Friday, September 14, 2012

&what?


I recently published amp-what.com. I created it to solve a problem I have:  trying to remember (or google) character entity numbers or names. For example, our last project used the entity » (»). Try googling this if you don't remember the name! Now, with this tool, I can just type ">>" and the character, symbol and number appear.

It turned out to be surprisingly fun to play with. I discovered chess pieces, planet symbols, all sorts of boxes. There are a surprising number of icons to play with. What have you found that surprise you?

I initially sourced the tool with the standard 100 or so entities from W3C. Then I supplemented this with 10,000 interesting Unicode characters, and a nice set of entity synonyms from Remy Sharp (whose site is solving the same problem). Seeing that people were sometimes getting no results, I pulled in an internet jargon file for non-conventional names, and supplemented myself, by manually coding them. I am interested in adding more, but want to keep it "offline friendly", which means not too large.

I was intrigued by a couple questions around "mobile": I tried to make it "mobile friendly", and the initial version was "small"; small enough to fit on an iPhone screen. This ended up looking sad on larger screens, so that clearly is not the answer. I recently refreshed it with a responsive design approach. Now it uses the screen space nicely on both small and large screens.

I also wanted to build an HTML5 offline app. For those of you with an iDevice, you can save to the home screen and have the reference available whether you are online or not.

But beyond being mobile "friendly," I believe that HTML5 offers a good alternative to building a native app. I wanted to push the UX and see if I could get it to feel as responsive as a native app-- I think it does a pretty good job at executing quick searches, but I'll leave it up to you to judge.

Since the initial prototype, I've layered in a few features: It wanted to be able to link to certain queries, so I used the hashtag to do that, so you can share your favorite queries.

I allow changing the font (using the small (f) in the bottom right corner).

I found myself wanting to use the Unicode characters in different contexts: not only web pages, but Javascript source and CSS files. I've added some ability to customize the display-- hex, decimal, Javascript, or URL encoded. Those controls are also at the bottom of the screen.

Check it out, bookmark it, and please send me feedback.

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