Fri, July 16, 2004

I want to right-click print in Firefox

Do I understand correctly—Mozilla Firefox will have Select All on the context menu, but not Print?

For all the good that the Firefox developers have done to create a better browser, they employ a somewhat haphazard approach to UI design. Whether a feature is in the core browser or only available as an extension seems to be based on the whim of the developers. Matthew Thomas commented on this in a post to the WHATWG mailing list, “Firefox isn’t noticeably innovative in any respect (mere competence is enough for now), so I don’t think that’s really surprising enough to be annoyed about.”

Firefox is generally usable and elegant and that is a tribute to the developers. Their dictatorial command of the UI has benefited the browser. (In other words, their decisions are usually reasonable.) Firefox is easily a better browser when taken as a whole, especially when you consider security issues. However, UI problems make it not as good as competitors in specific areas.

In response to the request for a Print context menu, a developer suggested using Ctrl+P or File->Print to print the page. There are various contexts, such as windows opened by JavaScript without menu bars sometimes used by commerce sites, where File->Print just isn’t available. Ctrl+P is fine if you happen to remember keyboard shortcuts. The real advantage to a Print item in the context menu is that it is discoverable. It’s not hard to find with a right-click and it doesn’t require remembering the keyboard shortcut.

I want Firefox to be a fantastic browser. It’s moving in the right direction. I’ve been using it every day for quite a while and Mozilla before that. Let’s make it even better.

Update: I should have mentioned that this feature is available as the Print extension created by Jeeradej Thaworntaweewong. Thank you, Jeeradej. My point is that it shouldn’t be relegated to an extension, but should be part of the core product.