Stephen Hawking photo  Hawking Toolbar - Project Status Stephen Hawking photo

"My body may be stuck in this wheelchair, but with the Internet my mind can go to the ends of the universe."
- Stephen Hawking, University of Cambridge Physicist, 1/6/97


Latest version

Development (including SVN) being moved to Oatsoft

Project Status Tracking:
(Warning: installation of beta versions of toolbar could cause problems with your browser and is not recommended.  Do so only under geek supervision.)

Stage:                Description
Dec. 27, 2004 - Feb 4, 2005
Research: learning DOM, Javascript, CSS, XML, and XUL
Feb.6, 2005 Initial Demo Web page: Javascript cycles through links on a trial web page
Feb. 7, 2005 0.0.1 XPI file: Basic toolbar setup
Feb.8, 2005 Revised Demo Web Page: Preserve links' existing background, whether color or image
Feb.8, 2005 0.0.2 XPI file: Preserves links' existing background
Feb.8, 2005
Demo Web Page: Hit a key, link is selected and new web page opens
Feb.8, 2005
XPI file: Hit a key, link is selected and new web page opens
Feb.10, 2005
Final demo page
Demo Web Page: Hit specific key (space bar), link is selected and new web page opens.  Not all noted features are fully implemented.  At this point, the toolbar's features are too complex to work in a static, scripted web page, so this is the final demonstration web page.  Please see full XPI files.
Feb. 14, 2005
XPI file: multiple key commands, toolbar button scanning (press 'L' to launch button commands or links), currently back/fwd/home/stop not working (expected to be fixed by Feb. 28.  Some odd but infrequent navigational behavior bugs.  Final window navigation model not implemented (not visible to user).  Last version to have a demo web page ... in fact, the demo page only has some of this version's functionality.  Scrolls page to show currently highlighted link.
Feb. 21, 2005
XPI file: added 2- and 3-switch control for manual control of forward/ backward movement of highlight (can even go back from toolbar to last link on page if user goes too far).  Toolbar buttons are presented as a single section: if chosen, user can cycle through them one-by-one, otherwise next choice will be 1st link on page.  (This is the first step towards intelligent, sectional scanning.)  Reverted to old select control in interface: <SPACEBAR> to select; left/right arrows move back / forward if used with 2 or 3 switch configuration.  Added "welcome" screen.  Minor bug fixes.
UPDATE (2005.02.25) : fixed toolbar highlighting, removed all key triggers except <space> and arrow keys, keys otherwise behave same as in firefox without the extension.  More minor bug fixes.
Feb. 27, 2005
XPI file: This is the biggest change yet!  Back/ Forward/ Refresh/ Home/ Print all work, and don't cause highlighter to get lost.  All navigation problems seem to be fixed, plus implemented a true listener for page fully loaded.  No more kludges.  Pages can be navigated either with Hawking toolbar methods, or with standard Firebox methods.  Toolbar flashes when it has focus to get user's attention, buttons and links flash when selected to provide user feedback.  Keys are abstracted, can easily be mapped to any preferred key user chooses (right now, this requires a simple, single change in source code).  Many, many bug fixes and improvements to the user experience.  Big thanks to Jonah Bishop for solutions to some of the biggest problems.
Apr. 28, 2005 0.0.7 XPI file: (big changes!) highlight image links, simulate mouseover/ mouseout, font size increase/ decrease, initial page scroller version (for demo, not yet accessible).  No longer crashes on image maps, fixed most of the other minor bugs.
CURRENT KEYS: 1,2,3 represent use of first, second, and third switch (until user preferences are done in next version, this is used to work with supplied test switch hardware)
Jan. 9, 2006 0.0.8 Repackaged for 1.5
Jan. 14, 2006 0.1.0 By far the biggest changes yet!  Contextual grouping of links finally done.  See the new screenshots.  Plus: improved page scrolling.

Installation Instructions:  
linux mac osx MS Windows
The Hawking Toolbar is cross-platform (works wherever Firefox works)
  1. Find the latest 'XPI' (cross-platform installer) file from the list above.  (Note that you can download the file with any browser, but you can only install it into Firefox.)  
  2. Download the file: right-click on the desired version number, select 'Save Link As...' , and save the file to an appropriate directory.
  3. Go to the 'File' menu and select 'Open File ...', then select the file from the directory where you had saved it in step 2.  Firefox will then install the toolbar, but you must restart your browser before it will be available for use.

Current development stage:
(not available)
(for testing only, bleeding-edge, do not install; noted features may not be complete)

Next issues to solve:

Longer term issues:

Mozilla .xpi extension file, using Mozilla's XUL for user interface to descibe GUI, CSS to define appearance of buttons/ widgets, and JavaScript to control behavior and to interact with DOM.  Big thanks to Jonah Bishop and his Firefox toolbar tutorial.

The Hawking Toolbar was released in Spring 2005 under the GPL open source license.  A public release version is expected by end of Summer 2005.

Brett Clippingdale, Computer Science Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Project Advisor:
Gary Bishop, UNC Professor of Comp Sci, Accessibily Guru, Original Thinker (TM) and All-Around Nice Guy

Email contact info:
<brett<DOT>clippingdale> at <gmail<DOT>com>
<gb> at <cs<DOT>unc<DOT>edu>

Stephen Hawking (of course!), Physicist and Lucasian professor of Mathematics, University of Cambridge

XUL Planet
XUL Tutorial
The Joy of XUL
XUL Toolbar Tutorial

firefox UNC Comp Sci Canadian Flag

EECS, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor