Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

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Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

beltzner
(note: this message is being cross-posted to mozilla.dev.planning and
mozilla.dev.apps.firefox with a followup set to
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bounce!)

A few weeks (months?) ago on a Gecko 1.9 / Firefox 3 planning call, I
mentioned that one thing that I was never terribly thrilled about was
that when looking at planning out the features for Firefox 2, I didn't
push hard enough for every proposed feature to explain the problem that
it was attempting to solve. Without understanding the problem we
believe to be solving with a feature, it's extremely hard to get a
sense of when the feature is complete, how important the feature is,
what the impact of cutting the feature is, and what advantage we get by
including it in the final product.

In last week's meeting
(http://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox3/StatusMeetings/2006-08-16#Firefox_3),
I started brainstorming up a list of problems that I felt users were
facing when using web browsers today. I don't think we should focus on
solutions or implementations just yet, but instead focus on answering
the following question: "What are the problems with the web that users
are currently facing, whether they realize it or not?"

So go ahead and throw a couple of ideas onto this thread!

cheers,
mike

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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

beltzner
On 22 Aug 2006 23:52:09 -0700, Mike Beltzner <[hidden email]> wrote:
> the following question: "What are the problems with the web that users
> are currently facing, whether they realize it or not?"
>
> So go ahead and throw a couple of ideas onto this thread!

Some great stuff so far, with the right level of fidelity and detail;
one comment, though. Please make sure to think about not only problems
that you have experienced personally, but those that you've witnessed
in peer groups, families, with less savvy users, etc. People who do a
lot of reading through MozillaZine, work in tech support, act as tech
support for their families and friends, I'm looking for your input!

Also be sure to think not only of problems with existing features, but
problems that people don't even realize they're having yet. For
example: users who don't understand the web very well might not
realize that they're on a fraudulent site, or that they shouldn't
enter financial information online unless they are very sure who is
receiving that information.

cheers,
mike

--
/ mike beltzner / phenomenologist / mozilla corporation /
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Martijn-4
What I noticed with my parents (who just started to learn about the
internet thing), that they really have a hard time clicking on a link.
A lot of times they also move the mouse while clicking on the link,
which results in a dragging action (this is also a problem in IE).
So disabling any drag action would be a solution (since they would
never use that, anyway), or a keyboard equivalent for the left (and
right) mouse button.

Regards,
Martijn

On 8/23/06, beltzner <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 22 Aug 2006 23:52:09 -0700, Mike Beltzner <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > the following question: "What are the problems with the web that users
> > are currently facing, whether they realize it or not?"
> >
> > So go ahead and throw a couple of ideas onto this thread!
>
> Some great stuff so far, with the right level of fidelity and detail;
> one comment, though. Please make sure to think about not only problems
> that you have experienced personally, but those that you've witnessed
> in peer groups, families, with less savvy users, etc. People who do a
> lot of reading through MozillaZine, work in tech support, act as tech
> support for their families and friends, I'm looking for your input!
>
> Also be sure to think not only of problems with existing features, but
> problems that people don't even realize they're having yet. For
> example: users who don't understand the web very well might not
> realize that they're on a fraudulent site, or that they shouldn't
> enter financial information online unless they are very sure who is
> receiving that information.
>
> cheers,
> mike
>
> --
> / mike beltzner / phenomenologist / mozilla corporation /
> _______________________________________________
> dev-planning mailing list
> [hidden email]
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>
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Peter Kasting
In reply to this post by beltzner
Mike Beltzner wrote:
> So go ahead and throw a couple of ideas onto this thread!

Here's what I've seen from novice users:

* People don't understand URLs.  They don't know what they mean, they
can't parse them, and they don't understand where to type them.  This is
why they get repeatedly fooled by obvious phishing URLs, why they type
URLs into the Google search box instead of into the address bar, and why
a dedicated search box is friendly: it doesn't have that weird string in
it that takes a long time to delete.

