I’ve had a chance to play around with the new and shiny Mozilla Firefox release. First, I have to say that the new logo makes a surprising difference. With its bright colors and obvious polish, it makes the browser feel more like a real product. I am surprised that the logo has the fox facing the globe. They had a tremendous opportunity to create a friendly “mascot” for the browser based on the cute red panda and passed it up. Ah, well. I played with the logo to quickly try a front facing variation that looks more like a firefox (that’s it on the right), but I’ll go with the official brand.
Second, the name change is good. I complained about Mozilla Firebird stealing the name of another open source project and I’m glad they’ve done the right thing and changed names. Again. (This makes at least five, but I may have miscounted.) The amusing Firesomething Extension lets you attempt the difficult task of changing the name more frequently than the developers. Actually, based on the trademark registrations, I expect Mozilla Firefox will be around for a long while.
I was stunned to find that I like the new download manager. It just does what I expect it to do and then gets out of the way. Wow. It has a slick appearance and shows the download percentage in the titlebar, which suits me fine. If only I could get rid of the completely unnecessary “biff” that pops up near the taskbar at the end of a download. I think it’s only there to show off. It almost ruins the experience for me.
I continue to be impressed with the Firefox Preferences, er, Options dialog. It’s well designed and elegant. I heartily agree with them moving the Proxies selection to the General panel. Much better than Advanced in Mozilla.
Firefox still has areas that need to be improved. Below are things that I believe will frustrate users switching from Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) yet can be easily fixed. These are also some of the most long-standing and contested bugs in Mozilla. Although I’m including the bug numbers, if you’re wise you won’t go and read them. They’ll just annoy you with the mindblowing lack of common sense.
- Replace File|Exit with File|Close. bug 65121 (or bug 171892)–This used to trip me up in Mozilla relatively frequently, but after repeatedly bashing my head on the keyboard and crying I managed to learn not to use the bottom menu item. Firefox’s IE-like qualities must have lulled me into thinking I could trust menu items again. “Where’d my browser windows go!?” Just fix it already.
- Add Print to the page right-click context menu. bug 24221 (and more optimistically bug 204519 This has been “won’t fixed” since 2000 and has gotten many duplicates. There are specific cases in pop-ups where there is no menu other than the context menu. This would likely be my third most frequently used context menu item after Back and View Source.
- Improve plugin installs. bug 224227 and others. While it’s better than it was before Netscape 6 shipped, plugin installation is still not as easy as in IE. Some of this would be mitigated if “typical” plugins were preinstalled or detected automatically.
- Show the URL of bookmarks in the status bar when mouse hovers over them. bug 23460 IE does this in the favorites and it’s quite useful. I even developed a fix for this bug. Hyatt’s comments in the bug made me think it was fixed in Firebird. If it was, I don’t see the fix in Firefox.
- Support multiline tooltips 45375 Sites often use tooltips for extra information. Firefox crops the text so you may miss the important bits. IE shows it all.
- Add a help system. (
bug 165960) Mozilla 1.6 comes with a help system that even includes tips for those switching from Internet Explorer. This is a great idea that needs to be included with Firefox. After reading through the bugs it looks like this is already fixed on the trunk. Looking a little deeper I found the Firebird Help Project at Mozdev.org. Good!
Below is a list of a few things that bother me about Firefox. I use and develop web-applications all day, so I want a powerful and elegant browser. Firefox feels and is incomplete in areas compared to Mozilla. (It is also better in others, such as the form autocomplete dropdowns and customizable toolbars.) Yes, there are extensions that would give me the functionality I want, but Mozilla already has it so I’m not sure I see the point. Still, I’m finding it hard to stay away from Firefox.
- I want the Mozilla history window. Sure it’s nice to have quick access to history in the sidebar in Firefox, but when I really want details Mozilla’s history window is superior. Why can’t we have both like we do with the Bookmarks sidebar and Organize Bookmarks window?
- I can’t change my language preferences. I’m frequently switching my default language in Mozilla to test various language versions of sites. I’m told this is a not uncommon experience in internet cafes. Firefox has no current support for switching languages.
- The backspace key goes back!? I know this is an IE-ism, but this is terrible. I use Find As You Type all the time and frequently revise it with backspace. In Mozilla I can backspace multiple times with no problem. I seem to do the same in form fields. In Firefox I’ve found myself multiple pages back for no apparent reason.
- Bring back MNG and JNG support. It looks like this will soon be back on the Mozilla trunk. It’d be great for Firefox, too. While the current IE market dominance limits the web usefulness of these image formats, they can be used in fantastic ways in themes. And I hope Firefox can steal some marketshare.
- Ok, this is a bit silly, but get a better throbber. I’m sure it’s cool to have your personal logo as a browser’s throbber, but the Q-scythe doesn’t do it for me. Mozilla’s M/Mozilla head throbber has the benefit that it is extremely obvious when it is active. I gotta give some credit to Firefox: at least the throbber is there by default. Can’t we make one based on the new Firefox logo? Perhaps this provides the chance to show the front of the firefox?