Faster and snappier searches now in Firefox Aurora

1 August, 2014 § 9 Comments

nice-red-running-foxIn case you haven’t noticed yet, Firefox Aurora contains some great speed ups when searching from the location bar. For far too long, searches that consisted of a single-word or arithmetic expressions would either result in errors or long delays before a search results page was presented.

This has all changed starting in Firefox Aurora. Take for example, a search for “867-5309″:

Previously when a single word was typed in to the location bar and Enter was pressed (or the Go button clicked), Firefox would look for a website at http://867-5309/. After the lookup timed out, Firefox would redirect to a search for “867-5309“. If the hyphen was removed and “8675309” was entered, Firefox would immediately go to an error page saying that it was unable to connect to the server at 8675309.

Some people may have become accustomed to placing a `?` at the beginning of the location bar to subvert this behavior. With the new Firefox Aurora, this is no longer necessary.

Slow and broken search behavior seen in Firefox 32 and older

Slow and broken search behavior seen in Firefox 32 and older

Now, in both of these cases Firefox will kick off the search request immediately. In the background, Firefox will look for locally-hosted sites that have a hostname matching the value that was typed in. Most people will see search results on average 5 seconds quicker!

In cases where there is a potential match, Firefox will show a notification bar asking if the locally-hosted site was the intended destination. Clicking “Yes, take me to 8675309″ will navigate to the matched site and whitelist it for future.

Screenshot of new behavior coming in Firefox 33

Screenshot of new behavior coming in Firefox 33

Whitelisting a serverIf you’d like to proactively whitelist a site, you can go to about:config and create a new Boolean pref with the name of `browser.fixup.domainwhitelist.` followed by the single word that you would like whitelisted. Set the pref to true, and the search will be skipped. localhost is already whitelisted.

Firefox continues to gain speed, customizability, and security with each release. This feature will find its way to the Release population with Firefox 33. In the meantime, you can install Firefox Aurora or Firefox Nightly and begin using it today.

There are two minor cases left to fix:

  • Queries that end with a period still fail. This is in the process of being fixed and can be tracked at bug 1042519.
  • Queries containing a period in the middle also fail. This is not currently being worked on, but is tracked at bug 494092.

New in Firefox Nightly: Experimenting with context menus

27 May, 2014 § 26 Comments

Starting today, users of Firefox Nightly will see a new look to the classic context menu.

New context menu

Context menus on desktop browsers have changed very little since Firefox 1.0 was introduced. Meanwhile, new devices have brought new concepts to context menus. The context menu on Firefox for Android is much more graphical, showing recognizable symbols at a glance.

Context menu in Firefox for Android

Switching frequently used menuitems to their iconic forms can improve the usability of the menu, as it can make it easier to find the menuitems at a glance as well as click on. One way to visualize the difference is by performing what is known as a “squint test”. The image on the left is the old Firefox context menu, and the image on the right is the new Firefox context menu.

Squint test of old (left) vs. new (right) context menu (Gaussian blur=3)

Squint test of old (left) vs. new (right) context menu (Gaussian blur=3)

Looking at the squint test above, not only is it easier to see the actions of the buttons at the top, but we can also see that the new menu feels a bit leaner.

We don’t have plans to switch all menuitems over to their iconic forms, mainly because many menuitems lack a well-understood graphical metaphor. We’ll keep experimenting with our context menus, hopefully adding the ability to customize them just like the rest of Firefox.

Known issues: The context menus found in today’s Firefox Nightly are still missing a couple finishing touches that we are going to follow up with:

  • The icons being used are not the right size and are lacking HiDPI versions
  • The bookmark star is not shown as filled-in when the page being right-clicked on is already bookmarked
  • OSX is missing the inverted icons, currently showing grey icons on a blue-hovered background

New in Firefox Nightly: In-content Preferences

18 May, 2014 § 46 Comments

I’m happy to announce that starting today, the new in-content preferences are enabled by default in Firefox Nightly.

Preferences

This project was started by a group of students at Michigan State University and was mentored by Blair McBride and myself. Since its start, it has continued to get a ton of attention from contributors world-wide.