* Related: people don't really get the difference between searching for
something and going somewhere.  Even those who sort of know the URL for
where they want to go ("espn.com") type it into the google search box
and then click the first link that comes up, because they know how to
"search" for something, but not "go" somewhere.  This is why people
REALLY like using the search boxes on browser homepages; give them a
blank homepage and they're unsure how to get anywhere.

* Related/clarification: People don't understand multiple distinct input
fields.  The difference between the url bar and the search box, or the
boxes in chrome and on the page, are not clear to them.

So, with those three points in mind, I would suggest rethinking how URLs
and search are presented and handled.  I have a lot of ideas about this
but I'd rather not pollute people's thinking.  I WOULD suggest that the
current browser UI for navigation is an evolutionary modification of
designs originally made for people who understood the World Wide Web,
and that perhaps some rather drastic UI rethinking is warranted.

Another set of points:

* People have a hard time reading pages.
   * Fonts are often too small
   * Text is all over the place and obscured/broken up by ads
   * Scrolling makes it easy to lose one's place
   * "Next page" links can be hard to find and click
   * Pages are long, and "Find in page" isn't very discoverable (my wife
never knew it existed until I showed her), nor does it do a great job of
guiding people to the content they wanted, which is often "what I just
searched for in my search engine"

Browsers spend a lot of UI for navigation between pages, but making
pages more readable doesn't seem to be a high priority.  What if you
could go to a page, and it would be big and easy to read, with
beautiful-looking fonts, all the content nicely laid out for you to read
with no distractions, and the important parts highlighted?  Now, how can
we use the preferences of the user, and the intelligence of the
collected audience globally, to accomplish this?

Finally:

* Stuff should just work

I can't tell you how many times I've seen people go somewhere and not
understand what that puzzle piece icon means, or why their site looks
wrong, or why their browser locked up for 20 seconds (they don't notice
the little coffee cup that then appears in their systray).  If they
can't depend on Firefox to always work, they won't use it at all.  But
working means a lot of things.  Maybe we ship some common plugins by
default.  Maybe we implement a very limited set of ActiveX controls for
media player compatibility.  Maybe we see what IE-isms we can
cherry-pick for increased site compatibility.  Anything we can do to
make "the internet work" in our browser eliminates a reason people have
to switch away from it.

PK
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Rob Sayre-2
In reply to this post by beltzner
beltzner wrote:
>
> Some great stuff so far, with the right level of fidelity and detail;
> one comment, though. Please make sure to think about not only problems
> that you have experienced personally, but those that you've witnessed
> in peer groups, families, with less savvy users, etc.

My girlfriend hates the update notices, where we throw version numbers
at the user. I think she stops reading the number at "1.". She likes the
way Apple software update does it, by date.

-Rob
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Greg-81
In reply to this post by beltzner
Some problems I've seen...

- Most people go to the same 10 sites and they don't know how to
bookmark so they type the same sites over and over. If they know about
the URL-bar that's great but many people will type web addresses
directly into a search box. Can't we make bookmarking more automatic?
 Perhaps a new toolbar that shows most frequently used sites?

- Registering for a new site sucks. Users have to input a bunch of
repetitive information, enter a username/email, type a password, type
it again. Check email. Click a confirmation link.  Any one of these
steps can cause users problems. Can't we create a mechanism to allow
instant registration?  As a bonus can't we think of a way to uniquely
register people without necessarily divulging so much personal
information?

- People often mis-type URL's. This problem is so bad that many
companies squat typo addresses. There's already an auto-complete for
sites that are in my history but why can't the browser help me
auto-suggest the URL for a new website that I've started typing but
haven't yet visited?

