May 2001

Web Browsers

We recently created some slide shows to demonstrate the new features in the latest version of RTG Bills, our time and billing software for law firms. Our old slide shows were just static images and text. The new ones are self-running, with a moving cursor, "click" effects to represent mouse clicks and keyboard clicks, and the ability to simulate an actual working program.

In developing these slide shows, we learned quite a bit about the differences between Web browsers. For example, we make use of layers, which allow different images to be placed on top of one another, with transparent areas that allow the lower layers to be seen. Layers can also be moved around on the screen. To show a cursor, we create a rectangular layer with the image of a cursor. The parts of the rectangle that are not part of the cursor are transparent, so the image underneath shows through.

Layers are a very powerful way to show graphic images on a Web page. Unfortunately, different browsers require different programming to create and move the layers. Netscape created one way of doing it and Microsoft created another, so a Web page will only work on both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer if it detects the type of browser and uses different programming for each one.

We also found that any programming error, such as sending an Internet Explorer-style command to Netscape Navigator, can cause the entire page to stop working. Sometimes it crashes the browser, too, requiring you to use Ctrl-Alt-Delete to "end the task."

We tested our slide shows with Netscape Navigator 4.77, Internet Explorer 5.50, and Netscape Navigator 6.01. These are the latest browser versions from Netscape and Microsoft. The slide shows should work with all three. They should, in fact, work with any "version 4" or higher browser from Netscape or Microsoft.

Problems With Sound

We wanted to add sound to our slide shows. A mouse click or a keyboard click should be accompanied by the appropriate click sound. It would also be nice to offer the option of voice narration instead of on-screen text to describe what is happening.

Sounds, too, work differently in different browsers. Worst of all, Netscape 6 does not support the necessary programming commands to use sound at all.

In order to have sounds start instantly, the slide show must "preload" them. In other words, all the sounds are downloaded from our Web server before the slide show begins. But the commands required to do this are incompatible with Netscape 6. This means we need a different slide show page, with no sound, for Netscape 6.

For now, we've decided to leave out sound altogether. Eventually we may add a sound version (clicks only) for browsers that can handle it.

Voice narration requires very large sound files for good audio quality. Large files take a long time to load unless you have a fast Internet connection. At this time, although our software can handle voice files, we aren't using that feature.

We hope you'll try out our slide shows. Let us know if you like them.

Changing A Matter Number

RTG Bills does not currently provide a way to change the matter number assigned to a matter. You might want to change a matter number in situations such as these:

  • If two clients merge, you might want to move the matters from one to the other.

  • You might decide to change the numbering scheme for a client's matters. Instead of sequential numbering, perhaps you would like to use a year code followed by a sequence number. For example, matter 12-101005 could be the fifth matter (005) opened in 2001 (101) for client 12.

We are now offering a small program that makes it easy to change the matter number. Here's what it looks like:

In this example, we are changing both the client number (from 1 to 1234) and the case number, the number after the dash (from 1 to 2).

Note: Current versions of RTG Bills include this feature.

RTG Bills and RTG Timer are trademarks of RTG Data Systems. Other company and product names may be trademarks of the companies with which they are associated.

Back to the RTG News page