Category Archives: Web Apps

Styled cross-platform number input (in Angular but applicable to any HTML/CSS app)

Native elements in HTML 5 such as the number input are great, but unfortunately our designers often want them to render the same between different browsers and operating systems. For example on linux/chrome the number input has an up/down spinner on the right hand side which is always visible. On Mac the spinner is only visible on mouse over, on firefox it is rendered differently and on mobile the spinner is not there at all usually. In this case, my designer wanted number input with up/down buttons always available. This was for an order quantity input, so it should be integers from 1 upwards. With bootstrap you can easily add buttons etc to the left or right of an input, however I couldn’t see an easy way in ‘native’ bootstrap to have two buttons stacked as one of the addons, so I created my own html/less. This is for Angular 1, bootstrap 3 and fontawesome but it should be very easy to change for different platforms.

Here’s the HTML

And the LESS:

Transparently serving WebP images from Apache

I’ve recently been working on a website where we are creating a tool to customize a product. We have various renders from the designers with lots of transparency and then combine these together on the frontend to produce the customized render. As a result of needing transparency we can’t use the jpeg format so we need to use PNG format, however as this is lossless it means the image sizes tend to be very big. Fortunately the WebP format can compress transparent images including the transparency layer (but this is not set by default). Running the WebP converter with light compression over our PNG assets for this projects produced a set of WebP’s which were in total only 25% of the size of the PNG assets and still a high quality. This means much faster loading for the site, especially when displaying multiple renders of the customized product and its 5-10 layers per render.

However, WebP support is only available in about 70% of the browsers today. Rather than trying to test for it on the client side, it would be great to just keep the browser-side code the same but serve different assets depending on whether the browser supports it or not.

I found a good start for apache support for transparent loading of WebPs on github, however there were a few bugs in the script. Here is the final version that I used – you need to put it under a <VirtualHost> section.

And here is a script to convert all png, jpg or gif files under your image directories to WebP format in such a way that they will be automatically served by the code above.

Note the -nt comparison that only updates files if the source has changed. You could add this script to git post-checkout and post-merge hooks to automatically keep your WebP assets in sync with the images in the code (and add a .gitignore entry for *.webp – no need to keep 2 copies of each resource in the repository).

Important note: If you’re using an older version of imagemagick such as on Ubuntu 14.04 (imagemagick 6.7.7), it doesn’t pass the alpha compression arguments through correctly so if you have a lot of transparency you won’t see much in the way of compression happening. Switch the convert line to be something like the below, however you need to remove the gif support as that requires using the gif2webp command to convert:

Also note that this causes some issues when you have for example a jpg and png of the same base name whose contents are different (I found a few in the old code I inherited). You can find the base name of any of these clashes clashes using the following command:

Awesome Angular 4 form validator routine

One of the things I like the most about Angular is the ability to make even complex forms relatively simple. In Angular 1 I had a library of form helpers that I wrote, the basic idea was initially show a blank form, when user fills in (dirties) an entry it should do validation. When the user click on the submit button it should do validation of all items on the form, submit the form if no errors and show any errors if there were any. This sounds simple enough but in reality it was a few hundred lines of code to do it correctly.

Angular 2+ (Angular 4 on Ionic 3 in this case) make life a lot easier, especially once you’ve got to terms with the FormBuilder framework. To force whole-form validation (including any subforms) simply create a module called form-tools.ts looking like:

Then you can easily use it from another class as follows:

Element scrolling within Angular (1) pages

Back to Angular 1 for today’s post as I’ve been doing some work on an older project today. As we all know, in the old days of the web, you could scroll to items within the page by using an <a> element with a hash reference, like:

With the advent of single-page sites and multiple ajax pages under them however, the hash section of a query parameter is increasingly unable to be used. On Angular 1 with angular-route this becomes impossible.

So what if for example you want to have some references at the top of a page within an Angular application which will scroll the user down to certain sections below, just like the hash references used to do? There are a number of suggestions on the internet for this but they are not very reusable, so I decided to create a simple directive that does this:

This is slightly complicated by the fact that I am using an element with class="main-page" with overflow: auto set to contain the scrollable section of the app. If you don’t have a layout like this just replace the $('.main-page') part with $('body').

Then you can easily create elements like:

Ionic 3 – Allowing back button action to be specified on a page-by-page basis

Ionic 3 is great as I’ve said in previous posts, however there are a few issues with its out-of-the box handling of back button on Android. Normally it just goes back to the previous page which is usually what you want, however this is not what you want when you are in a popup or modal on the page, or in some other cases you may want to capture the back event and do something else with it on a page-by-page basis. Fortunately it’s pretty straight forward to override this as I discovered.

Firstly, we want to override the back button action for the whole app. Open up app/app.component.ts:
and in the constructor:

This basically defaults to going back if it is possible to, if not then it will take you to the first tab if it is a tab view. However if your active page has a backButtonAction() function, it will delegate to that.

So for example in a modal class you can add something like:

which will dismiss the modal and go back to the page that called it, rather than the default action of simply going back a page.

Ionic 3 Page Overlay

I’ve been doing a project recently in ionic 3 (WatchEm) and I must say I’m pretty impressed. I never tried using ionic 1 as it looked like quite a lot of overhead and it wasn’t certain whether it was going to turn into a popular platform, but ionic 3 seems good, stable and is developing well.

One thing we wanted to do was to provide a help screen the first time you access each page in the app as for example some google apps do. The aim was to present an overlay which provides some textual and visual pointers as to what you can do on the page, and some hints about it.

Fortunately it wasn’t hard to do; here is the code I wrote which lets you produce flexible help pages of the format:

We’re going to produce this as a component, so create components/overlay/overlay.ts like:

Pretty straight forwards – if the force= attribute is set on the <overlay> tag then it will always show it (useful for debugging). Otherwise if it is the first time the page has been opened it will show and then store in localStorage to say it shouldn’t be shown again.

Next, the HTML for the component in components/overlay/overlay.html:

Obviously feel free to do what you want here with text/layout. We call stopPropagation() in order to prevent any stuff on the main page from receiving the click, especially if you have click-handlers further up the chain eg on the body element.

Finally a bit of styling in components/overlay/overlay.scss to make it look like an overlay and handle visibility changes correctly:

Note that the overlay must be placed outside of any <ion-content tags as they provide for automatic scrolling of their content etc which is not wanted as the overlay itself needs to scroll.

Apache configuration for WkWebView API service (CORS)

Switching from UIWebView to WKWebView is great, but as it performs stricter CORS checks than standard Cordova/Phonegap it can seem at first that remote API calls are broken in your app.

Basically, before WKWebView does any AJAX request, it first sends a HTTP OPTIONS query and looks at the Access-Control-* headers that are returned to determine if it is able to access the service. Most browsers can be made to allow all AJAX requests via a simple “Access-Control-Allow-Origin: *” header, however WKWebView is more picky. It requires that you expose which methods (GET, POST, etc); and which headers are allowed (eg if you are using JSON AJAX requests you probably need to use a “Content-Type: application/json” header in your main request).

Rather than having to update your API service, you can work around this in a general way using the following Apache config:

Note the last line answers any HTTP OPTIONS request with blank content and returns it straight away. Most API services would cause a lot of CPU processing just to handle a single request whether it is a true request or an OPTIONS query, so we just answer this straight from Apache without bothering to send it through to the API. The R=204 is a trick to specify that we don’t return any content (HTTP 204 code means “Success, but no content”). Otherwise if we used something like R=200 it would return a page talking about internal server error, but with a 200 response which is more bandwidth, more processing and more confusing for any users.