Archive for the ‘Mozilla Firefox’ Category

Sunday, December 18th 2005

Favourite Firefox Extensions

I’d like to show a list of my favourite extensions, beginning with my absolute favourites:

  1. Searchbar autosizer. A great extension which automatically increases the width of the searchbar if you type something too long into it. This should be a default feature of Firefox – it’s very useful, and doesn’t get in the user’s way.
  2. AdBlock Plus. Makes the web so much nicer to browse and look at. Especially combined with the Adblock Filterset.G Updater.
  3. SessionSaver. It’s wonderful to be able to just close your browser and know that everything you’ve got open (including half-finished forum/blog posts) will be there when you fire it back up again (pun intended).
  4. Answers. Lets you alt-click any word to instantly look it up on answers.com. Very nifty and slick.
  5. Search Engine Ordering. Allows you to order your search engines as you want them. Very useful – this should also (and will?) be part of basic Firefox functionality.

The great thing is that everyones favourite extension list looks different. Firefox extension system allows you to add just those cool/useful/slick features you yourself like.

There’s also a whole bunch of other extensions that I’ve got, but which I use less regularly. These are maybe also slightly less interesting to the broad masses:

You often hear (as a reason to use Opera instead of Firefox) that Firefox’s extensions will interfere with each other and won’t play nice.

Well, if you install extensions sensibly – that is, don’t install several extensions which attempt to do the same thing, then you’re extremely unlikely to run into any problems. (For instance, there is a huge number of extensions which enhance Firefox’s tabs. If you install several of these you’re bound to run into problems.)

All my current extensions work perfectly together. In fact, I can only remember having one slight problem with extensions treading on each others toes since I started using Firefox 1.0 one year ago: The Web Developer and Tab Sidebar extensions use the same keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+T, which resulted in only one of the extensions responding to it.

Friday, December 16th 2005

Firefox 2.0 is going to ROCK!

Well, we’ve only just been given Firefox 1.5, so people maybe think I should just be happy and use it. But now I caught a glimpse of the Firefox 2.0 product plan (draft)

There are some nice tweaks in there, which we should have in our hands for next autumn possibly. (Their release plan, which says 2.0 final by late june sounds, as always, completely unrealistic.)

Some things to look forward to:

The session saver could become a bit of a feature hurdle for novices, but I trust the Firefox engineers will make sure it won’t be.

Oh yes: the new code name is Bon Echo.

Friday, December 16th 2005

IE7 to get Firefox's Feed Icon

The Microsoft RSS Team has just announced that IE7 will be using Firefox’s feed icon. How many people would have thought that a year back? A week back?

It’s really cool that MS are working so cooperatively with their competitiors at the moment. Maybe they have to? Who knows.

I only wish they would do something along the same lines with their rendering engine. Either use Gecko (I can always dream, right?) or make Trident as standards compliant as the best (the rest).

Edit: Oh, and thanks jer for the nudge!

Saturday, December 10th 2005

Change Firefox’s Context Menu Seach Engine

When I’m reading things on the Internet I always come across words that I don’t understand. Wheat I’ve done up until now is to select the word, righ-click and do a web search for that word. That has taken me to google, upon which I’ve clicked [definition] to get me to answers.com.

Google definition

I’ve been thinking for a long time that it would be great if that context menu search went straight to answers.com to save me the wait and extra click. I just didn’t know how or if it was possible to change that search URL. Well, since this is Firefox we’re talking about – of course it is:

In about:config, filter for search and then simply change the value for browser.search.defaulturl to http://answers.com/.

That’s a huge improvement, at least to me! I don’t seem to be able to use Wikipedia here though, since the search term placeholder %s doesn’t seem to work. Anyone know of a workaround?

Tuesday, December 6th 2005

Firefox Scholar

This sounds really cool. Can’t wait to try it out, or at least to read some real reviews of it.

