I just can’t seem to stop thinking up improvements to the Ryuzine webapp project.  As I write this the 0.9.4 is just about to launch in concert with the Ryuzine Press Plugin for WordPress 3.0+ (and also compatible with ComicPress 2.9).  I barely caught a breath between putting the finishing touches on 0.9.4 when I started hacking away on 0.9.5!  So, what’s on the agenda for version 0.9.5?

Help Info Overhaul

The “Help” info finally gets overhauled after arguably being kind of ignored since the initial public beta release.  It is going to be replaced with something similar to the Guided Tour “Bubble” presently being used on the Ryuzine Machine Demo.  The feeling is that the existing document in the “Help Panel” is just too much – it’s the proverbial “wall o’ text” that, frankly, nobody is probably ever going to read through.  The “Bubble Help” version is in the early stages, but it looks like it will only consist of about a dozen sentence-long descriptions and, of course, will bounce around pointing at what it is talking about.  This will be more in line with how mobile app help should be done – they should generally be pretty intuitive, and where you do include help it should be brief and to the point.

CSS Customizable Animations

The control bar is going to be switched to the same animation method used by the phone “navigation bar.”  This will fix some minor issues with it in certain specific browsers, but it also (potentially) opens it up to being more configurable – possibly with a method allowing publishers to add their own custom control buttons/bars to it.

The built-in Lightbox items will also have their animation method changed with the goal being the ability to easily set different animation methods.  Currently the “zoom in/out” animation is hard-coded.  The new method will make that configurable in the stylesheet.

Webcomic & Easel Support (Ryuzine Press)

The Ryuzine Press plugin for WordPress, in addition to the existing support for blogs using a ComicPress theme and ComicPress Manager, will also support those using the “Webcomic” plugin and either the “Inkblot” or “Archimedes” themes; and finally supports “Easel” themes as well (though it requires a tiny hack to one Easel file). That means support for all three of the most popular WordPress webcomics systems!

Dropped Support

As much as I don’t like to drop backwards-compatibility for anyone this next version will officially drop all support for Safari 3.x.  Ryuzine has never worked properly in this version of Safari and with this upcoming release and the previous release it worked in testing with the source code script but stopped working when using the obfuscated release script.  Realistically almost nobody is going to still be using – and really should not be still using – this version of Safari anyway.  On the off chance they are, they’d have to disable CSS and Javascript and view it as a straight HTML page or they’ll be stuck on the splash screen.

Maintaining backwards compatibility with ancient browsers really isn’t worth the effort, but I’ve tried my best to accommodate them where possible.  As I move forward to the release of Version 1.0, however, I’m going to be focusing my efforts on browsers most people are actually using – typically the current released, the previous major version, and I’m also testing in beta versions.  Expect support for other legacy desktop browsers to also fall away in future releases.  I’ll try to still keep things working in older mobile browsers since users often cannot update those, but there’s really no excuse for using an outdated browser on your desktop system unless the system is also a museum piece as well.

Other Additions

Multiple In-app Bookmarking is being considered.  This would actually be pretty easy to implement since the original (pre-release) version that introduced the bookmarking tool actually did set multiple bookmarks.  Ultimately, though, it was altered to only set and retrieve one bookmark per Ryuzine publication because multiple bookmarking really demands a management panel.  Well, creating that panel and adding the multiple bookmarking is back on the “To-Do List.”

Ryuzine Machine will also likely gain some additional options to bring it more in line with the options in Ryuzine Press Plugin for WordPress, so there will be pretty much no learning curve moving from WordPress to Ryuzine Machine authoring and vice versa.

Issue-specific stylesheet gets an update to accommodate “Retina” iPad screens.

The “Localization” plugin will also need to be overhauled in order to work with the new help content.

The “Font” control will do more than just adjust font size up and down.  Color scheme options will also be added: Default (black text on white), Sepia (dark brown text on light tan background), and High Contrast (white text on black background).  This seems pretty standard in e-reader apps so Ryuzine should probably follow that convention.

The add-ons from 0.9.4 should all be compatible, but themes for 0.9.5 may need to be updated to accommodate the new controls/options. When will that be?  I’m not going to predict.  Also, keep in mind these are the ideas for improving it, some of which are already under way, but there’s no guarantee all of these changes will be in 0.9.5.  Well, back to coding. . .

UPDATE APRIL 24th, 2012

Ryuzine 0.9.5 has been released!  Head on over to Ryu Maru for the official announcement.

So what made it into the release?  EVERYTHING on the “To-Do List” above, plus a new 3D animation option for some browsers supporting CSS3 3D transforms!  The “configuration file” is now required, whereas it was optional in earlier versions.  Due to the overhaul of the “Help” and addition of the 3D option required all the themes to be updated as well so just be aware earlier themes are not compatible with 0.9.5 and current themes don’t work with older versions (wait, why are you using an older version?  Update!).

So what’s next?  Well, as a webapp Ryuzine has proved pretty easy to port, in both “packaged” and “hosted” forms, as “native” Android apps and Chrome Extensions.  Version 0.9.6 may be able to auto-generate some of the necessary “manifest” data for doing so and I’m playing around with horizontally sliding page animations.  Sliding pages is actually a more typical animation on mobile devices than “flipping” and the very early development versions of Ryuzine (I’m talking back to version 0.0.1!) only animated with sliding pages.  But also playing with a horizontal scrolling “continuous” page view that may be more intuitive once Windows 8 officially launches (and practically demands I create a “Metro” style theme).  This is all still in the idea or testing phases so no idea if and when 0.9.6 will be out.  In fact, I’ve got a few things on my plate right now so plan that 0.9.5 (the current release) is going to be THE version for a while.