Firefox Form Fix for 1.0.5

I noticed a little bit ago that the form autocomplete behavior was not working as I expected, but I hadn’t quite figured out why until recently. For whatever reason, I often start typing in a form field, wait for the autocomplete list to appear, press down arrow to pick the appropriate autocomplete selection, and then press right arrow. This works beautifully in the location bar: it positions the cursor at the end of the completed selection and lets you type in the rest of the path or press Enter to go to the location. Unfortunately, when you press right arrow in the form autocomplete, it just closes the autocomplete box and leaves you with nothing other than the characters you originally typed.

I’m happy to report that somebody noticed it, reported it in bug 283777 and fixed it. The fix is coming in the next Firefox 1.0.x update along with other good fixes.

Fixing Firefox 1.0 Tabs

Almost immediately before the release of Firefox 1.0, the tabs were changed so that they were separated from the page by a thin line. (See bug 258884.) I’ve grown used to having them attached to the page as they were in 1.0PR. I guess the reason for the change is that there were complaints that the tabs didn’t work as well with web pages that had dark backgrounds. From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of pages use a light background color. I don’t blame the Firefox team for the last minute tweak—cleanup and polish before a release is great—but at the same time I miss the old style.

To restore the tabs to the way they were prior to the 1.0 release, I tracked down what exactly was changed in the bug fix. If you add the following to the userChrome.css in your profile directory, it will restore the tabs to the 1.0PR style. You may need to create the userChrome.css file.

.tabbrowser-tabs { border-bottom: 0 !important; }

Firefox 1.0!

As you’ve probably already heard, Mozilla Firefox 1.0 has been released. Mozilla Firefox is a fantastic browser and the 1.0 release is a major accomplishment. After years of work, and leveraging and improving on the already solid Mozilla layout engine used by Netscape 6 and 7, Mozilla Firefox is ready. Having followed the project from the early days, I’m glad to see how true it has remained to its original vision. It is a small, fast, and usable tool. It has been my default browser of choice for at least a year and it just keeps getting better. A big thank you to the team that produced it and to the tireless community that supports it.

Go get it! Take back the web.

Real-world standards

Earlier this year, developers implemented a few Microsoft-inspired JavaScript/DOM extensions in Mozilla. I was pleasantly surprised to see such pragmatic behavior. Perhaps Dave Hyatt’s post about real-world standards inspired them:

We have a phrase we like to use… and that’s “real-world standards compliance.” What that means is that where possible we attempt to be fully compatible with the W3C standards, but we also want to support the real-world standards, i.e., extensions that for better or worse have become de facto standards. If you really do believe we should not have implemented [a particular non-W3C standardized extension], then you are simply out of touch with reality.

Whatever the reason, with the fix for bug 248549 and bug 246964, Mozilla gained support for “undetected document.all usage”.

What does that mean? Well, hopefully it means that more sites just work correctly. Many current sites use detection of document.all as a quick way to check for IE. Code like if (document.all) { // Do IE stuff } will continue to fail after these bug fixes. What is interesting is that there are older websites (and intranet sites) that just assume that the IE-specific document.all collection exists and go ahead and use it. With these bug fixes, in most cases this document.all usage will work and for somewhat simplistic DHTML, this can make the site usable.

I accidentally ran across a site that was fixed by this change. A coworker pointed it out to me and complained that it wasn’t working correctly in Firefox 0.9. (Go here and click the More Search Options link at the bottom of page.) I examined the site and noticed the undetected document.all usage. Since I had Firefox 1.0PR, I demonstrated that it now worked. There’s now another happy Firefox user in the office!

Mozilla speaks Klingon

The fix for bug 239977 gave Mozilla support for tlhIngan Hol, the Klingon language. Although I’d vaguely known that some Star Trek fans spoke Klingon, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the warriors’ tongue is a well-developed language.

Klingon was invented by Dr. Marc Okrand, a linguist originally hired to create a language for those bumpy headed aliens in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Instead of just creating a few words and phrases, he developed grammar, vocabulary, and usage rules. Twenty years later, the language is spoken and studied by a diverse group including Trek fans, linguists, philologists, computer scientists, and psychologists. A number of works have been translated into Klingon, including some of Aesop’s Fables, Hamlet and other works by Shakespeare, and the New Testament.

The Klingon Language Institute, a nonprofit corporation, has much more information about the language. To learn more, you might start with its FAQ. I also enjoyed reading about the written Klingon alphabet.

Animated PNG?

Two Mozilla hackers, Vladimir Vukićević and Stuart “Pavlov” Parmenter, have put together a spec for an animated PNG (aPNG) format. Wait a second, isn’t there already a format for animated PNG called MNG? Yes. Yes, there is.


Up to version 1.4, Mozilla and browsers based on it such as Netscape 6 and 7 supported MNG. MNG support was removed from Mozilla for a number of reasons, many of which were disputed at the time. Among the reasons were a large file size and a lack of a Mozilla maintainer for the code. Work has continued on the code and if it were included in Mozilla again now, it would be significantly smaller than what shipped with Mozilla 1.4. But it seems to not be enough. Back in Aug 2003, Stuart Parmeter dictated what it would take for MNG to be restored. We’re closer, but I wonder whether the requirements were realistic.

What Now?

So where’s that leave us? The problem with the removal of MNG is that there is no other graphics format that can completely replace it. MNG provided all the beauty of PNG — a full range of transparency, true color support, etc. — as well as animation. In addition, the subformat of MNG, JNG, supported embedding JPEG images for better compression of photographic content while also allowing a full range of transparency. Mozilla practically needs something like MNG for internal use in skins and themes. Indeed, when MNG was removed, a number of themes needed to be updated with GIF-replacements that were larger in size and didn’t look as clean due to the limited color palette of GIF.