Tuesday, November 29th 2005

Firefox 1.5 goes live, website changes

Firefox 1.5 has just gone live over at mozilla.com. Go and get it while it’s hot – take those servers done once and for all. 😉

Yes, that’s mozilla dot com – not org. The new website has been set up to better display/promote the mozilla products, without having all the projects and foundation stuff getting in the way. It’s looking pretty sleek if you ask me:

Screen shot of mozilla.com, 2005-11-30

The mozilla addons website has also had a nice refresh:

Screen shot of addons.mozilla.org, 2005-11-30

A search engine plugins section has been added too, even if the selection available still isn’t very large. (Maybe 30 odd search engines are listed, with a pointer to mycroft for a larger selection.)

Now I’m just waiting to see what they are conjuring up at spreadfirefox.com:

Screen shot of spreadfirefox.com, 2005-11-30

Edit: Added a Firefox 1.5 graphic to the left column.

Thursday, November 24th 2005

Firefox 1.5 Release Date

Judging from the ironic tone in this post by Tritan Nitot of Mozilla Europe, Firefox 1.5 will preusumably be released on 29 November. That’s tuesday next week – nice.

Tuesday, November 22nd 2005

Address Bar Colours In IE7

Rob Franco has written about the plans for IE7’s secure/insecure website user interface over at IEBlog.

The current suggestion is to have three different background colours for the address bar indicating different statuses for the current website. Red – the website is blocked by the phishing filter and an informative message is displayed instead. Yellow – a suspicious website, showing signs of being a phishing scam but not confirmed by the list of known phishing websites. Green – sites that meet future guidelines for better identity validation.

So here’s the problem: Firefox and Opera today both use the yellow background colour, together with the lock icon, to identify secure (https) websites:

Firefox in secure (https) mode.

Opera in secure (https) mode.

If Microsoft were to implement their three colour system it might cause major confusion, at least for the digitally impaired.

Thankfully (and surprisingly!) Microsoft’s IE developers have sat down together with devs from Opera, Mozilla and KDE and talked the matter over. Hopefully this will lead to some kind of mutual agreement on this issue. (Although I believe they were mostly discussing ways of selecting and identifying properly identified websites.)

Two possible solutions to the colour problem popped up in the comments:

  1. Microsoft makes their yellow some shade of orange instead to minimize the confusion.
  2. The browser UI developers together agree on some standard colour system and apply it in all browsers. Either the system proposed by Microsoft, or some variation of the system used today in Firefox and Opera.

The latter would obviously be better for the user, but the question is – can these big browser players really reach an agreement here?

I still can’t quite grasp that they actually sat down together and talked about this, like we were moving towards some kind of… er… I don’t know – Web 2.0?

Tuesday, November 15th 2005

Quick 8-bit PNG Transparency Tutorial

As any returning reader may have noticed, I like making PNGs with transparent backgrounds.

I have been thinking for some time that I should write a short guide to making these images. I will do this using the GIMP, but I’m sure this basic method works in Photoshop too.

Sadly, though, there is no one perfect way of removing a background from a photo, not even if it is single-coloured as in this case. The following method is what I have concluded to be the best after testing numerous different variations. The resulting images work fine on both light and dark backgrounds, but the edges become a little jagged on darker backgrounds. Maybe I’ll work out an even better method in the future…

As an example I thought I’d use a product photo of the Slim Devices Squeezebox 2, which I think is a beatiful piece of HiFi/WiFi equipment. Check it out if you haven’t already. Anyway, here’s the original photo that I’ll be working on:

Squeezbox 2

The first thing to do is to select the area which is to become transparent. This is easily done using the wand tool. You may have to adjust the threshold value a bit to make it include any gray (shadow) areas too. For this photo I had it set to 50. (You’ll find the threshold in the tool options window – Ctrl+Shift+T.) Here’s what we’re aiming to get:

Making a transparent PNG, step 1

The next step is to increase the size of the selection very slightly to include the whole border area around the object. In my experience, increasing the selection by 1 pixel is usually best. (If you have a very large photo you could always try 2 or maybe 3 pixels.) Click [Select] > [Grow…] and choose the amount you want. (I’m not sure of the English wording of the commands, I’m just guessing based on my Swedish version.)