If a website wants to provide standard links to sites they have to
create individual links to each site. For example "Add to MyYahoo, Add
to BlogLines, Add to FeedBurner, etc, etc."  If I happen to use a
different RSS service I'm out of luck. The lack of standard service
link types makes it hard for services to soft-link to one another. The
dictionary of link types needs to grow.  We have href and mailto links.
Where are the others? Phone, TV, Calendar, Contacts, RSS, etc.
Similarly we need a way for sites to request to become the default
providers for these types of services. This is the web equivalent of
registering for file-type extensions.

Other problems:
 - As a designer it's really hard to design resolution independent
sites. I don't want to optimize for 800x600 or 1024x768, I want the
site to scale proportionally. This is easy in Flash, I've never seen
this done well in HTML.
 - If a user has trouble seeing there is no way to zoom the page.
Increasing the font-size doesn't always work because this can break the
design of the site.
-  Uploading more then one file is really awkward.
 - The control set available for the web is really small. Web-designers
re-create standard controls (auto-complete, sliders, menus, tabs, etc).
All these controls have non-standard usage and they often don't have
accessibility. It would be great to have a richer more consistent
control experience across sites.

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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Justin Wood (Callek)-2
Greg wrote:
> Some problems I've seen...

And some (known) solutions to these problems, mostly future, with no ETA.

>
> - Most people go to the same 10 sites and they don't know how to
> bookmark so they type the same sites over and over. If they know about
> the URL-bar that's great but many people will type web addresses
> directly into a search box. Can't we make bookmarking more automatic?
>  Perhaps a new toolbar that shows most frequently used sites?

FF3's "Places" should address this.

>
> - Registering for a new site sucks. Users have to input a bunch of
> repetitive information, enter a username/email, type a password, type
> it again. Check email. Click a confirmation link.  Any one of these
> steps can cause users problems. Can't we create a mechanism to allow
> instant registration?  As a bonus can't we think of a way to uniquely
> register people without necessarily divulging so much personal
> information?

A partial solution to this is the "Form History" in Firefox.  Another
potential solution, pending application is "Google Account
Authentication" [1] this, of course, must be employed by the website
itself, rather than the UA (Firefox).

You can even then use "OpenID" [2] as an option.

The end result (imho) is "Form History" where possible, and other more
enameled solutions would still require websites to comply, and be
cumbersome unless other UA's adopted the same mechanics.  Which is hard,
given that a Login to site X, that you create, may allready be used on
site Y, and you may want two logins on Site Y, due to features it has,
etc. etc. etc.

>
> If a website wants to provide standard links to sites they have to
> create individual links to each site. For example "Add to MyYahoo, Add
> to BlogLines, Add to FeedBurner, etc, etc."  If I happen to use a
> different RSS service I'm out of luck. The lack of standard service
> link types makes it hard for services to soft-link to one another. The
> dictionary of link types needs to grow.  We have href and mailto links.
> Where are the others? Phone, TV, Calendar, Contacts, RSS, etc.
> Similarly we need a way for sites to request to become the default
> providers for these types of services. This is the web equivalent of
> registering for file-type extensions.

The WhatWG addresses some of these concerns with their
"registerContentHandler" and "registerProtocolHandler" interface for
UA's in the current Working Draft of the "Web Apps" spec. [3]


> Other problems:
>  - As a designer it's really hard to design resolution independent
> sites. I don't want to optimize for 800x600 or 1024x768, I want the
> site to scale proportionally. This is easy in Flash, I've never seen
> this done well in HTML.

Full page scaling is a planned feature, (aiui)

>  - If a user has trouble seeing there is no way to zoom the page.
> Increasing the font-size doesn't always work because this can break the
> design of the site.

see above

> -  Uploading more then one file is really awkward.

Uploading, assuming you mean "in-web page" is addressed by the WhatWG's
"Web Forms" Working Draft [4]

>  - The control set available for the web is really small. Web-designers
> re-create standard controls (auto-complete, sliders, menus, tabs, etc).
> All these controls have non-standard usage and they often don't have
> accessibility. It would be great to have a richer more consistent
> control experience across sites.
>

See the entire "Web Forms" Working Draft [5].

