Brief history of web drop-down technologies
Why are good drop-down menus so difficult to get?
A drop-down menu is a simple, straight-forward concept. So "why do
I have to look so hard to find a good one?" you might ask.
Here are some of the reasons:
So what has IMINT.COM done that is so special?
- Most plug-in technologies don't support anything which could be
turned into a drop-down menu. For example, Macromedia Flash is, unfortunately, completely
devoid of any such programming concept.
- The only technologies which support drop-downs in any sense are
- DHTML can't cross frames. You have to add complex raw code to
every page. Even then, DHTML doesn't float above other plug-ins such
as flash. Nor is it scalable (i.e. able to do big menus). There are
further shortcomings. Sadly, the web has become cluttered with almost
a hundred companies offering DHTML drop-down menus which, due to the
fundamental limitations of the DHTML, can never provide serious solutions.
- That leaves java as the only viable technology capable of producing
truly framecrossing, convenient and commercially viable drop-down menus. But....
- Java didn't include explicit support for drop-downs until version 1.1.
- Because of the Sun/Microsoft arguments, most browsers still only
support the 1.1 technology.
- The official 1.1 technology is extremely primitive: you can't have any icons;
fonts are extremely limited; colours are difficult to set in a reliable
manner. Basically you're stuck with clunky system-coloured 3D blocks
which function in one way only.
- Java 1.3 and 1.4 technology is better, but still insufficient for any
self-respecting web designer, and few people have 1.3 or 1.4 anyway.
- Why is java so half-hearted about drop-down menus? Well, basically
industry powers (that means: Sun, Microsoft, Apple and Symantec)
made a strange decision to treat drop-down menus as a security hazard and limit
IMINT.COM is the only company in the world which has looked at this
problem and decided to overcome it. Every other company which offers
drop-down menus uses one of the inadequate technologies described above.
Technology differences (or "should I upgrade?")
- Hovermenus: an early JDK 1.0.2 solution
The earliest technology we produced to get round the problem was
before java 1.1 became standard. Hovermenus persistently hovered at
the bottom left of the screen. They were well ahead of their time in
terms of graphical configurability - images, colours and icons could
all be user-defined.
- Signed menus: a nearly ideal solution
Java 1.1 allowed much more professional menus which could be attached to
specific points of the web page. The main obstacle to
a professional appearance was the ugly "warning message" which the
industry (Sun, Microsoft, Apple and Symantec) required to be attached
to the bottom of submenus. This damaged what was otherwise a perfect
drop-down menu solution and required "signing" to overcome it. As a
signed applet presents every user with a one-time trust request, the
solution was still less than ideal, although commercially viable.
Within the framework of signed drop-down menus, IMINT.COM perfected
many of the behavioural and aesthetic features of the menus. Graphical
effects, animations, flying and exploding submenus, checkbox menu items,
scrolling submenus - these and many more "dream" features were added.
- The X-Bar: a perfect solution
At the end of 2002, IMINT.COM programmers achieved what we had long
sought after: entirely new and revolutionary programming techniques
allowed the removal of the signing requirement.
The first applets to use this new technology were X-Bar Ultramenu IIT
and X-Bar Ultramenu IIS. Almost every feature of the previous generation
of signed menus was able to be implemented - the few exceptions are
- Alien Menus: mass production of the X-Bar
During 2003, we launched a new dedicated drop-down menu site
to fully exploit the potential of the X-Bar technology. Over
300 menu variants were released. In particular, the new site
offered an online configuration tool assisting in rapid,
documentation-free development and design.
X-Bar applets with versions marked 8.0 and upwards use a radical new technology
for achieving true framecrossing submenus with total optical configurability
that goes far beyond the narrow constraints of traditional AWT or even Swing programming.
It provides this new technology together with almost universal compatibility and
dispenses with the controversial series 6/7 need for signing.
Customers considering the move from earlier technologies to series 8 drop-down menus
should familiarise themselves with earlier features which series 8 cannot yet reproduce,
The following lists the crucial differences.
includes: iPOP Pro-X and iPOP Pro-XQ applets, X-Bar Powerbars I and II,
X-Bar Ultramenu I
includes: X-Bar Ultramenu IIS and IIT, Alien Menus
Does not require signing (but you can if you want)
Launching: rollover launching is available as an option
for site visitors with Microsoft, Sun or Symantec java interpreters,
but not Apple java interpreters
- Version 8.0: a click is required to launch the first submenu;
after that usually only a mouse-movement is required.
- Version 8.1: rollover launching is available as an option
for site visitors with Microsoft or Symantec java interpreters,
but not Sun or Apple java interpreters.
Remote launching: remote submenu launching via exposed methods is also
possible and implemented in some versions; this means that the applets
can have a "zero-interface" and be used to add, for example, pop-up
functionality to flash movies, or right-click context menus for HTML
Remote launching is scheduled as a feature for people with Microsoft or Symantec
Submenu-embedded form elements such as text fields are technically possible
and supported in some versions.
A variety of submenu launch effects are possible, such as spiral
fly-ins and animated expansions of the submenus, with speed
and direction controls.
CURRENT MENU RANGE
|This product range is called iPOP/X-Bar menus. The diverse prices and benefits of these menus offer advantage to all types of designer from home-user to corporate. Their common point is that they are based around the concept of drop-down menus.|
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