New in Firefox Nightly: Recommended and easy theme switching through Customize mode

27 August, 2014 § 5 Comments

Firefox menuWe shipped the Australis project with Firefox 29, but the Firefox team hasn’t stopped working on making Firefox the easiest browser to personalize. Firefox allows easy customizing through the new Customize mode, and now in Firefox Nightly people will find a quick and easy to way to set the theme of the browser.

After entering Customize mode, a new menu is shown at the footer of the window. Clicking on this menu will show any installed themes as well as a list of five recommended themes.

These recommended themes were picked from the Add-ons for Firefox website by members of the Firefox User Experience team. All of the themes are licensed through Creative Commons. Some are CC-BY and others are CC-BY-SA.

Themes menu

Hovering over a theme in the menu will preview the appearance of the theme. Clicking on one of the themes will change the applied theme.

An applied theme

We haven’t figured out yet what the rotation will be for recommended themes. Any input on how often or how we should go about putting together the next list is greatly appreciated.

Full management of themes and add-ons is still available through the Add-ons Manager. Recommended themes that have not been applied will not show up in the Add-ons Manager. Once a recommended theme is applied, it will appear in the Add-ons Manager and can be uninstalled from there.

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

My contribution to today’s Firefox release

29 October, 2013 § 6 Comments

I haven’t written up one of these blog posts in a while. The previous one was in August 2012 for Firefox 15. Coincidentally, that post mentioned a subtle change to the site identity area of the web browser.

In today’s release of Firefox, there is another subtle change to the site identity area of the browser. Pages that are a part of Firefox itself, whether it be the built-in home page (about:home), our troubleshooting page (about:support), or others now sport a special Firefox branding within the location bar. The goal of this branding is to increase awareness and trust with these pages.

2013-10-29_1229

Clicking on the Firefox name or the two-tone Firefox logo next to the name will show a popup notification that explains that this is a secure Firefox page.

2013-10-29_1229_002

These changes were previously announced when I introduced them to the Nightly channel of Firefox this past July.

Increasing trust with privileged Firefox pages

23 July, 2013 § 3 Comments

For many years there has been an increased emphasis towards increasing the visibility of a website’s identity. Pages served over HTTP lack a verifiable identity, while pages served over HTTPS begin to have aspects of their identity verifiable.

When a page is viewed over a valid HTTPS connection, the web browser is able to verify the identity of the domain that it is communicating with. Firefox uses this information to place a “site identity” graphic next to the website’s URL. Clicking on this site identity graphic provides more information about the connection.

HTTPS

Clicking on the More Information button shows how often this website is accessed, in an effort towards building trust and pointing out potentially untrustworthy websites.

Page Info

When a page is viewed over a valid HTTPS connection using an Extended Validation certificate, the web browser places the certificate’s Organizational Name between the site identity graphic and the website’s URL. With Extended Validation, the web browser not only can confirm the identity of the domain that it is communicating with, but it relies on the vendor who issued the certificate to have verified the identity of the owner of the website. Again, clicking on the More Information button in the site identity panel will show prior access information.

HTTPS+EV

Within the past couple weeks a new site identity view was introduced. Now when visiting privileged Firefox webpages such as about:home, about:config, and about:addons, the site identity area will show a Firefox logo along with the “Firefox” name. Clicking on the either of these will show a panel that confirms to the user that this page is a secure Firefox page.

Nightly

This feature is expected to reach users on our Release channel during the last week of October, 2013. If you’d like to play with it today you can download and install a build of Firefox Nightly.

Picking Up The Crumbs

17 June, 2013 § 25 Comments

A few days ago a new feature landed in Firefox Nightly that makes closing multiple tabs easier than it was before.

I often find myself in situations where I have multiple tabs that I opened only to look at for short periods of time. Sometimes I reach this state while reading articles on Hacker News or looking at funny pictures on Reddit. At the end of looking at the tabs, it would be nice if Firefox had a way to close these ephemeral tabs so you can get back to your previous work quicker.

Close Tabs to The Right

Well, Firefox now does! If you open lots of tabs from Reddit and then want to close all of the tabs to the right of Reddit, just right-click on the Reddit tab and choose “Close Tabs to the Right”. It’s easy and quick!

Why “close tabs to the right” and not “close tabs to the left”? When we open new tabs they appear on the end, and so naturally tabs that have a longer lifetime end up being promoted to the start-side of the bar. This leads us towards the situation where closing tabs “to the right” is a simple way of closing the ephemeral tabs.

Users who are using Firefox with a right-to-left locale such as Hebrew or Arabic should see the equivalent “Close Tabs to the Left” feature.

Huge thanks go out to Michael Brennan who contributed the patches and automated tests for this feature! Unless something drastic happens, this feature will find its way to Firefox Release in just over 12 weeks in Firefox 24.

We’re Jamun!

13 May, 2013 § 6 Comments

2013-05-10_1511

Well, we were “jamun”. This past week we shut off the Jamun project branch of Australis and moved our focus to the UX branch.

What does all this mean?

In a nutshell, this means that the Australis customization rewrite has progressed enough to the point that we feel it is ready to start getting much broader testing. We’re in the final stretch of the project, and we want our changes to reach testers at a faster pace.

Here’s where we stand today:
* Most customization workflows are possible. Not all UI migrations are complete.
* Most polish on the edges isn’t there. It does however look pretty close on Windows and Mac now.
* Some final graphics are missing, but they’re not far away.

Wait, wait, what are we talking about here?

Ah, okay, I’ll take a step back. A while back, in fact, a looooong time ago… there was a presentation from the Firefox UX team about a new browser UI refresh and rewrite of our customization workflows. It turns out that many users don’t know that Firefox is customizable. Some users accidentally customize their browser and don’t know what went wrong. Then, there’s this super-tiny super-expert user group that has figured out how to customize Firefox and they *adore* it.

So, what are we doing about it?

Well, the first thing that we’re doing is making entering and exiting customization of Firefox much easier. No longer will a user have to right-click on a special portion of a toolbar and choose “Customize…”. This was way too hard to find for the vast majority of users. We’ve left that same entry point there, but we’ve also created a very visible “Customize” button.

Sounds good, where is this Customize button though?

Great question! Another goal of Australis is to unify the user experience between Windows, OS X, and Linux. On Windows and Linux, Firefox has an “Application Menu” in the top-left corner of the browser. We’ve moved this menu to the right-side of the navigation toolbar and it will now be visible on all three platforms. We’ve also been hard at work trying to make this menu easy to use and navigate. The Customize button is located at the bottom of this menu.

Another really cool thing about this menu is that it will be customizable. When you enter Customization mode, you’ll be able to add, remove, and rearrange items in the menu as well as items on the toolbars.

Here’s a screenshot of what the Customization mode looks like today on Windows:

2013-05-08_1343

As I mentioned earlier, all of this is still very much a “work-in-progress”, so it’s expected that people will find bugs and rough edges. If you’d like to play with it today, you can download the UX Nightly builds and give it a run. The UX Nightly builds will update daily with new changes to the customization.

Please let us know about any bugs that you find by filing a bug in Bugzilla in the Firefox::Theme or Firefox::Toolbars component (and mark the bug as blocking bug 770135). If you don’t feel comfortable doing the above, then just leave a comment on this blog post and I or someone else will file the bug for you.

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