Mozilla is currently hard at work to integrate a new feature into the next iteration of its open source browser. Essentially, Firefox 4.0 nightly development builds will get Tab Candy, provided that the Tab Candy team is successful in the implementation of the new feature. At the end of the past week, Aza Raskin, Head of UX, Mozilla Labs, unveiled a new concept designed to revolutionize the way in which end users navigate and manage Tabs within the Firefox browser. Watch the video embedded at the bottom of this screen in order to get an idea of what Firefox Tab Candy can do.
“With one keystroke Tab Candy shows an overview of all tabs to allow you to quickly locate and switch between them. Tab Candy also lets you group tabs to organize your work flow. You can create a group for your vacation, work, recipes, games and social sites, however it makes sense to you to group tabs. When you switch to a grouped tab only the relevant tabs are shown in the tab bar, which helps you focus on what you want,” Raskin stated. More »
Mozilla introduced Jetpack, an application programming interface designed to permit developers to apply web development technologies and skills to building Firefox add-ons, in May 2009. Since the initial, 0.1 version release of the API, no less than four updates were introduced, focused mainly on resolving bugs with the initial build, but also on introducing new API features. On June 11, Mozilla labs brought to the table Jetpack 0.2, defined as a major refresh compared to the minor updates delivered since the solution was first launched. The evolution of Jetpack from 0,1 to 0.2 offers developers a new Firefox experimental UI element and fresh APIs.
“Besides numerous bug fixes (including a particularly nasty one that would hide prevent extensions from being in the status bar), there are three main additions: slidebars, jetpack.future, and persistent storage,” revealed Aza Raskin, head of user experience for Mozilla Labs. “Slidebars are a reinvention of the old sidebar feature of browsers. They allow quick access to a wide range of both temporary and permanent information at the side of your browser window.”
Raskin stressed the fact that Jetpack was put together to serve a double purpose. First and foremost, the solution is designed as a platform for experimentation. However, this aspect needs not to lead to the exclusion of developers using Jetpack as a solid and comprehensive set of APIs capable of extending Firefox. In this context, Mozilla Labs now allows Jetpack developers to import features from the future, as long as they are experimental in nature, which is the case of Slidebars, for example.
“One of the most requested features in the Jetpack development mailing list was for the ability to persistently store data across restarts. We’ve added simple storage to the future module,” Raskin added. “Mozilla Labs is a virtual lab where people come together online to create, experiment and play with Web innovations for the public benefit. The Jetpack experiment is still in its infancy and just getting started.”
The Firefox Superbar is about to be kicked to the next level with the integration of Ubiquity. Right now all that is available from Mozilla is the Taskfox Prototype, an illustration of what Ubiquity blended into Firefox’s fabric would look like to the end user. Of course, you can watch the video embedded at the bottom of this article in order to get a perspective over Taskfox for Mozilla’s open-source browser. Taskfox is essentially a feature Mozilla plans for Firefox, and which was inspired by the ubiquity experiment.
“The main thing we haven’t prototyped is the interaction of the awesome bar results and the Taskfox commands. We know that this is a major remaining question so we’ll be prototyping that soon. We’ve more or less ignored that interaction for this prototype,” revealed Aza Raskin, head of user experience at Mozilla Labs. “Being able to navigate results with the keyboard is lacking in Ubiquity proper. We’ve tried to solve that in TaskFox.”
Mozilla aims to build a new program designed to harvest end-user data for its open source projects, but especially Firefox. Firefox Test Pilot is currently nothing more than an initiative debuted under the Mozilla Labs umbrella, in order to lay out the concept behind the project, and to attract interest and identify a software engineer to lead the program. According to Aza Raskin, head of user experience at Mozilla Labs, Test Pilot will be used to gather Firefox usage information, feedback that will subsequently be used to evolve the design process of the open source browser.
“Test Pilot is a still-in-concept platform for a new user-testing program for Mozilla that aims to build a 1% representative sample of the Firefox user base for soliciting wide participation and structured feedback for interface and product experiments,” Raskin stated.
One important aspect of the new program is that Mozilla actually envisions building an entire feedback platform, which could scale beyond Firefox, to Thunderbird and Seamonkey, and subsequently to every Mozilla Labs project. Raskin indicated that the Test Pilot, served to users as an extension of Firefox, would first of all require them to answer non-personally-identifiable questions, in order to classify them in accordance with the locale, technical level etc. More »