exception… “Component returned failure code: 0x80004002 (NS_NOINTERFACE) [nsISupports.QueryInterface]” nsresult: “0x80004002 (NS_NOINTERFACE)” location: “JS frame :: chrome://explorer/content/tools/extension-project.js :: anonymous :: line 85″ data: no]

  9. Mark Finkle said,

    November 29, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

    @aharvey – Known (https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=462561)

    Fix is coming up soon.

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