When Written: July 2001
Verdict: A useful niche product that may appeal to Web Coders which works reliably, but the large files it creates limit its final usefulness
Internet – www.mozquito.com
Availability – Now
System Requirements (min) –
OS – Windows 95 with IE 4 + , Windows 98, NT4 (Intel only), Windows 2000, Mac OS 8.1 + , Linux or able to run Linux Binaries with Java Runtime engine.
CPU – Intel Pentium 166Mhz, G3 or G4
Ram – 64M
Mozquito Factory comes in a bright red and silver box with several manuals, (remember them? Processed trees with ink on them, which you used to get with all software). Or of course you can download a thirty-day evaluation from their web site and purchase the activation key on-line. The box describes the product as ‘adding the interactive dimension’, it sounds interesting but it do what it says on the box?
Before we look at exactly what Mozquito Factory does, it is worth looking into the reasons for its being and to do this we need to outline a bit of web technology that although has great promise currently is not used much. The two main reasons for it’s lack of use is one, it is not fully supported by many browsers, particularly the older ones, and secondly there are few development tools available to help write and test the code. It is in both these departments that Mozquito Factory should help. This technology is called XHTML and stands for eXtensible HyperText Markup Language and came into being in January 2000. It is a W3C standard and is designed for the next generation of web pages. XHTML allows new tags to be defined and used within a web page, because of its more structured approach XHTML should render more accurately in a wider range of browsers it is particularly suitable to mobile devices. One could argue that with hindsight, this how HTML should have been defined in the first place, but hindsight is always twenty-twenty vision.
Because of the more rigid structure of an XML web page, the browsers or client agents will need less processing power and hence can be much more light weight, a welcome move away for the gargantuan products of today which require fast processors and large amounts of memory. This lessening demand from the browser, will become a boon as we see more true mobile Internet devices and the demise of that mobile communication stop-gap of WAP. Another major design concept behind XHTML is that one page will be correctly rendered; no matter what client device is used to view the web page, this aim has always been an Internet ‘Holy Grail’. Only time will tell if this will truly be the case, often the promises made of a technology by the developers are dashed as soon as companies get hold of it and develop their own ‘enhancements’ in an attempt to grab a larger market share.
To achieve all this there has to be some trade off’s. Basically XTHML is a less forgiving beast of badly formatted code than HTML. No longer will you be able to get away with missing end tags and similar monstrosities of coding. The noticeable difference when you start coding XHTML pages is that having the syntax is much more critical as is the structure of the page. This is one of the reasons why it is easier for a browser to interpret the pages. Because the code is better structured the browser has to do much less work in rendering the page and trying to figure out what you what to achieve. As a consequence of this tighter syntax, having a tool that checks your code for ‘correctness’ is vital, and this is one of the areas that MOZQUITO FACTORY helps the web coder. I say Web coder rather than designer, as this is the person that MOZQUITO FACTORY is really aimed at, there being no design mode in the package. No ability to drag and drop graphical elements on to a page to see what your page will look like in design mode, only a preview in browser option is given. This makes putting a web page together quite difficult, it would probably be better to do the initial design in another tool and then use MOZQUITO FACTORY for adding the code to allow the interactiveness. This is a great disappointment, MOZQUITO FACTORY has only a ‘code view’, like a lot of similar ‘HTML code helper’ products there is the ability to select tags and have them inserted into your code, a press on the tab key then moves you to each of the parts of the tag syntax that you need to enter variable names, captions, event actions etc.
A good knowledge of the syntax is needed as there is no help in the form of wizards or ‘pop ups’. The manuals that came with the product are very good, three books in total were supplied, one about the editing tool Mozpad, a second book about the syntax of the Mozquito XHTML FML (Forms Markup Language) which is the extension to XHTML that they have created to aid the design of interactive web forms. The third book supplied is by the excellent Wrox press, called ‘Beginning XHTML’ and is very good at explaining how XHTML works, it also has a large section on developing with Mozquito, no wonder it was supplied in the box! On the design environment, it is a real shame that there is no way to ‘drag and drop’ code around, you have to ‘cut’ and ‘paste’. There is no real excuse for this omission in a modern product
<x:form id=”test” target=”test.html method=”post” action=http://www.myweb.com/returnform.html>
and close it with an </x:form> tag. As you can see, very similar to HTML that you should be familiar with, there are tags for creating all the usual form objects plus some others that need some explanation. X:calc is an interesting one that allows a calculated value to be displayed on a form based on user inputted values, without having to submit the form to the server. X:toggle is also a usefull tag which creates groups of controls which can be displayed or otherwise depending on the status of variables in the form, so if a user ticks a box on a form a new section of form with other questions can be displayed.
When I first started using Mozquito Factory I was less than impressed with it. It seemed just to be a glorified notepad with a tag inserter, however the more I used the product and looked deeper into it, it became obvious that there is defiantly a lot of very clever stuff going on here, and the program could be a very useful tool for this next stage of web development. There is an import routine that will take your existing html files and convert them into XHTML, you will still need to do some work sorting out the syntax of some of your code, but the built-in validator function helps there. The power of the product is in the FML extension to build interactive web forms, however the resultant generated files are so huge that their usefulness is somewhat limited. It is really very difficult to see anything other than a small niche for this product, which for all its faults, does work reliably. Perhaps as Mozquito Factory develops its usefulness will increase, but for now, I feel that only a few developers will find a use for it.
Ease of Use 4/6
Value for Money 4/6
Dropdown insertion of FML extension tags to XHTML
Validate function in use on an imported html file, lots of work to be done!
A sample form built using XHTML and FML
The same form after a user has entered some data – showing the interactivity of the form
The XHTML code of the form viewed in Mozquito Pad editor
What you see if you do a ‘view source’ on the sample form
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton