The new Firefox Options window

Tags: — Jeff @ 21:31

The new Firefox Options window

Ben finally landed the Firefox Options window in mozilla.org CVS trunk today, after months of anticipation. For those with the know-how, the code was available in non-trunk CVS on the PREFERENCES_20050101_BRANCH branch. As I have sufficient know-how, this wasn’t a big problem for me, so I created a build from the branch a couple weeks back.

The build didn’t particularly impress me. The new options window looked nice, to a degree, but it was certainly rough around the edges. The concept seemed okay, but certain parts of it just irked me. I’m hardly a UI expert, but some things just seemed completely wrong. In particular I was concerned about the use of both tabs and scrolling lists to split up large categories of options. (Luckily, this was a known problem – when talking to one of the other Firefox developers on IRC, I learned that this was a problem that would have to be addressed before the new code would be merged back into the trunk.)

Now, finally, the code’s been merged into the trunk. This means that everyone will be getting this code when they build – nightly testers, optimized build distributors, Firefox developers, etc. I don’t remember what the schedule is, but you probably can download a nightly Firefox build as of right now to test out the new options window.

What are my opinions of the window now that it’s been submitted to trunk? I’m not sure it’s as clean as the old interface (just yet), but it does have its merits.

First, the options window exhibits a much greater sense of organization than the previous one did. (“Web Features”, anyone?) Ben’s moved around options, but the moves (for the most part) make sense. Tabbed browsing is its own top-level category now. The nebulous “Web Features” is gone, and its replacement, “Content”, is much more aptly named. The advanced settings for security have been rearranged, consolidating things in as logical a way as is possible given that PSM‘s UI is completely unowned (and therefore is entirely lacking in any real sense of cleanness). In my opinion, just getting a far more sensible arrangement of options out of this makes Ben’s work on this worthwhile.

Second, Ben fixed the tabs/scrolling list issue I had, so my main complaint against it (when I’d only seen screenshots) is gone. Inconsistent UI is one of the easier problems to fix, and I’m glad to see the Firefox developers didn’t let this one slip past the review barrier.

The new Firefox Options window

Third, he also reworded some of the options, and for the most part I like the changes he’s made. For example, there was an option for caret browsing, which you can test out by pressing F7. (You probably can’t find it if you’re using an old build or a milestone. The option was cleverly disguised as “Move system caret with focus/selection changes” – you didn’t know that was caret browsing either, did you?) The description text has been changed to, “Allow text to be selected with the keyboard” – a clear improvement.

Fourth, I like how it looks – the old options window interface certainly wasn’t standard Windows fare, and the new options window remains just as unique while retaining all the visual appeal. Firefox does a good job of remaining uniquely itself while still conforming to the expectations of the user within his operating system of choice.

Finally, it doesn’t produce the gut “I don’t like this” feeling that beta versions of the code did – I think my gut feelings are usually pretty close to accurate, and I trust them. Overall, I think the new options interface is an improvement.

The new interface isn’t all goodness, though. First, it’s moderately buggy, and there still remain tons of issues with the new window that need to be fixed, so it’s not quite there yet. Ben’s made an excellent start at it, though, so I have confidence it’ll turn out okay.

There’s actually only one other problem with the options window; right now, I’m really not liking the fact that Ben made any changes. Why? I now have to go and document this thing.


Get a Free Mini Mac!

Tags: — Jeff @ 16:30

Sign up to get a free Mini Mac!

It started with the iPod. Now, they’re giving away free Mini Macs. Do I believe it really works? I don’t know. I’ve heard from many people that the free iPods were legitimate. Logically I should believe this would make a free Mini Mac offer legitimate. Logically, however, how in the world can this scheme actually be profitable?

The Mini Mac

I had no real need for an iPod. However, I signed up for this promotion because I could actually use a Mini Mac (for Firefox/Thunderbird development and documentation work). Do I really expect to get anything? No, not really. Would I like to have one? Sure. I guess I’ll have to see whether this really works or not by soliciting people to sign up through me. After all, I only need 10 people to sign up through me and participate in an offer.

So, if you feel like helping me find out whether this is really legitimate or not, sign up to get your own free Mini Mac. I’ll let people know here whether it works or not (assuming I find enough people willing to sell their souls this way).


The Todo List

Tags: — Jeff @ 03:08

An ordered priority list:

  1. Fix my laptop (or rather, have Dell fix it for me) so that Windows works and so that I can use it without losing power any time I try something CPU– or hard disk-intensive, like building Firefox or Thunderbird
  2. Bug 253334 — Thunderbird needs a Help Viewer
  3. Bug 272841 — Accesskey mnemonics no longer working in help
  4. Bug 247595 — Use entities to describe menus and dialogs in help documentation
  5. Bug 251751 — Firefox Help window should not be alwaysRaised

Processes that can be run relatively concurrently with the aforementioned processes:

  • Really learn the building numbers and building layout at MIT
  • Explore as many halls, corridors, nooks, and crannies at MIT as possible
  • Participate in Mystery Hunt
  • Take a soccer referee recertification class
  • Teach myself the rest of the 8.012 book
  • Somehow catch up on sleep

Things that may interest me but may or may not get done, unordered:

But first:

  • Get through the rest of the fall semester
  • Study a lot, particularly for 5.112 and 18.022
  • Pass my classes

Edit: For the “will do” list, I also need to do a complete UI review of Thunderbird so that its UI can be improved. In particular I think the menus are rather heavy, although there are other parts that could be cleaned up as well. Firefox 1.0 was elegant – Thunderbird 1.0 is unfortunately not nearly as elegant.