This is a list of people who have contributed patches to the in-content preferences as of this posting:

  • Ally Naaktgeboren
  • Andres Hernandez
  • Andrew Hurle
  • Benjamin Peterson
  • Benjamin Smedberg
  • Brendan Dahl
  • Brian R. Bondy
  • Brian Smith
  • Carsten “Tomcat” Book
  • Chris Mahoney
  • Chris Peterson
  • Christian Ascheberg
  • Christian Sonne
  • Devan Sayles
  • Dão Gottwald
  • Ed Morley
  • Ehsan Akhgari
  • Florian Quèze
  • Gervase Markham
  • Gijs Kruitbosch
  • Gregory Szorc
  • Honza Bambas
  • Jan de Mooij
  • Jan Varga
  • Jared Wein
  • Javi Rueda
  • Jeff Walden
  • John Schoenick
  • Jon Rietveld
  • Jonathan Mayer
  • Josh Matthews
  • JosiahOne
  • Kyle Machulis
  • Mahdi Dibaiee
  • Manish Goregaokar
  • Manish Goregaokar
  • Mark Hammond
  • Martin Stransky
  • Matthew Noorenberghe
  • Michael Harrison
  • Mike Connor
  • Mike Hommey
  • Ms2ger
  • Nicholas Nethercote
  • Nick Alexander
  • Owen Carpenter
  • Paolo Amadini
  • Phil Ringnalda
  • Richard Marti
  • Richard Newman
  • rsx11m
  • Ryan VanderMeulen
  • Sebastian Hengst
  • Sid Stamm
  • Ted Mielczarek
  • Theo Chevalier
  • Tim Taubert
  • Yosy
  • Zuhao (Joe) Chen

There is still a lot of work to be done before shipping the new in-content preferences out to people on the release builds of Firefox. That also means that this long list of contributors doesn’t have to stay at 59 people, it can keep growing :)

We have a list of bugs that we need to fix before we can call version 1 of this project complete. The easiest way for someone new to help out is to download Firefox Nightly and help test that the new preferences work just as well as the old preferences. If you find an issue and see that it hasn’t already been reported, please file a new bug in Bugzilla and leave a comment on this blog post with a link to the bug that you filed.

In-Content Preferences

Refinements to the Linux theme in the new Firefox

30 April, 2014 § 1 Comment

Firefox on GTK Linux now matches the look of Firefox on Windows and Mac OS X. The new Firefox brings interactions and visual designs that were present previously only on Windows and Mac OS X to Linux to provide a more familiar user experience to Firefox users regardless of platform.

Keyhole on Linux

Firefox on Linux with forward button

Firefox on Linux now has the familiar “keyhole” design. This design is an immediately recognizable feature of Firefox, and is shown by the shape of the back button connected to the forward button and location bar.

Many brands have identifiable shapes such as the Mickey Mouse ears that Disney uses, and the curvy bottle shape of Coke. These shapes are immediately recognizable as part of their respective brands, and bringing Linux in to the mix is something that has been on the Firefox front-end team’s backlog for a while now.

I’m really happy to see the keyhole shape now present on all of our tier-1 platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, and now Linux (GTK).

Icons on LinuxAnother large refinement that has been brought to Linux is new toolbar icons for buttons such as the Home, Back/Forward, and tab close buttons. The iconography of our Linux version now matches that of Windows and Mac OS X.

These changes help unify the experience of Firefox users independent of platform, while also allowing for a faster pace of development for the people working on making Firefox.

If you’re already running Firefox, it will automatically update to the latest version. If not, you can download Firefox now, always free and always open.

The fresh and furiously fast Firefox

29 April, 2014 § 4 Comments

One of the less covered parts of this week’s Firefox release is high attention that was placed on the performance of the redesign of the tab shape.

The new Firefox introduces a new tab shape that is consistent with Firefox for Android, FirefoxOS, Thunderbird, as well as the web properties of Mozilla.

Firefox for Android

Firefox for Android


Firefox on desktop PCs

Firefox

As the Firefox team was implementing this new design, performance was a key metric that was measured and focused on. We wanted to not only bring a beautiful design to users, but one that matched the new sleek shape with an equally speedy outcome.

Each time a change was made to our source control repository, a fresh build of the browser was created and run against a suite of automated tests that measure the performance of the build. These results are then compared against the results of prior builds, allowing the team to track improvements and regressions.

