22 January 2011 - 13:33Looking for some prototype testers

Edit: The add-on has now been released, so check out the announcement post: Towards Browse-Based Browsing with Home Dash. Thanks for the feedback!

I started hacking on an idea last week in the context of the Prospector experiments [mozillalabs.com]. I’m looking for a small set of people to try it out and give some initial technical feedback. For example, I know I’ve hard-coded some sizes/images that happen to fit my 1280×800 screen on my Mac, but I am curious how it works or doesn’t work on other platforms, window sizes, etc.

You can install the restartless add-on [edit: addons.mozilla.org] if you’re already running Firefox 4 Beta 10 [firefox.com] or later. I’m not really describing it on purpose. ;) But not to be too confused, below is a sketch from when I started hacking on it. And as usual, you can check out the source first from GitHub [github.com] or directly from the .xpi.

Sketch of Home Dash

You can email me the feedback at edilee@gmail.com or just reply with a comment!

23 Comments | Tags: Development, Mozilla, Search

21 December 2010 - 11:20#status 2010-12-20

- Brainstorm next Prospector experiments

At the Mozilla All Hands last week, and we held a discussion to brainstorm various ideas to try out in the Prospector family of experiments. A couple of the current experiments like Speak Words and Instant Preview help users get back to top sites almost instantly with just one key stroke, but these mainly help for the relatively small set of sites that users frequent and not so much the remainder of the history available in Firefox.

So the next set of experiments will focus on improving the experience of searching for pages in Firefox. Interesting findings from Query Stats could help identify relevant pages or help build a better view of your past browsing behavior. Additional data about each page could be tracked by Firefox such as unique phrases from the page or how long a tab was opened and interacted with.

Displaying the search results also received some attention as to how to add all this extra information in a clean way. Some ideas ranged from being more space efficient by showing location bar results on one line to taking up more vertical space as one might not need to use the page when searching. This led to ideas of using the whole tab content area to show rich results and provide interaction such as grouping/switching of types of results like pages, apps, videos, etc.

- Prepare search bar -> button demo

Along the lines of combining the location bar and the search bar, I’ve been hacking together a Prospector experiment that changes the search bar into a list of buttons. This allows for explicit control for the user to decide when searching should be local to Firefox’s history or over the web. It also makes it apparent that there are multiple search engines to choose from and clicking another button switches the current search request to another provider.

When clicking a button, it inserts a keyword and focuses the location bar, so it’s like doing a smart bookmark keyword search with the first location bar suggestion being the search. Combined with Instant Preview, it’ll automatically update the results immediately as you type more words or switch engines.

- Attend Open Web App discussions

I was curious what kind of web-apps were being created in general across the various web-app stores available today because I wanted to see if the search bar -> button experiment above could add to the types of available apps. This is because generally speaking, these search buttons processes some words from the user and converts it to a url or a set of results.

From the screenshot above, the last button is actually for Google Translate, so when I click the button and type “hola mis amigos”, Google translates it immediately as I type to “hello my friends“. This somewhat feels Ubiquity-like, which had all sorts of commands, so potentially allowing the web app manifest to describe these “searches” or “actions” could lead to web-apps that are more than just bookmarks.

- Push restartless code examples to GitHub

I’ve been hacking on restartless add-ons for a while now and noticed that I copy/paste some useful helper functions for when I start a new add-on. Other people hacking on these bootstrapped add-ons could make use of them as well, so I created a “restartless” repository on GitHub. I’ll write a post going into more detail later, but briefly, it’s a collection of git branches where each branch contains a helper function or provides an example usage or pattern.

- Tracking down flash crashes

I’ve been running into Flash crashes on OS X for a while and noticed other people were in a similar situation. So to help resolve it, I started tracking down the various flash crash reports, and I’ve posted about my findings and issues that I ran into.

6 Comments | Tags: Add-on, Conference, Development, Labs, Mozilla, Search, Status

30 September 2010 - 15:29Instant Preview of Location Bar Suggestions

I’ve received a number of requests for getting Instant-like Search, so I’ve packaged it up for people to download. Part of the reason why I didn’t release earlier is that this restartless add-on requires the upcoming Firefox 4 Beta 7, so I was hoping to make it available when the beta was ready.

If you’re already on the bleeding edge running a Firefox nightly build [nightly.mozilla.org], you can install Instant Preview.

With this add-on, Firefox will start loading pages highlighted in the location bar suggestions in place of the current tab. This means you can type a letter and press Down to start viewing that page. From there you can press Return to make the preview turn into a persistent tab. Alternatively, you can press Esc to get rid of the preview if you just needed to glance at the page. So if you do end up selecting the page, it might already be done loading and ready for you to use! :)

This works even better if you install Speak Words, so that when you type a single letter, not only will the rest of the word get filled in, it’ll automatically highlight the first entry resulting in the page being loaded immediately. For now you’ll need to install both these restartless add-ons separately, but I’m working on a way to simplify this so you just need to install one to automatically get these new features.

Don’t forget to check out my Video Preview of Instant-like Search and install it!

23 Comments | Tags: Add-on, AwesomeBar, Labs, Mozilla, Search

23 September 2010 - 7:00Video Preview of Instant-like Search

Here’s a preview of an instant-like search add-on that I just hacked together in a few minutes. :)

Video formats: webm, ogv, mov

Transcript:

Let’s say I want to go to Planet Mozilla, so I start typing out “planet”, and before I even finish typing it out, the page has loaded over the current tab. This could be useful to take a quick peek at a page like xkcd, and then hit <esc> to return to where I left off.

Combining this with smart bookmark keywords, I can type “g” followed by some word, and it’s almost like Google Instant search. But this works for other search engines like Bing.. or even Wikipedia. As long as the site returns the page fast enough, it already feels pretty good.

16 Comments | Tags: Add-on, AwesomeBar, Google, Labs, Mozilla, Search