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Automatically refreshing pages using popular browser plugins

Introduction

Historically, Cerberus Helpdesk has provided an auto-refresh feature that reloads the current page while displaying a countdown timer. This is useful in multi-monitor environments, or when displaying helpdesk information on a projector in a network operations center (NOC).

When we started the project in January 2002, browsers provided fewer services to the sites that displayed inside them, and browser plugins weren't mainstream. There was a time when we even supplied our own spellchecking feature, despite the fact it makes far more sense for browsers to cooperate with the operating system to support consistent dictionaries (and learn/ignore lists) across all applications with all languages, instead of requiring every application to provide its own isolated dictionary.

Today, auto-refresh functionality is in a similar position. All major browsers can support the ability to reload a page at an interval through plugins. Opera includes the feature by default.

There are several reasons why the browser is a better place for this functionality:

  • The refresh countdown can be visible at all times without obscuring web pages.
  • The browser is capable of determining an idle state across the entire system (for pausing/resuming the timer) in a way that a web page is not. Ideally, a page would not auto-refresh while you were interacting with it.
  • Web-based applications won't have to provide their own inconsistent implementations for automatically refreshing pages.

We've compiled a list of auto-refresh plugins for all the mainstream browsers. The Chrome and Firefox solutions work the best.

Chrome

Firefox

Safari

Opera

The functionality is built-in, although it doesn't show a countdown timer like the plugins. Right-click on the page and choose from the Reload Every... menu.

Internet Explorer


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