Xenu's Link Sleuth - still the best link checker

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A very important tool in a web developer's toolkit is a good link checker. There are tonnes of different ones on the market, some that promise to make your whites whiter and floss your cat, but in the end you just want a simple program that will check your site for broken links, maybe broken code too if you're so interested. A few of the features I'm always looking for include:

  • Option to include or exclude external links, e.g. if a page on mysite.com links to yoursite.com I may not care if that site itself is working.
  • The option to override what is considered an external link, which is useful if you put your media files on a separate hostname.
  • An option on how many checks it runs simultaneously. Some can handle hundreds of outgoing simultaneous requests (if your machine and net connection can cope) but I tend to turn this down and leave it running in the background.

After years of trying different ones I continually return to Xenu's Link Sleuth, a simple yet powerful app that does what is needed, without a load of unwanted fancy options. Xenu's doesn't confuse you with a list of unimportant non-broken URLs, and it doesn't take a ten-page wizard interface to set up each project, instead you can simply paste in the starting point and let it go to town, selecting extra options if you specifically need to. Why does it have to be more complicated than that?

Though it is a Windows app and I use a Mac, it works fine in Parallels for Mac, and probably would work in Crossover Office too; failing that, there's always holding on to a PC for these occasional tasks ;-)

A great utility that is well worth using.

The world wisens up about OOXML

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The world is finally realizing that Microsoft's OOXML "format" is the old dog's usual tricks - incomplete, relies heavily on undocumented tricks to work, which puts full control back in their hands. This week both Brazil and India have decided to vote "no" at the upcoming ISO meeting where OOXML's fate will be decided. Good to see that, despite Microsoft's attempts, some countries can't be bought off.

Radiant is a great CMS

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I just wanted to pass on the meme on a great RoR-based CMS - Radiant. It is OSS, very stable, fairly actively developed and has a really good plugin system.

While searching for a RoR-based CMS I looked at it a few others:
Mephisto

  • Development has dried up due to the developers not having the time to continue it.
  • No support for snippets (see below).

RailFrog

  • Development seems to have dried up, the last messages on the blog were from 2006 and talked about a complete rewrite, which is usually a bad sign IMHO.

Some of the benefits that got me hooked on Radiant include:

  • snippets (keep your content DRY),
  • separate layouts vs content,
  • layouts support custom mimetypes (ensure your RSS feeds get the right content type),
  • the ability to structure the pages in a heirarchy,
  • a set of custom tags for manipulating the content,
  • built-in support for textile.
  • Some existing plugins that make life evey easier, specifically Google Analytics and Virtual Domains (multiple sites from one install!).

The few limitations I see are:

  • the plugin system needs to be improved to make extending the pages list easier,
  • the blog-like functionality needs improving,
  • some of the documentation needs work.

I've already used it on one site and am working to move all of our more static sites over to it - the less static ones will have to wait until I write a few plugins.

Fusebox 5.5-alpha documentation released

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If, as a web developer, you aren't structuring your code in a clean fashion then you owe it to yourself to use a pre-existing code framework rather than reinventing the wheel.

In the ColdFusion world one of the oldest and still most popular is Fusebox, a framework that has gone through many major changes over the years and unfortunately has gotten a bit more complicated with each release. That complexity is going by the wayside with the upcoming v5.5 release as a number of improvements will greatly simplify developing applications using it.

Key benefits to all users are the use of convention over configuration to leave you with almost configuration-free applications, and the ability to use ColdFusion Components (CFCs) as circuits. These two features alone would make it a very worthwhile release, but the lead develeper, Sean Corfield, has many more lined up.

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