Firefox 4 User Interface Update

23 December 2009

While actively developing Firefox 3, and beta updates are knocking on our doors, the Mozilla team released some alpha UI concepts.

As noted on the 3.0 Windows Default Theme Issues Wikipage, Firefox feels dated and behind on Windows. Especially Vista and Windows 7. These issues include absence of Glass, anemic purple toolbar color on Vista, tall and bulky UI footprint, element overload, inconsistent toolbar icon usage/style, lack of a tactile look & feel and perhaps too great of a divergence between the look on XP and Vista/7.


Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menubar has been systematically removed from Windows applications built by Microsoft and other vendors. It has been replaced with alternatives like the Windows Explorer contextual strip or the Ribbon found in Office 2007. The Ribbon UI is now also used in Paint and Wordpad for Windows 7. Many apps still retain the menubar as an option to be pinned or to be shown briefly by holding the Alt key.

Firefox isn’t the type of application that necessarily has contextual actions in the same way Windows Explorer does. So how to handle the functionality of the menubar if it is hidden? Chrome and Safari (and to a lesser extent IE7 & 8) have solved this by sorting, trimming and collecting the menubar functionality into two separate buttons. One of these buttons has items that apply to the webpage and another to the application itself. Now they don’t always agree on which item should go in which menu, but the general principal is sound. This is a good solution.

The menubar as a UI is pretty good at one thing: hiding complexity. The general purpose of the menubar is to contain all of the things that you want your program to do but you can’t(or shouldn’t) cram into the main UI. So the menubar generally ends up with a lot of stuff that isn’t used very often, if at all, and yet is reproduced on every window and takes up a significant amount of real estate. It also has the tendency to become a dumping ground for new or hardly used features. This experience can be made worse with sub-menus, or even sub-sub-menus, which are hard to find and hard to target.

A progress bar can make waiting seem slightly less painful and let you know if something might be hung-up or not. It won’t actually make things faster, but it might make them feel faster.

Instead of the indeterminate progress indicator in use now, we would like add a progress “line” under the location bar on the active tab and at the top of each background tab. This will let people know about how much longer their background tabs have until they load and it also looks cool.

Several variations of the App Button have been explored. Various factors of consideration include what color to make it, whether or not to have an icon, just an icon, icon and text, part of the tab bar, a separate button or attached to the top of the window.

Presently it is orange and attached to the top of the menu simply labeled “Firefox”. The color plays off of the Firefox icon and is noticeable. The placement attaches the button to the top of the window and suggests that its items apply to the whole menu. It also corresponds to the area of the window where someone would look for the menu bar. Using text only is reminiscent of a menu item.

Want some Linux flavour?

Go here. Or here.


What I Dislike About Windows 7

29 November 2009


I used Windows XP for years more than 8 hours a day, and I got pretty used to it. Servicing and troubleshooting by phone was piece of cake. When the Windows 7 OS took over XP on my notebook, I started noticing features and behaviours that didn’t help me in my quest of taking over the world making things easier for my daily job.

For example, directory browsing is a little jumpy, SHIFT + TAB is the opposite of TAB only sometimes, not always. Also, I can’t record What I Hear, even if the audio adapter allows me to do it, even if Windows XP had no problem with this before. Internet troubleshooting says I need a capable audio adapter, but I don’t have one. Microsoft sucks sometimes. Correct me on sometimes, please.

The Start menu seems a little awkward, but I suppose I’ll get used to it, just like Windows 98 to Windows XP transition. The Run menu is no longer where it used to be, but it’s still accessible via WINDOWS + R keyboard combination. The quick launch bar is there but upon opening shortcuts inside, they disappear. I cannot open two browser windows, because upon opening one, the shortcut icon disappears. Why? I know how to open a new one but it requires a right-click and a left-click.

Windows 7 moved on to becoming a Media station, control panel items are now harder to find, and Windows innards are harder to find and edit.

The idea of prefetching and superfetching is nice, but it’s not tested. Maybe it will be better implemented in a subsequent service pack.

If you don’t agree with what I said, go read my previous article, about what I like in Windows 7.

What I Like About Windows 7

28 November 2009


The first thing I liked as a web developer ever since I booted up my new Windows 7 installation was the sticky note. I used to have lots of TODO lists on desktop and sometimes I used to forget about some of them.

Sticky notes for me are a productivity enhancer. I use them every day, and each day I add and delete new tasks. It helped me so far.

Another feature I like is the graphics. I write code all day and all night, so a little colour and a transparent, blurry window makes my life happier. I just rated my notebook’s performance while writing this article and I got a 3.1 as the lowest subscore. The other subscores go as high as 5 out of 7.9. The lower value is because of the integrated graphics adapter. But, hey, who’s got time to play when coding puts food on my table?

More recent documents. This is what I see when opening the Start menu. Each recent application has it’s own recent documents. Easier to find.

And, if you need more tweaks, get your copy of Tweak 7.

Windows 7 Ownership Issues

23 November 2009


I just installed Windows 7 on my notebook, and I ran into some issues. I had some old Windows installation on another partition which I wanted to delete. Unfortunately, Windows said I need administrator rights to delete. But I am the administrator. Apparently I am not the owner.

After searching the Internet for a while and finding several solutions that involved a lot of clicking and changing options, I found the most elegant solution of them all.

Open a new text document and write this:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

@="Take ownership"

@="cmd.exe /c takeown /f \"%1\" && icacls \"%1\" /grant administrators:F"
"IsolatedCommand"="cmd.exe /c takeown /f \"%1\" && icacls \"%1\" /grant administrators:F"

@="Take ownership"

@="cmd.exe /c takeown /f \"%1\" /r /d y && icacls \"%1\" /grant administrators:F /t"
"IsolatedCommand"="cmd.exe /c takeown /f \"%1\" /r /d y && icacls \"%1\" /grant administrators:F /t"

Save it as take-ownership-install.reg and double click on it.

A new context menu option will be now available for files and folders. Use “Take ownership” to make files and folders yours so you can delete them.

In order to remove this behaviour for your Windows 7 installation use the following code and save it as take-ownership-uninstall.reg:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



Download Take Ownership Registry Pack for Windows 7 here.

Windows Mobile 6.1 Working On My HTC Phone

8 September 2009

I recently upgraded my HTC smartphone from WM 5 to WM 6.1. After tweaking and updating, I have a fully functional Windows Mobile 6.1 installation.

The sliding panels theme looks so… glassy. New features are exposed in the menus, and I don’t need to reset my smartphone several times a day.

Expect for more reviews and how-to’s in the next days.

Windows Mobile 6.1Windows Mobile 6.1Windows Mobile 6.1

Windows Mobile 6.1Windows Mobile 6.1sshot001 copy