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Session Title

Explorable User Interface: Exposing Firefox's Hidden Features

Session Leaders

Jay Goldman (Radiant Core), Alex Faaborg


Firefox includes a lot of very powerful/great shortcut/cool user interface features which are not immediately obvious. A great many of these are only discovered through other users who already know about them, while others are found entirely by accident. For example, did you know that Google's Suggestion list will include the result of calculations as the first item? Try typing "3 feet in cm" into the Google search bar. Or did you know that you can double-click on empty tabstrip space to make a new tab? Or drag and drop tabs to re-order them? Or scroll in the tabstrip with your mouse's scroll wheel?

Agenda and Session Notes

Part 1: Strategies for exposing hidden features

  • Changing UI for experience level
    • Office 12 Ribbon
  • Tutorials
    • Game-based tutorial for fun (e.g.: Facebook)
    • In product tutorials (e.g.: Reveal Firefox Addon -
    • Post-command explanations (e.g.: new tab in IE has some help text on the blank tab to explain what just happened and what tabs are for).
    • 7-10 second videos of a feature (e.g.: Flock)
    • Tips on Fx update pages
  • Context help
  • Tooltips/Balloon Help
  • Firefox University/Top 10 "Bet you didn't know" tips
    • Voting on which tips are most useful (Digg like)
  • Startup tips based on what you've done
    • E.g.: You've never double-clicked for a new tab so here's a suggestion...
    • Help Menu > Tell Me Something I Don't know...
    • Extend API for addon developers to add tips for their extension
  • Mouse cursor feedback (changing cursor when over different areas of the UI)
  • Basic mode, advanced mode
  • When you do the long way of doing something, show a tip with the short way in it.
  • A list of updated key bindings including Addons.
  • Expand on the Mac OS menu highlight when a keyboard shortcut is used, but possibly show the text of the item that was selected either in place of the menu name or below it.
  • Note: Lucy mentioned a possible but that not all items with Keyboard Shortcuts have the shortcuts listed with them.

Part 2: What are the hidden features?

Hidden feature list was the result of some seeding by Jay and Alex and then a general brainstorm session. Suggested resolution about how to expose the features listed in italics after the feature name.

  • Tabbed Browsing
    • Tab Bar is hidden by default when a single window is open. We need the 'New Tab' button on the toolbar and/or the Tab Bar visible by default (even if just one window is open).
  • Tabstrip
    • Double-click on tabstrip for new tab
    • Scrolling in the tabstrip in overflow mode
    • Dragging tabs to reorder
    • Middle-click to close tab Above items were decided to be good Tutorial material
    • Open folder as multiple tabs
    • Save all Tabs
    • Multiple tabs at startup
  • Location Bar
    • Dragging favicons Highlight targets when drag event starts to make sure that users know where they can drop them and be consistent with tooltips and cursor states over all favicons.
  • Bookmarks Bar
    • LiveTitles Watch user behaviour for frequently visited sites and suggest a livetitle if the site includes a microsummary.
    • Folders on Bookmarks Bar Ship with a folder in the Bookmark bar by default, which includes an item about "Organizing bookmarks into Folders" (or similar wording) which goes to tutorial.
  • Search Bar
    • Changing search engines We decided this was much better in Fx2 and ddin't need to be improved
    • Adding search engines Apply the glow to the items in the menu for new items so that people understand the connection better
    • Select text and Send to Search (context menu) Tutorial
    • Drag selection to Search box Tutorial
  • Find as you type
  • Customize Toolbars Tutorial
    • Drag buttons to menubar (Windows only) Tutorial
  • Keyword Bookmarks Watch behaviour for repeated searches on sites and suggest adding a Keyword Bookmark. Consider adding a control to fields which would support a keyword.
  • Session Restore
  • Undo Close Tab
  • Password Manager

We ran out of time to flesh out the rest of the items, so feel free to add more comments inline.

Part 3: Application

  • Which hidden features should be more exposed?
  • Some features are intended more for "power users" and exposing them might make the UI difficult to use for novices. Where do we draw the line?
  • How might we modify Firefox's UI in Fx3 to make them more obvious?
    • Is there anything we can do before Fx3 to test our ideas?

Interested Attendees