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NetTalk WebServer - Mobile Browsers


The goal with the mobile support in NetTalk is to allow you to create a single web application, which adjusts itself to the user device, while giving you as the developer the maximum amount of control, with the least amount of work. This is a work-in-progress, and this part of NetTalk is expected to grow, and change, during the NetTalk 6 life cycle.

The goal of this document is to discuss the specific features and behaviors that apply to NetTalk from a mobile perspective.

What is Mobile?

There are a few approaches one can take when discussing mobile. The most obvious starting point is screen-size. Phones, for example, have screens a lot smaller than desktop PC's, and this is something that needs to be handled. Another difference is the use of "touch" as an interface, rather than a mouse and keyboard. This demands slightly different user interface approaches - for example in a touch interface there is no concept of "mouse hover". Lastly there is the issue of native-app replacement. Many mobile apps, targeted at mobile platforms will fulfill the role of a "native app" meaning that at least to some extent a similar interface style to native apps are desired.

Even from these three criteria, it becomes apparent that some devices do not easily categorize themselves as either "mobile" or "desktop". A 10-inch tablet for example has a large screen, seemingly placing it in the desktop space, but uses a touch interface.

It should be note that normal desktop sites written with NetTalk 5 (and NetTalk 6) appear to work perfectly well on tablet devices. A long-term strategy not to rely on right-mouse abilities, or mouse-hover abilities means that there is no obviously functionality lost when browsing any NetTalk site with a tablet. Thus the introduction of Mobile support in NetTalk focuses mainly on smaller devices, such as phones.

From a design perspective the small screen on the device becomes the overriding factor. This lack of space determines a lot about how the page will look. For example, all unnecessary information should be removed. Where a typical site has a fairly large header section, and possible a footer section as well, these will likely be removed completely, or dramatically reduced in the mobile version.

How is Mobile Chosen

There are three basic methods for detecting (and deciding) if a device is "mobile" or not. The first is to consider the User-Agent field of the incoming request. This can usually identify the device with some certainty, and is a good starting point. However, over time, User-Agent fields are bound to change, and of course nothing prevents a device from lying. The second approach is to use JavaScript to determine the capabilities of the device - and this works well too, although not all devices necessarily respond in the same way. The third approach is to let the user decide. This is an important back-stop. You should always have a mechanism for the user to force the site into either mobile, or desktop mode.

NetTalk uses all three approaches, although the last usually requires some interface intervention on the part of the developer. Typically this might occur on the login screen (a drop-down letting them choose) or it might be tied to a site subdomain ( as distinct from By default a user can force himself into (or out of) a mobile session by using the parameter ?_mobile_=1 or ?_mobile_=0 with any request. (The setting is remembered for future requests in that session).

If you wish you can force your site into mobile mode at compile time. This is useful during development as it allows you to concentrate on the mobile experience, without leaving your desktop. This is done in the WebHandler procedure, On the WebHandler Settings.

Recommended Building and Testing

During the building and testing phase, the ideal browser to use on the desktop is Google's Chrome. This most closely matches the browsers in both iOS and Android devices. We usually test in both FireFox (for it's debugging and CSS editing abilities) and Chrome to see what the final effect will be. Of course you will definitely want one or more devices to test with as well. At the bare minimum you will need either an Android, or an iOS phone for testing. If you can access more than one device then that will be better, especially as you get closer to deployment.

Upgrade from NetTalk 5 Checklist

If you have an existing NetTalk 5 application, then the following steps will prepare it to quickly support the new mobile features. Note that each step is described in more detail elsewhere in this document.


  1. Go to the Web Server procedure, To the NetTalk Extensions, Settings / Buttons tab. Refresh all the buttons there (by deleting them all). (See Buttons)
  2. Go to the Header and Footer procedures. Make sure they have their Header and Footer attributes set on. (See Headers and Footers)
  3. Make sure all Browses have a Close button. (See Browse Close Buttons)


  1. Carefully check Header and Footer HTML to make sure it's optimized for mobile, when in mobile mode. (See Headers and Footers)
  2. Remove unnecessary columns from Browse while in Mobile mode. Add In-Line Change buttons (on the right) and perhaps In-Line Delete buttons (on the left) of each browse row. Change and Delete buttons below the browse can then be removed.

WebServer Settings

Some settings have been added to the WebServer procedure, which allow you to turn off, or modify mobile behavior.

When Headers and Footers are fixed (the default) then the page will scroll within the header, and footer areas. If they are not fixed then the page will scroll and the header and/or footer will only be visible when the user is at the top, or bottom of the page.


