Ink in Firefox update


Last night I couldn’t sleep so I tried to finish off the Ink plug-in for Firefox. I didn’t make it. By 5AM I realized there was no way I was going to get the Undo/Redo working before my eyes fell asleep. I also realized I need time to go back over all the scriptable attributes and functions in order to make sure the names make sense and the like. The real test will be to see if we can get the plug-in working with Community Server. I haven’t looked into this yet either.

In the meantime here’s a Camtasia screencapture that shows the Ink Plug-in for Firefox in action:

Update: What else is there to do with ink in the browser? What about combining ink and Atlas?

Click here or on the screenshot above to see a larger version.


  1. Sascha, I’m not sure what I’ll ultimately do with the code. I’ll at least make the plug-in freely available.

  2. What’s the point? The tabletpc is dead and putting ink on the internet is not going to save it.

  3. reality: “ink” is already on the Net. Check out AjaxSketch or the path mashups with Google Maps or how some apps, such as gliffy ( are pushing edge in terms of what online apps mean. The question is, for those of us with a Tablet PC, is there a way to support the high-quality ink that our Tablets can achieve. Maybe ink for us becomes a layer that gets translated down to simple vectors, maybe an open ink standard evolves, or maybe ink for Tablets becomes a niche. I’m not so great at predicting the future, so for me I have to try things.

  4. This is a cool plugin. Nice work.
    I’d be interested in reading a bit about the technical details if you’re going to write about it: did you write an XPCOM wrapper in C++ for the inkable surface, then use it from javascript?

    Although one step in the right direction, there are still 2 big limitations for good inking on the internet, and both are with supporting non-windows platforms: allowing a non-Windows client to send ink to the server and allowing a non-Windows server to interpret and manipulate the ink sent by the clients.
    Ideally, I’d want to ink from my cellphone/PDA/smartphone.

  5. Julien, I’ll see if I can put a technical post together with some code to show how the plug-in works.

    You’re right that this approach only works with a Windows 2K+ box in terms of rendering ink and a Tablet PC for reco.

    In terms of inking on other platforms I’m not sure how big the “ink stack” would need to be to make it compelling enough. Rendering fortified GIFs is OK–but does not maintain fidelity when resized–which I think is very important to achieve. Could an ink renderer be written that’s “close enough”–seems like Flash, SVG, or the canvas tag in some browsers–is close in this respect? And what about the ISF format? What does it mean to copy/paste on a Mac/Tablet/Linux? Is it just copying the vectors? Can InkWell be leveraged on the Mac in order to provide rendering and reco? This would leave out Linux, which may be unfortunate in terms of small devices. Or maybe there’s an open source recognizer–I haven’t looked into this yet.

    Here’s a scenario: Let’s say that four people are collaborating on a page–each person on a different system, one on a Tablet, one on XP, one a Mac, and one on Linux. First and foremost it’s important that everyone be able to see each others ink–in a high-quality form. I’m guessing that people will want to save or copy/paste portions of the collaboration onto their systems. Next up I’m guessing that for those with built-in recognizers (such as on a Tablet or Mac), their ink could be enhanced with reco and the results shared with others. Could the Tablet and Mac provide reco for the others in a psuedo-server fashion, maybe? I’d almost slice the problem up so that all platforms provide rendering, some provide high-quality ink input, and some provide reco. Once the ink is digitized though, I think it’s very important for people to be able to share, save, and consume it.

  6. All I want is to be able to embed ink statically in a page, like an image. Also, can I do that in thunderbird as well? (I’d like to send ink e-mails to a friend on a tablet)