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.


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.


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.


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


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:


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.

Improved plain-text handling in Firefox

8 March, 2013 § 30 Comments

If you’ve ever tried to read a plain-text file in Firefox, you may have noticed that we didn’t have an option to apply word wrapping to the text. New in today’s Firefox Nightly build, we are now applying word wrap to plain text documents by default.

For example, this file is very hard to read when the lines aren’t wrapped. The lines scroll offscreen horizontally, and the user has to use the horizontal scrollbar on the bottom of the screen to read the file (yuck!). Here’s a screenshot of what I’m talking about:

Long lines are not wrapped

Long lines are not wrapped

With word wrapping applied, the text is much easier to read and the line length will adapt to the size of the browser window:

With long lines wrapped

With long lines wrapped

Some documents aren’t ideal for word wrapping, and to aid that we have made it easy to disable the feature. To toggle whether the document is wrapped on a case-by-case basis, you can change between the “Wrap Long Lines” stylesheet and “No Style”.

Toggle word wrap

If you’d like to disable the feature entirely, you can go to about:config and set the plain_text.wrap_long_lines preference to false.

February 2013 Firefox Desktop Work Week

5 February, 2013 § 5 Comments

Firefox Work Weeks Rock!

Firefox Work Weeks Rock!

Last week I was in Toronto, ON with the rest of the Firefox Desktop team. We met for a week and discussed a number of topics that we want to get moving in Q1 and Q2 of 2013.

On Monday we had a 2013 overview by Johnath where he gave a similar talk that he has been doing at the MozCamps around the world. This was nice for us because it is not often that we get to see how Firefox and Mozilla are talked about at these events (I was lucky enough to attend the MozCamp in Poland in 2012 though).

We also got a deep dive in to the various personas of Firefox users in a presentation given by Bill Selman. Bill talked about there being seven distinct groups that users fall into. These range from “evergreens” to “wizards”, and we talked about what features to add/remove to help these users, as well as how to go about making changes to the software so as not to adversely affect these users.

Photo by DoNotLick, and used under a CC license.

On Tuesday we did an “ideation” activity, also known as brain storming :P, where we wrote down ideas of things that we would like to change with Firefox. After writing these down on post-it notes, we then grouped them together with other like-minded ideas on the wall and named the groups. On Tuesday afternoon we paired up in small teams to try to tackle some of these issues.

I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday focusing on three small projects.

On Wednesday I worked with Dão Gottwald and Felipe Gomes on a simple slow start-up feature. The feature works by keeping track of the previous 5 start-up times. If the average startup time is greater than our threshold (currently 1 minute, with plans to lower it), then we will show a notification bar at the bottom of the browser window.

With help from Matej Novak, we got some nice whimsical text for the notification bar. When the user clicks on the “Learn how to speed it up” button, they are taken to a page on SUMO that can guide them towards a faster start-up time. Not pictured in the below screenshot, but part of the feature, is a second button that says “Don’t tell me again”. Stephen Horlander created the turtle icon.

Slow to Start

On Thursday I worked with Stephen Horlander to see what parts of our user interface can have animation added to them. I wanted to work on a feature that is toggled often, thus having higher visibility. Stephen spent some time looking at transitioning the site-identity information in our location bar, and I spent some time working on adding a transition for the Find toolbar. You can follow along with my work in bug 836867.

A project that I had started a while ago but never finished was a refresh of Firefox’ in-content error pages. I got a few requests to resume that work and on Friday I unbitrotted Blair’s patch for bug 676795. That work is now awaiting Blair’s feedback and I’ll keep working on the bug when I get time.

On Friday night, I went with Paolo Amadini and Marco Bonardo to see the Johnson Report’s concert (starring the Firefox desktop team’s own Mike Conley on the guitar). The concert was at Lee’s Palace on Bloor St, and I must say that Mike and his band had an amazing performance. A funny kicker to the story is that each attendee to the show got a raffle ticket. Paolo, Marco, and I left early to catch the midnight subway back to the hotel and gave our raffle tickets to Mike’s girlfriend. We found out on Monday that she won the guitar! 😀

The Johnson Report

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