~Justin Wood (Callek)

[1] - http://code.google.com/apis/accounts/Authentication.html
[2] - http://openid.net/
[3] - http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#browser
[4] - http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-forms/current-work/#upload
[5] - http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-forms/current-work/
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Håkan Waara
In reply to this post by beltzner

Peter Kasting wrote:

> Mike Beltzner wrote:
> > So go ahead and throw a couple of ideas onto this thread!
>
> Here's what I've seen from novice users:
>
> * People don't understand URLs.  They don't know what they mean, they
> can't parse them, and they don't understand where to type them.  This is
> why they get repeatedly fooled by obvious phishing URLs, why they type
> URLs into the Google search box instead of into the address bar, and why
> a dedicated search box is friendly: it doesn't have that weird string in
> it that takes a long time to delete.
>
> * Related: people don't really get the difference between searching for
> something and going somewhere.  Even those who sort of know the URL for
> where they want to go ("espn.com") type it into the google search box
> and then click the first link that comes up, because they know how to
> "search" for something, but not "go" somewhere.  This is why people
> REALLY like using the search boxes on browser homepages; give them a
> blank homepage and they're unsure how to get anywhere.
>
> * Related/clarification: People don't understand multiple distinct input
> fields.  The difference between the url bar and the search box, or the
> boxes in chrome and on the page, are not clear to them.
>
> So, with those three points in mind, I would suggest rethinking how URLs
> and search are presented and handled.  I have a lot of ideas about this
> but I'd rather not pollute people's thinking.  I WOULD suggest that the
> current browser UI for navigation is an evolutionary modification of
> designs originally made for people who understood the World Wide Web,
> and that perhaps some rather drastic UI rethinking is warranted.

I think all of your points are great, and I agree with them.

Now, regarding the URL bar and search boxes: I've seen the same
behavior. Actually, my whole family use the browser like that. They
type a common URL in the google search box, and click the first search
result. That is probably a very, very common real-world use case.

So, if normal people actually consider the location bar, and the google
search box the same thing -- if evolution is allowed to decide - it IS
the same thing!

Basically, what I propose is to merge them.

I realize that we might already do, in some sense. If you type a URL,
and we don't find it, we search for it on google, I think?

The looking glass icon could be added somewhere sensibly to the URL
bar, we rip out the search box, and we have further simplifed the user
interface, according to how a lot of users actually do use it.

I would like to hear your opinions on this.

/Håkan

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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Peter Kasting
Håkan Waara wrote:
> So, if normal people actually consider the location bar, and the google
> search box the same thing -- if evolution is allowed to decide - it IS
> the same thing!
>
> Basically, what I propose is to merge them.
>
> I would like to hear your opinions on this.

I've actually done this in my configuration, and the configuration I set
up for end-users, for a couple of years.  Once I set keyword.URL to do a
standard Google Search (much more predictable and therefore less
unfriendly), and set browser.urlbar.autoFill and
browser.urlbar.matchOnlyTyped to true (to try and tweak the autocomplete
behavior to be a bit more useful when people type a lot in the urlbar),
I can simply remove the search box from the Chrome entirely.  My family
members, who are computer novices, all figured this out with a simple
"when you want something, type it in the box".

I'd certainly make improvements to that if I were to deploy it to the
world.  Much better autocomplete heuristics, some integration of
suggestions/search results into the autocomplete results, icon and text
cues for what would happen when you hit enter, etc.

However, as beltzner has repeatedly said, this is a thread for problems,
not solutions.  There are likely other good ways to solve this problem.
  I encourage you to try using Fx 2 with the settings I give above and
see what kinds of _other_ user problems you encounter (there certainly
are some!).

PK
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

jonsmirl@gmail.com
I'm a heavy user of Firefox and several things consistently bug me.

1) Fonts too small, sites that design for 800x600 look like a postage
stamp at 1600x1200. If I set the fonts big enough to make the problem
sites readable everything else is too big, plus their fixed layouts
get messed up. I see IE7 has a page zoom feature. History should
remember the zoom factor set.

