user preferences was: NCSA X Mosaic 0.5 released

Dan Connolly <>
Message-id: <>
Cc: (Marc Andreessen),
Subject: user preferences was: NCSA X Mosaic 0.5 released 
In-reply-to: Your message of "Mon, 25 Jan 93 17:57:59 +0100."
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 93 10:59:43 CST
From: Dan Connolly <>

>Xmosaic has a lot of practical things which real uses want -- like  
>mail and print and a bookmarks and stuff. Well done!

Definitely. I haven't built it yet, but bookmarks are a MUST! I use
xgopher a lot in stead of midasWWW cuz with midsaWWW, I have to
edit my home page by hand to add bookmarks.

But Tim: about this user preferences stuff. I disagree with your

>That said, it would also be nice to customise it easily (yes, I want  
>to have my cake and eat it!).  So the ability to set the home page up  
system-wide with some sort of a .xmosaicrc file would be useful.
>We'll have to make a covering script to fix 
>I have a feeling that a menu option which sets the current document  
>home (persistently) by writing out a ~/xxx.rc file is probably an  
>easy way for users in arbitrary places to find out where to start.
>"Set home here" or something.
>>From the system manager's point of view, a system-wide .rc would  
>allow the home page to bet set up site wide without anyone having  
>know about environment variables.  For one thing, easy though it is  
>to pick CERN out from the document menu, when NCS is difficult to  
>reach, one doesn't want the program to hang.  It migth also be useful  
>to set a pointer to the root of a copy of your help tree.

X application should use the X resource database to get user
preferences. Folks can build their X resource database from
system-wide app-defaults files, files in their home directory,
environment variables, command-line-args, etc.

Works good.

I've seen you write a couple times about having a user preference
system that worked the same on the NeXT, Mac, X boxes, etc.

Making them look the same from an API would be great.

But don't make users adapt to a new WWW scheme for doing user preferences.
NeXT folks should use the NeXT user preference database, just like all
they do for their other tools. Mac folks should find "Preferences..."
under the edit menu. X folks know how to muck with .Xdefaults and xrdb.
(though a friendlier UI to the x resource database is badly needed).

The unix dot-files scheme is passe, I think -- especially for distributed
applications. Don't require folks to use it. For example, with the
X resource database, I can load resources off host A into my X server,
then run midasWWW on host B and it will see my preferences.