00:14 July 21, 2011

So, for whatever reason, when I updated to the latest nightly of Firefox today homedash, https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/prospector-home-dash/ , which I installed awhile ago, decided to renable itself. I remembered thinking at the time that I thought homedash was the future of browsing, but for reasons I can't remember I found it somewhat unusable other than as an experiment. Well, I decided to try out this new version that had turned itself on.

Turns out...its pretty awesome.So, my browser is really the entire screen. srsly. There is a tiny tiny Firefox in the upper left corner which opens up to an entire full Firefox-button type menu. I can scroll through my "tabs" (there are no tabs) and get a fast preview and do anything else I could do through the Firefox button. It is seriously slick. It is not just Firefox in fullscreen. It is a genuine new and cool interface. Coupled with panorama (ctrl+shift+e), this feels like the right browsing experience. Not for all time or anything silly like that. But...just to repeat....seriously slick.

It requires a pretty high familiarity with how browsers work (not Firefox specific per se, but modern browsers in general) in order to really get it. I wish it was more self evident. But for an experimental project, its downright usable. I've already contaminated my home machine with it.

There's a few things I really need. I want a way to copy the current page URL to clipboard. I do this a lot to share links outside of the browser. The best I can do is ctrl+l && ctrl+c && click back on page. This should be a single command to do this (keyboard or otherwise). Also, my page previews a la ctrl+t don't render (linux). I don't know why. I don't actually care about them that much, but the fact that they don't render bother me.

To make this useful for more people, it'd be nice if it displayed and configured keyboard shortcuts. I know ctrl+l, ctrl+k, ctrl+t, ctrl+w (both of them), and that's about it. And I work at Mozilla. I have a short memory for things I don't use, and I don't use things I can't remember. Also, attention to addons? If I need to access addon functionality....I have no idea how to do that. Addons are first class citizens. We should give them that respect. And URLs are first class citizens too. I want to see the URL I am clicking on. I want to see what is loading. homedash combined with https://mozillalabs.com/prospector/2011/07/14/tab-focus-automagically-organize-tab-groups/ could be a good shippable combination.

There are some bugs too, but they're mostly details here.

So, how is it so slick?

I was browsing my website, http://k0s.org (yes, the very site this blog is on!), with homedash in fullscreen. Without chrome and widgets to distract me, with nothing but HTML, it really made evident how my UX worked. What is actually slow that should be snappier? How do things really look minus a virtual frame? Its quite striking when presented to you like that. Also, it made me realize how ugly the default scrollbars are. Yuck. Lets make them better.

So try it out. Maybe you'll love it. Maybe you'll hate it. It's open source -- https://github.com/mozilla/prospector-- so feel free to play along.