Two things to be fixed in next update of Internet Explorer 8

I am quite thrilled to have a standards compliant and decent new version of Internet Explorer 8 produced by Microsoft. It is absolutely different from its predecessors and good enough to be praised by lots of standards devotees. I am sure that all the users who are stick to the old school version 6 or 7 do not have any reason of hesistating to upgrade. Now there would be a very exciting browser war among star browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and some more. With the launch of new Internet Explorer, I tested two things as a keyboard user. The keyboard usability is highly important especially for some group of people including users with screen readers, users with motor disabilities, users with screen magnifiers, and users with mobile devices. The result of the test was unsatisfactory and I hope to see a fix of this soon.

Keyboard navigation within a page problem

This is a well known bug in the previous version of Internet Explorer and I stated this in the other post: The next tab navigation goes wrong after the activation of a skip navigational link within a page. Developers used some work-arounds to avoid this same-page navigation problem. I expected to see an improvement of this troublesome issue in Internet Explorer 8 but it sitll has the same bug. You can identify this problem by yourself at this testing page. Safari and Chrome have the same bug and only some Gecko based browsers (i.e. Firefox, SeaMonkey, etc) work exactly as expected today. Opera works differently according to the viewport size. It works very unique way and its keyboard navigation between links (Shift + arrow keys) is dependent on how much you see within a page. Hopefully I would like to deal with this Opera’s unique problem later.

Keyboard navigation between two frames problem

This is more subtle and has not been issued a lot since framed web pages are not used often in standards friendly web development these days. The problem is like this. When you activate a link in a frame whose target is in the other frame, the focus should be jumped into the other frame. Unfortunately there is no modern visual browser which support this. Although you activate the link in the first frame, you are still in the first frame and by pressing the tab again, you will be directed to the next link in the same frame. Look at this cropped frames sample page from University of North Texas.

Frame navigation sample page: After activating one link by pressing Enter key in the first frame, the focus should move to the target frame (path b) not within the current frame (path a)

The link in the picture, “Links Challenge” has “right” as the target attribute and it causes a change in the right frame. When you navigate this page with keyboard only, it is natural to continue your tab navigation in the “right” frame after selecting the “Links Challenge” link in the left frame. In reality, however, when you press the tab key again after “Links Challenge” is activated, you will be directed to the “Images Challenge” within the same frame not “Skip Navigation” link in the target frame. In short, in the picture, path “a” is wrong way and path “b” is the right way to navigate with the keyboard. Unfortunately there is no visual browsers (at the time of this writing) who support the path “b” and only two screen readers, JAWS and Home Page Reader make up for this and they will lead you to follow path b according to Jim Thatcher.

PDF annotation software as an alternative to trainees’ note taking

PDF (Portable Document Format)

Many people misunderstand that PDF is Adobe System’s proprietary format while the truth is it was released as an open standard. Therefore we have dozens of and hundreds of PDF solutions from simple desktop readers to huge and complicated enterprise systems. Everybody agrees that Adobe Reader is definitely one of the most popular PDF readers on various platforms? Actually we have dozens of other simple PDF readers (such as Foxit Reader), of course.

PDF creation

However, it is another common misconception that Adobe Acrobat is the only commercial software which can produce PDF files. I have used several different applications to create PDF in my workplace and home: CutePDF, doPDF, PDFCreator, OpenOffice.org, and our company’s own EDMS. Most of the free software apps have some limitations in accessibility (most of them do not support tagged PDF) but still they are good enough to make a quick PDF file.

PDF editing

It is a bit difficult to find an easy-to-use free PDF editing software app. But we do have. PDFescape, PDFfiller and PDFVue are wonderful but free web based PDF editing, form-filling, and commenting platforms. You don’t need to install any software to edit your PDF files.

Annotation on PDF

Here is my issue as a trainer: I wanted to distribute my presentation materials or trainees’ workbook with an electronic format such as PDF. I fully agree that it is not a good idea to use only electronic format in a typical classroom, for I am not sure if learners are focusing on the training materials and not distracted. People will suffer from pain in their eyes while gazing into the screen for a long time. The biggest problem, however is they cannot enjoy adding their personal notes and writings on the electronic file in a convenient way. I googled and found two free apps: PDF-Xchange viewer and Jarnal. My choice was PDF-Xchagne viewer since Jarnal is too big and requires a tablet PC for easy use. Free version of PDF-Xchange supports most of commenting options: highlighting, typewriting, underlining, sticky note, line drawing, polygon drawing and so much. Moreover, this personalized file can be securely saved, shared, referred, searched and re-distributed thanks to the EDMS in my company.

Commenting tools in PDF-Xchange viewer

PDF workbook in the classroom

I have not tested this (PDF annotating) in a real classroom. I expect lots of obstacles, stiff resistance, repeated trials and errors from my coworkers and trainees. This is not a problem of technology but a problem of people’s habit, behavior, and tradition. I never saw any successful case in e-book business except Amazon’s Kindle. I’ll have to be very careful to practice this in the real classroom. At best, it might work in some very limited conditions. Korean government (Ministry of Education and Science) is also testing e-textbook (or digital textbook) for K12 education. We might need smarter hardware and software supporting natural viewing and writing based on intensive human behavior research.