While blithely browsing the web the other night, I was in the midst of entering a search term when an odd little window unexpectedly popped up. It was titled “Ruler”, and offered some options to check, such as “Snap to X/Y axis” and “Hide Tick marks.”
I found that my keyboard was no longer responding, so I clicked the peculiar popup’s close box and continued typing. All was fine until I had occasion to enter an upper case “R,” then suddenly the strange ruler window popped up again. What the hack was going on?
An hour of experimentation and web research gave me some insight. The ruler box is a feature of the Internet Explorer 7 Developer Toolbar add-on that I had installed a couple months back, but hadn’t trotted out much. It turns the mouse into an on-screen measuring tape that displays the dimension in pixels of whatever you drag over, and can be useful for sizing web page elements. The IE7 Developer Toolbar contains a few other somewhat useful functions, such as the ability to easily examine the code behind individual web page elements (e.g. paragraphs, images, DIVs), simulate the viewable area for various standard screen resolutions, and display a report of all links on a page. But since its official release earlier this year, the toolbar has proven to have some bugs, and has generally been found to be inferior to a similar extension to Firefox called Web Developer.
What I found to be triggering the bad behavior in my IE Developer Toolbar ruler was opening the IE7 Feeds bar for subscribing to blogs. Doing this, either by selecting View | Explorer Bar | Feeds, or by typing Ctrl-Shift-J erroneously causes Shift-R to become a hot key for the Dev Toolbar ruler. I discovered that typing Ctrl-R disables the unwanted hot key.
A different sort of unruly ruler has been the focus of John Bonifaz, attorney, founder of the National Voting Rights Institute and candidate for the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts Secretary of State in 2006, who has recently moved to Amherst. In Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush (Nation Books, 2003) Bonifaz has argued that Mr. Bush’s leading of the U.S. into war with Iraq was illegal and an impeachable offense. Daily Kos reports that 21 cities and towns in Massachusetts have approved resolutions to impeach President Bush. 16 are in the Pioneer Valley.