The Buttons on the Settings / Buttons tab also have additional options for each of the standard buttons. If you have not changed any of the settings o your buttons, then the easiest way to refresh the list is simply to Delete all the buttons from the list. when you delete a button it is re-added, to the bottom of the list, with the default settings for that button. So when you see the top button reappear (typically the "Upload" button) then you know you've done them all.

Notice the new "Mobile" settings available for each button.
Compact: If this is on the button will be as small as possible. If set off, then the button will take up the entire width of the screen.
Icon: The name of the jQueryMobile icon to use for this button. Note that this isn't the same as a normal jQuery icon.
Text: The text to appear on the button.


Close Buttons

BBecause of the limited screen space, the menu is not shown in every screen. Therefore it becomes important that the user can navigate forwards, and backwards, without the need for a menu. To this end, it is strongly encouraged that all browse procedures have their "Close" button enabled. Remember if you want to limit the Close button to the mobile environment, then you can set the Close Condition to not p_web.IsMobile()


In the mobile version of your app you will want to reduce the number of columns on most browses significantly. While this can be done by setting the Column Condition to
not p_web.IsMobile()
a better way is to tick off the template option Include In Mobile.



Like the browse columns, Tabs can also be removed from mobile versions, by using the Include in Mobile switch.


Fields can be linked to Desktop, Mobile, or Both. Ideally you should limit forms to as few fields as possible when in mobile mode, concentrating on those fields which will most benefit from being editable while on the move.


The key new method in NetTalk is the IsMobile() method. This returns true if the current request is from a mobile device. This method will come in useful wherever you want to change mobile behavior from desktop behavior. For example on a form, some tabs or menu items may not appear in mobile mode, and so on. Used in conjunction with the Clarion CHOOSE command, you have a powerful inline decision making tool. For example, say you wanted to apply one css style to an item in mobile mode, and another in desktop mode. Then the following css setting would apply;


In some places the above code is simplified with a template options, and in other cases different behavior is already programmed into the application by default - those cases will be covered later in this document.


Because of the smaller nature of the mobile screen, many of your existing xHtml tabs will need to be considered. Two additional settings have been added to the xHTML tab in all the templates;

This allows you to determine which xHTML appears on desktop browsers, and which appear on Mobile devices. Your goal in most cases will be to reduce the clutter as much as possible in the mobile case. The above xHtml contains a typical header section, complete with an HTML table. The following is a simplified version, tailored to Mobile;

Note the use of the HTML <h1> tag. This tag is recommended for mobile headers, as it will affect the default styling of the header.

Headers and Footers

The section above alludes to the changes you will want to make on all your NetWebSource procedures (as well as any other procedures with xHTML additions.) However the PageHeaderTag and PageFooterTag procedures deserve a special mention.

Firstly these procedures appear across the whole site, so simplifying them will make a dramatic difference to the screen space available everywhere else. In addition to this however the concept of a Header, and Footer, is understood by the styling, and so identifying your Header and Footer procedures becomes very important. To this end make sure that the headings on the General tab are entered correctly.

Notice also that on NetWebSource procedures you can use a different CSS class for mobile, and desktop.


NetTalk supports two basic menu types, a horizontal one (best typified by the DoubleDrop option) and the vertical one (best typified by the TaskPanel option.) NetTalk 6 adds a third type of menu, the menu for Mobile. In NetTalk 5 and earlier you had to decide on the menu type at design time, however in NetTalk 6 the menu can now be selected at runtime. This means that when the application is in mobile mode, then the mobile menu type is automatically selected for you and the vertical, or horizontal menu is not displayed.

Another difference is that the menu is not included on every page. Web sites are a lot more "modal" in nature, each step (menu, browse, form etc) tends to use the whole screen. Users can navigate backwards, but their ability to completely jump around is reduced (not removed completely, just reduced).


NetTalk ships with a default set of icons for mobile use. These are based on the shipping jQueryMobile icons, and supplemented with icons from andyMatthews.Net. The available icons, with their names are;


My App won't switch to Mobile Mode

You app should swap to Mobile mode if one of the conditions for mobile are met. If it doesn't, here are some things to check.
  1. WebServer Procedure - Make sure the "Support Mobile Browsers" option is on (Mobile Tab).
  2. WebHandler Procedure - Make sure the "Set site mode to" option is set to Detect.
  3. WebServer Procedure - If you want tablets (especially high resolution tablets) to automatically switch to mobile, set the  "Max Mobile Res" option to a high number (in excess of 2500)
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