If all that was needed was something for Mozilla themes, I’d question the need for revising the PNG file format; it’s clear that MNG/JNG would do what we need today. But I believe the Mozilla drivers are looking to create something that is backward compatible and usable on the web now. It seems that the primary advantage to aPNG is that they are trying to design it so that it will at worst show up as a static PNG image in apps that do not support animation. In real terms this means that IE users as well as web development tools such as Dreamweaver would at least see a PNG image. Another benefit of aPNG over MNG is that it should be a minor change to the PNG library and therefore easier to maintain.

It’s exciting to see Mozilla developers working with the original authors of the PNG specification. Thomas Boutell, the instigator and original editor of the PNG spec writes MNG is dead, long live APNG. Calling the Mozilla pair “young turks”, he speaks positively about their efforts to work with the “old-timers” to create a simple animated PNG format. He says “I could not be more pleased with this development.”

Once the format is defined tools need to support it. At the moment I can create a MNG simply by saving my animation in Jasc Paint Shop Pro. How long before I can do the same with aPNG?

Browser Wars II: Take back the Web

Are the browser wars back? With Microsoft Internet Explorer commanding an estimated 95% share of the browsers used on the web, many proclaimed the Browser War over. A recent article in the Guardian suggests that the past month’s one percent dip in Internet Explorer’s market share may mean the browser wars are back:

The tiniest shift, history shows us, can signal the greatest change. News last weekend that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) web browser had lost a single percentage point of market share might not sound all that significant today, but it could well mean the browser wars are back on. One percent is all it takes…

This week, we find that Microsoft’s share has, for the first time, dropped. Ever so slightly, from 95.73% to 94.73%. “It’s the first time we’ve seen a sustained trend downward for them,” says Geoff Johnston, an analyst with WebSideStory, which produced these results. “We have a trend. It’s been about a month, and every day we have a steady incremental change.”

For years now I’ve been telling you about Mozilla and Mozilla Firefox, two terrific and completely free web browsers from the Mozilla Foundation. It’s good to see that the world is finally catching on that we don’t need to put up with the pop-ups and security holes of IE.

Even more exciting to me are the extensions available for these browsers. Here are two that I’ve found useful:

Lets you spell check web forms, such as text areas and input fields. This has been desired by Mozilla users for years. (See bug 16409 and bug 23421.) With this extension, the wait is over.
Document Outliner
A shiny new extension that uses the headings in properly marked up web pages to show a document outline in the sidebar. It’s clickable much like the outline in Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word. I’ll write about this more as I play with it. In the meantime, all you web developers should join the conversation about HTML heading markup considerations [noticed on Mezzoblue.]

Firefox just keeps getting better and better. Have you switched yet?

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.

Get Firefox for your safety

Steven J Vaughan-Nichols recommends Mozilla Firefox in an article for eWeek titled “Internet Explorer Is Too Dangerous to Keep Using”. It’s shocking how frequently IE security holes have been found this year and how large they are. He writes:

This past Friday I started installing Firefox, the browser-only side of Mozilla, on every one of my production Windows machines.

Why? Because Internet Explorer, like Outlook, has finally become, to my mind, a permanent security hole that masquerades as a useful application.

Strong words? Have you really thought about this latest exploit? It could hit every Internet Explorer (IE) browser that merely visited any page served by an infected Microsoft IIS (Internet Information Server).

No anti-virus program would stop it, no firewall would slow it down and no shipping IE security patch would even notice it. Visit the page, get the infection. It was that simple.

And just how bad was this attack? Boys and girls, let me tell you, this was the worst security violation I have ever seen.

In the few days that the sites provided the Trojan horses, hundreds of thousands or millions of users could have had their credit-card, stock-brokerage and bank-account numbers and passwords stolen.

Let me repeat myself: Millions of you may have every bit of your browser-driven online financial security information stolen.

The bottom line is that for all practical purposes for today, open-source browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, are inherently more secure than Internet Explorer, and I still have half a dozen more workstations to switch over to Firefox. Go ahead, stick with Internet Explorer for everyday use. It’s your funeral.

In addition to better security, Firefox offers a more enjoyable browsing experience. The few times I’ve used IE in the last few months, I’ve been stunned at how may sites have popup windows for advertising. I haven’t seen one in years with Mozilla and Firefox.

Firefox offers Tabbed browsing, which makes it easy to switch between multiple sites and pages. Conveniently, the bottom of the menu for each bookmark folder has the option to “Open in Tabs”. I organized the bookmarks for a number of sites I read each day in a “Daily” folder. Then I just pick Open in Tabs each morning and read through them.

Firefox’s Find as You Type feature lets you just start typing on a page and it will jump to the links with the letters you’ve typed. It’s a quick way to navigate the page. If you type a slash first, it will search all the text on the page.

Go get Firefox. It’s more secure. It’s more enjoyable. And it automatically imports your Internet Explorer favorites and settings so you can switch very easily.

Firefox 0.9 released

The Mozilla Firefox 0.9 release is out. Read more about it on the Firefox Product page. Read the Release Notes and then go get it.

I was impressed with how it migrated my bookmarks and other data from Mozilla. (It also offered to do it from Internet Explorer.) I just installed it, ran it, and it offered to migrate the data. Very smooth.

I found a few cosmetic polish issues, but this is a very solid release. Definitely something you can use every day. There’s even a nice help system with tips for Internet Explorer users that are converting to Firefox.