Making a transparent PNG, step 2

Then we create a layer mask by clicking [Layer] > [Mask] > [Add new mask…]. In the dialogue that pops up, select [Grayscale copy of layer], and tick the [Invert mask] option. That should give us something like this:

Making a transparent PNG, step 3

As you can see, this makes all light parts of the image transparent, including any highlights on the object we want to be fully opaque. To fix this, invert the selection (Ctrl+I) and bring up the layers window (Ctrl+L). Here, select the inverted miniature on the right, representing the layer mask:

Making a transparent PNG, step 4

Then choose the fill tool (Shift+B) and set the foreground colour to white. Bring up the tool options (Ctrl+Shift+T) and check the option to [Fill whole selection]. Then simply click inside the selected area, and your object should magically become opaque:

Making a transparent PNG, step 5

After that, invert the selection again (Ctrl+I) and select the miniature on the left in the layer window, i.e. the layer itself. Now change the foreground colour to black and use the fill tool in the current selection, to make the shadows visible:

Making a transparent PNG, step 6

That’s pretty much it. Now just remove the selection (Ctrl+Shift+A) and apply the layer mask by clicking [Layer] > [Mask] > [Apply layer mask]. Save the photo as something.png, put it on your favourite background colour and enjoy looking at it:

Making a transparent PNG, the final result

Oh. And you’ll need to tell your website visitors to get Firefox. 🙂

Tuesday, November 15th 2005

Kubuntu – Take 5 (Or So)

After having tried to install Kubuntu a load of times, I tried one more time. This time I actually got it installed, without the installer hanging and without errors on the DVD+RW.

All seemed fine. I was trying to work out how to get Firefox 1.5 RC2 to install, and where to install it. Then all of a sudden it decided that I wasn’t allowed to enter Administrator Mode, which is necessary if you want to make any changes to the system settings. It asked for the password, but ignored it blankly on every try. And rebooting didn’t help either. I have tried reinstalling kcontrol as recommended in this thread at ubuntuforms.org, but to no use. I’ll maybe just wait to the next release and try again then. All this is (sadly) making me realize that even if Windows seems pretty unstable at times, the fact that it at least works most of the time isn’t such a bad thing.

Friday, November 11th 2005

Interesting Thoughts About Differing Levels of Firefox Adoption

Tristan Nitot has an interesting blog post about various factors which could explain the widely differing Firefox percentages throughout Europe.

Thursday, November 10th 2005

Happy Birthday Firefox!

Well… better late than never, i’n’it? Anyway, now’s a good time to look back:

  • Here’s what CNN Technology looked like on 2004-11-09.
  • Here’s what Google News looked like on 2004-11-10.
  • Here’s what Blake Ross said about Phoenix’s (one of Firefox’s previous names) possibilities of becoming a major piece of software.

It’s been great to see how Firefox really has spread throughout the world during it’s first year. For the second year, lets hope Firefox ends up on many many more computers. Maybe with a little help from Google… Can’t wait to see Firefox reach 25%, which I’d say is the next magical number. Feels good to know we’ve got Google on our side anyway. That can’t be a bad thing.

Hopefully the many improvements for Firefox 1.5 will make it even more attractive and spreadable.

I also can’t wait to see what they’ll conjure up at SpreadFirefox.com for us to do. Hopefully it’ll be something a little more useful than just taking a picture and uploading it… I want to be used! Let us pay for a TV-commercial, or collect money for some really wild and media-attractingly crazy event! The NYT ad was paid for by 10,000 people. SpreadFirefox now has more than 100,000 members. I do hope they don’t let the 1.5 launch just slip by, but I’ve got a hunch they have something up their sleve.

Thursday, November 3rd 2005

The Inquirer’s Take On Microsoft and Firefox

Haha. This is so funny and, unfortunately for Microsoft, so true.

