StudyBar – the cross-browser toolbar

The aim of the StudyBar project has been to create a toolbar which can be used in all modern browsers (FireFox, Internet Explorer 8, Chrome, Safari, Opera), which provides users with customisation options and tools to aid studying. StudyBar is an improvement upon the current Techdis Toolbar, which currently only works in Internet Explorer.

There are currently toolbars out there that offer some of the desired functionality, but as of yet there is nothing to provide everything in a concise package, let alone to any browser. To allow us to develop for multiple browsers we have opted to use the JavaScript language (which is interpreted by the browser itself, and supported by every browser – one installation package will work across the board, and even the possibility to be ported to mobile platforms at a later date) which gives us much finer control over the page than traditional toolbars.

During the prototyping phase it was discovered that most browsers have disabled JavaScript from performing page-manipulation on remote pages for security reasons (see Same Origin Policy). Because of this reason, we have opted to use GreaseMonkey, a technology that allows JavaScript to be stored on a user’s computer and used on any web page, therefore not having to deal with the Same Origin Policy.

At this stage of development we have spec’d out the technologies that will be used, and are currently working on:

  • Dynamic toolbar items.
  • Text To Speech Server based on the Festival engine.
  • A SpellChecker with intelligent suggestion.
  • Preset CSS style loading into webpages.
  • Increase/Decrease text size on page.
  • Alter colour of toolbar.

These functions will be available to any page that the user is viewing, using any of the aforementioned web browsers.

At the current stage of development, very rudimentary versions of almost all of these features are present, although slightly buggy. More features will be added as the development time passes to bring it in line, and hopefully surpass current toolbar featuresets.