Viewing Eweek email in gmail is a good example of this. If I set the
fonts small enough that everything lays out correctly I have to have a
magnifying glass to read it.

2) When I am composing an email in gmail and typing sometimes the edit
control goes unresponsive for several seconds. This is very annoying.
I believe this is occurring when gmail executes Javascript to save a
draft or poll for new messages and the server is slow to respond.
Background Javascript shouldn't impact editing.

3) I would really like to see an option for disabling Flash animation
until the mouse is over the Flash object. Dozens of people have asked
me how to stop these animations and I install FlashBlock for them.
These people don't mind the ads, its the animations that annoy them.

4) I would like to see an icon on the status line for pages that have
parsing errors or that are violating standards. Maybe that would shame
the author into fixing them.

5) I'm using a spellcheck add-in. This is probably common enough to
warrant being built in. Provide a toolbar button for it to help new
users.

6) When using the mouse to switch tabs quickly I often trigger an
unwanted drag operation. This bothers other people I work with too.

7) We need a Flash update for Linux. I am having to switch to WIndows
to access several sites I commonly use.

8) Playing multimedia formats on Linux is a major pain. I still can't
figure out how to make financial sites using Microsoft formats play on
Linux. Again I have to switch to Windows.

--
Jon Smirl
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Peter Kasting
Jon Smirl wrote:
> 5) I'm using a spellcheck add-in. This is probably common enough to
> warrant being built in. Provide a toolbar button for it to help new
> users.

Automatic spellchecking as-you-type is built in to Firefox 2.

PK
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

jonsmirl@gmail.com
On 8/24/06, Peter Kasting <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Jon Smirl wrote:
> > 5) I'm using a spellcheck add-in. This is probably common enough to
> > warrant being built in. Provide a toolbar button for it to help new
> > users.
>
> Automatic spellchecking as-you-type is built in to Firefox 2.

I'll check it out, I'm still using 1.5.

On the multimedia point, how about a 'Verify Installation' choice on
the Help menu? It would take you to a series of pages for checking all
of the common media types. If one doesn't work it would provide
working instructions for fixing it. Working instructions is a key
point, Real Player has told me that my format is unsupported and I
need to upgrade hundreds of times, and after the upgrade the format
still doesn't work.

Tighter integration with gstreamer might solve this. If gstreamer is
used to play all of the format then the only thing that needs to be
checked for is the existence of the codec library. Can FIrefox borrow
code from Songbird to make this easier?

My preference would be to get rid of all the video player plugins and
more to one internal player that can use multiple codecs.

--
Jon Smirl
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Robert Kaiser
In reply to this post by Håkan Waara
Peter Kasting schrieb:
> I've actually done this in my configuration, and the configuration I set
> up for end-users, for a couple of years.

Sounds quite similar to how the SeaMonkey URLbar behaves, I think ;-)

Robert Kaiser
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Robert Kaiser
In reply to this post by Peter Kasting
Jon Smirl schrieb:
> 5) I'm using a spellcheck add-in. This is probably common enough to
> warrant being built in.

FIXED in FF2 already, IIRC. ;-)

Robert Kaiser
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Martijn-4
In reply to this post by Robert Kaiser
On 8/24/06, Robert Kaiser <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Peter Kasting schrieb:
> > I've actually done this in my configuration, and the configuration I set
> > up for end-users, for a couple of years.
>
> Sounds quite similar to how the SeaMonkey URLbar behaves, I think ;-)

Except with Peter's setup I don't have to arrow down to get to the
"Search Google for" thingie. This is something I alway found extremely
annoying in Seamonkey (and it is something I often made mistakes with)
With Peter's setup, I can just type some text, press enter and do a search.

Regards,
Martijn

> Robert Kaiser
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Boris Zbarsky
In reply to this post by Peter Kasting
Jon Smirl wrote:
> 7) We need a Flash update for Linux.

