Design and History of FirstGlance in Jmol


FirstGlance in Jmol was inspired by FirstGlance in Chime, which was written by Eric Martz in 1998 in collaboration with Jaime Prilusky, and with the support of Joel Sussman and the Protein Data Bank. FirstGlance in Chime was deployed in 1998 at the Brookhaven Protein Data Bank, and beginning the following year, at the RCSB Protein Data Bank. It remained available at the latter through 2005.

MDL Chime is a browser plugin derived from RasMol. Chime has had a large impact on education, communication, and research in the biochemical community, as evidenced by the hundreds of tools and tutorials that utilize it (indexed at molvisindex.org). MDL Chime is free, but its proprietary source code has been closely guarded by MDL. Chime first became available in late 1996. MDL stopped serious development of Chime by late 1998.

Despite its considerable power, the limitations of Chime (including its unavailability for Mac OSX or linux) and the freeze in its development have been frustrating to its user community. An open-source replacement was needed, and this need was met by Jmol beginning in 2004.

FirstGlance in Jmol has been kept simple by intention, partly to enable it to work on the widest possible range of browsers and platforms. It opens no windows except those specifically requested when users click on links, and hence is compatible with pop-up blocking.

FirstGlance (through version 0.97) was available in a version that used frames, and a version that didn't. You could control which version you use with the Advanced Options at the main page, or with the hyperlink to FirstGlance. Since nobody preferred the version with frames, and it was considerable extra work to maintain the frames capability, the option to use frames was discontinued in version 0.98. Nevertheless, the following information may be of interest: Both versions work in the same wide range of browsers and platforms.

A complete list of changes between versions is provided. The problem affecting scrolling of text with the mouse wheel in Firefox was fixed in later versions of Firefox.

Technical information for software developers is available in several documents listed at the end of All About FirstGlance in Jmol.


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