First checkin

Tags: — Jeff @ 17:04

My cvs.mozilla.org account is finally working. After a little less than three weeks since the initial bug filing, I finally got all the files, variables, and SSH keys set up correctly. I just made my first checkin to the aviary branch — a simple fix to add Ctrl+0 to the Firefox Help viewer. I’m now checking out the trunk code (my only repository was for aviary because that’s Firefox right now), and after I do that I’ll check in the fix to trunk. (This is very likely possible without requiring two trees, but right now I don’t know the method.)


I’m Back!

Tags: — Jeff @ 08:59

I’ve been in Alaska all July. The trip was a pseudo-high-school-graduation present from my family in lieu of allowing me to go on a trip over spring break. (I wouldn’t have actually gone anywhere because I don’t care about that sort of thing whatsoever, but I’m not complaining over a free trip.)

While I was gone I managed to keep up a very, very, very slight amount with what I normally follow in life. Just as a random, spur-of-the-moment post, I’m going to list some of the stuff that’s happened and stuff I’ve missed. Some will be news from websites, and some will be real news. Some will be interesting, and some will be esoteric (probably more of the latter than the former, but I’m the one writing). This could be long, so in the immortal words of a character from Jurassic Park, “Hold onto your butts.” (That line’s so goofy I can’t resist using it.)

2100+ email messages
How so? Interestingly enough, virtually 0% is spam because my email address is new and I’m guarding it ferociously. My main contributors are messages on various bugs in some free software I enjoy using and messages from a competitive Scrabble mailing list. The number is so massive my email client’s freezing on me, and while I’ve successfully downloaded the message headers, I can’t seem to download the messages themselves, which is rather problematic. I’m still working on it…
Lance Armstrong wins a record 6th Tour de France
I did keep up on this throughout the trip via the Anchorage Daily News, tho I was disappointed the coverage was so minimal. He’d get a blip on the front page of Sports and nothing more, not even after the end of the race. That’s America, tho – the mixed-up sports priorities in the US can be extremely annoying.
Interesting discussions on controversial issues
A comment on prayer and a rant on abortion generate loads of dialogue (which I haven’t read so much as skimmed simply because of the sheer volume of it). I generally agree with Gerv and his viewpoints as I’m a Christian too, although I believe I disagree over abortions always being wrong. If in a hypothetical situation an abortion could save the life of the mother, then an abortion might be viable. In this hypothetical situation, either one or the other will die, so I’m uncertain how either choice can be absolutely wrong. In this situation I believe there is no murder, because both action and inaction will result in a death. It’s roughly analogous to the situation with cojoined twins: does one separate and risk a death or leave together and leave partially disabled? The problem is, however, that these hypothetical situations tend to be expanded way too far if abortions are legal (and indeed, I’m not sure if such a situation can even exist because it’s been expanded so much in America). If the choice of whether to have a baby or not must be made, it should have been made before conception (rape being the unfortunate exception as the child is the rapist’s choice). If the choice to save the mother or save the child must be made, I can’t rationalize one choice over the other. However, I’m open to arguments. However, if there is no choice over whether to save the mother or save the child, then abortion is always murder, even in cases of rape. (Now, if this was anywhere near as coherent as I’d like, consider yourself lucky. I’m still suffering jet lag.)
Cookies are no longer delicious delicacies
If you’ve used the web browser Firefox before, you’ll know what I mean. It’s sad, really. I really liked that text.
Favicons work right in Firefox
Per this post by Asa Dotzler. Awesome. I’ve missed way too much development in this month off.
Firefox 0.9.2
Completely unexpected.
Firefox Help changes
I don’t know what, but I’ve seen a few suspicious checkins. I’ve got a ton of work to do today and tomorrow on this, because I’ve got one last mini-vacation for the next week and I’d like to finish the biggies before PR1.0 (or whatever it’s called now that RC1 is out).

I have a couple other posts gestating right now, so maybe I’ll have something else reasonably soon. The current topics include my experiences with Linux distros (Fedora Core 2 in particular, my current poison of choice) and an informed review of Winstripe as a followup from my original less-informed post. (I will get to that one because of a comment reply I received to the original post. I’m still not sure whether I’ll keep the old commentary I’d written because it’s so out-of-date, but I’m looking forward to posting that one in particular.)