One such test that was used is called TART, short for Tab Animation Regression Test. The test works by opening and closing tabs and measuring the amount of time needed to paint each frame of the animation. Normally Firefox only attempts to paint one frame every 16ms (equivalent to 60fps) but during TART that limit is disabled.

Users of Firefox can have infinite variations of hardware setup, some of which are much slower than our testing infrastructure. By trying to paint as fast as possible, we can get a number that will represent the maximum bound for our graphics performance on our fixed-setup testing infrastructure. By tracking this number, we project that the full Firefox user-base will on average see proportional performance gains.

Now to the numbers

Tab OpeningTab closingIn the previous version of Firefox on Windows 7, Firefox took an average of 3.52ms to paint each frame of the tab opening animation [1]. With the new version of Firefox, we have gotten this number down to 2.81ms, which is a 20% speed up!

When it comes to closing tabs, we saw a shift from 2.72ms to 1.88ms [2], an amazing 31% speed up!

Gains like the above only happen when a solid testing framework is in place and an equally solid team keeps performance as a top priority. Cheers to everyone that has helped make the new release of Firefox the fastest yet.

If you’re already running Firefox, it will automatically update to the latest version. If not, you can download Firefox now, always free and always open.

[1] icon-open-DPI1.all.TART (Fx28 1b8f6597b67f vs Fx29 f1c211a4714d)
[2] icon-close-DPI1.all.TART (Fx28 1b8f6597b67f vs Fx29 f1c211a4714d)

Fast fox

[Update: Thank you to Benedikt who in the comments below corrected a math error that I made with the percentage of improvements]

Customization in the new Firefox

29 April, 2014 § 5 Comments

Customization has always been a strong point for Firefox. From installing add-ons and themes to rearranging the controls in the toolbars, Firefox leads the pack in providing the best customization capabilities of any browser out there.

Providing user choice is central to Mozilla, and that is reflected strongly in Firefox. With our new and improved customization mode, users can now change what widgets will appear in their Firefox toolbar as well as the Firefox menu.

For example, users that often click on the “Save Page” button now have the ability to move the button to their toolbar in only two clicks of the mouse.

Moving the Save Page button to the toolbar

Conversely, users who sparingly use the Search box can now move it to the Firefox menu or remove it entirely. If you used Ctrl+K (Cmd+K on Mac) as a shortcut to access the Search box before, Firefox will still react to the shortcut even if the Search box has been moved to the Firefox menu.

Search in the menu

Firefox offers two easy ways to customize the browser. Simple customizations such as moving an item between the toolbar and the menu can be made by right-clicking on the widget that you wish to move. Deeper customizations can be made by entering the customization mode, accessible through the Customization button in the Firefox menu.

Customize Firefox

Our new customization mode even supports touch-sensitive screens, bringing customization “to your fingertips”:

Touch-based customization

With the new Firefox, you can now customize your toolbar and menu to make Firefox yours. If you’re already running Firefox, it will automatically update to the latest version. If not, you can download Firefox now, always free and always open.

Bookmarking in the new Firefox

28 April, 2014 § 3 Comments

This week’s release of Firefox brings an improved bookmarking experience, tightening the relationship between adding a bookmark and retrieving it.

Bookmarks Button

The traditional bookmark star has been moved out of the location bar and in to a new Bookmark Star + Bookmarks Menu widget. When a bookmark is added, a new animation shows the Bookmark Star filling in and bouncing over to the Bookmarks Menu.

A second click on the Bookmark Star allows you to tweak the bookmark name, folder, and tags. By default, bookmarks are placed in the Unsorted Bookmarks folder, which can be viewed by clicking on the Bookmarks Menu.

Edit This Bookmark

This new bookmarking widget doesn’t have to stay on your Firefox toolbar either. Firefox offers the best customization capabilities of all browsers, and this means that you can quickly move the widget to the new Firefox menu or hide it entirely.

Bookmarks context menu

This can be done quickly and effortlessly, by right-clicking on the Bookmarks widget and selecting either “Move to Menu” or “Remove from Toolbar”. You can also reposition the widget through the all-new customization mode that is accessible by clicking on the “Customize” button in the Firefox menu.

Bookmarks in the new Firefox menu

Clicking on the Bookmarks button in the Firefox menu will show the following view:

Bookmarks subview in the new Firefox menu

If you’re already running Firefox, it will automatically update to the latest version. If not, you can download Firefox now, always free and always open.

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