Too bad we don't have the source to it.

> 8) Playing multimedia formats on Linux is a major pain. I still can't
> figure out how to make financial sites using Microsoft formats play on
> Linux. Again I have to switch to Windows.

Again, too bad we don't have the source to those.

-Boris
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Text entry boxes in the chrome [WAS: Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.]

Boris Zbarsky
In reply to this post by beltzner
Peter Kasting wrote:
> * People don't understand URLs.  They don't know what they mean, they
> can't parse them, and they don't understand where to type them.
...
 > I WOULD suggest that the
> current browser UI for navigation is an evolutionary modification of
> designs originally made for people who understood the World Wide Web,
> and that perhaps some rather drastic UI rethinking is warranted.

I have to admit that it took me a bit to convince myself of this; it doesn't
help that most people I know are not typical users.  That said, it seems to me
that we should consider something along the following lines as our default UI:

1)  Have a single text entry field in the UI; have this be a
     search-and-url-entry widget.
2)  Do not show the current URL in this widget.  Show either nothing or the last
     thing searched for.
3)  Show the current _hostname_ (or some other "what site this is" indicator) to
     prevent phishing.
4)  Have the current URL bar available via toolbar customization so that we can
     use the browser as dogfood.  ;)

This does, of course, raise the issue of us actually getting sufficient testing
on the "default" UI if a significant fraction of our testing community
customizes it per #4...  But I think this setup would be something that someone
like my grandmother would find much more useful than what we have right now,
especially since so many URIs out there suck so much (complete with cgi-bin
directories, GET queries, etc).

-Boris
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Re: Text entry boxes in the chrome [WAS: Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.]

Peter Kasting
Boris Zbarsky wrote:
> 2)  Do not show the current URL in this widget.  Show either nothing or
> the last
>     thing searched for.
 > 3)  Show the current _hostname_ (or some other "what site this is"
 > indicator) to
 >     prevent phishing.

Yeah, as I considered the issue over the last several weeks, I decided
this almost has to be the case.  The box doesn't appear to be somewhere
you can search, or be very inviting, if it's showing a big URL.  And to
most users, the hostname is much more informative than the full URL
anyway (see Spoofstick).

However, I still wanted a place to show the full URL, and to copy it
from if you wanted to make a small modification.  I was undecided
whether this should hide in something like Page Info, be shown along
with the full page title on a small strip at the top of the current
page, show up in the status bar somewhere, or be available as a toolbar
widget for customization purposes.

This would benefit greatly from a couple of months of testing various
configurations so we had a better feel for what sorts of use cases it
does and does not serve.

PK
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

Andrew Schultz-2
In reply to this post by Robert Kaiser
Martijn wrote:
> Except with Peter's setup I don't have to arrow down to get to the
> "Search Google for" thingie. This is something I alway found extremely
> annoying in Seamonkey (and it is something I often made mistakes with)
> With Peter's setup, I can just type some text, press enter and do a search.

You can, although not by default.  Enable "Internet Keywords" in the
smart browser pref panel and it works as you describe (this has been
broken on trunk and branch for a bit but recently got fixed).

--
Andrew Schultz
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Re: Firefox 3 Feature Planning: tell me about *your* problems.

DigDug
In reply to this post by Håkan Waara
Seems like this merging of the search/url bar already happened years
ago, with IE4 or 5 if I remember. At least they were combined in some
sense back then, partly for expert web users and partly for novices.
The idea of combining them sounds better in promise than it really is.
At least, to me, it becomes more confusing what exactly is going on
when I do type something there.

I do like the idea of parsing URL's more though, and presenting them in
more readable fashions. Perhaps with the root shown prominently, and
subdirectories, subfiles and cgi codes somehow offset from it. Or maybe
give the page title more UI space in the address bar somehow. I don't
know if that's ever been looked into or not.

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