Tuesday, November 1st 2005

Favourite Firefox Bugs

While we’re on the subject of Firefox bugs I thought I would post a list of my favourites. Well, calling them favourites is maybe a bit off, since I can’t wait to see them nuked off the face of bugzilla:

  • Bug 9101: Break lines at soft hyphens (­) and display hyphens if line broken.
  • Bug 98971: Prettier image resizing & scaling (Bilinear, Bicubic, anything better than Nearest Neighbor).

The above two are what I would call the most important Gecko bugs right now. They both do their part for preventing truly scalable website design. For instance, if the latter one was fixed, website designers would be much more inclined to specify image sizes in em units and the images would resize beautifully with the rest of the content.

Then there are a few other bugs which also would be nice to have fixed. These are definately lower prioroty though, IMO:

  • Bug 16380: Need anti-aliasing for -moz-border-radius style property.
  • Bug 75077: Interlaced PNGs should be displayed with bicubic interpolation.

Then of course, there is the Acid 2 bug, which is being worked on as we speak – and may well be fixed for Firefox 2.0.

Tuesday, November 1st 2005

Firefox Fixes

The last few days have seen two small but visible and important improvements to Firefox 1.5:

  • Bug 313300 has been fixed, which means that Firefox 1.5 will not open windows with a specified size as tabs – unlike Firefox 1.5 beta 2 which opened everything in new tabs.
  • Bug 245392 has also been fixed, so Firefox will no more create an empty folder on the Windows programs menu if the user has unchecked the shortcut on startmenu option during installing.

I also noticed that Firefox now asks if I want to save my gmail password. At first I thought this was a Firefox fix (or workaround, because Gmail had set it up not to save on purpose) but after hunting around a bit it seems like Gmail have simply removed the autocomplete=”off” attribute that they have used until now.

While searching bugzilla.mozilla.org I learnt of a simple way to bypass that attribute, should you come across it at some other site: in about:config, set the wallet.crypto.autocompleteoverride pref to true, and Firefox should simply ignore it. However, I would still advise you to never save passwords for online banks and suchlike if you do turn this pref on.

Update 2005-11-04: Having tried the pref I mentioned above, it doesn’t actually seem to do anything. I presume it is no longer used, so as to ensure that people don’t go saving bank passwords, etc.

Saturday, October 1st 2005

Some CSS3 Columns/Wizardry

Fini Alring has a great demo of CSS3 columns. It’s making me drool. For those who don’t have Firefox 1.5 beta there are screenshots.

Wednesday, September 28th 2005

PimpZilla – The Coolest Firefox Theme Ever?

PimpZilla must be the coolest Firefox theme ever made. (Screenshot) It has it all: fake pink fur, leopard skin and a bling bling factor of about 12 (out of 10). Unfortunately though, it isn’t yet compatible with the soon-to-be Firefox 1.5. Can’t wait.

Thursday, September 22nd 2005

New Design

After having played about with a three-column CSS layout, I decided to use the design for my blog.

So, here’s the result! There may be some minor polishing work left to do, but I think I’m mostly done.

I used Firefox for testing while I was building the design. Then I checked the result in Opera (no problems) and lastly in Internet Explorer. I made one small adjustment to the CSS for IE, in order to make links the right colour. (It seems IE doesn’t understand the inherit value for links.) Something I decided not to do for IE was swap the max-width property (which IE doesn’t understand) of the posts for the width property. Doing so would break the scalability of the design. I’d rather make it clear to users of Internet Explorer that they’re using an outdated browser…

So, If you’re reading this in Internet Explorer, and wondering what this design really should look like – try Firefox instead. You’d be doing yourself, me, and every single web designer in the whole world a huge favour.

I also added a favicon for anyone who may have bookmarked the site.

Update: Just for the heck of it I made a semi-transparent white PNG image for the background of links when hovered. That way I don’t need to find different suitable hover colours for the different background colours. Also, if I want to change the colour-scheme later on it will be much easier.

Wednesday, September 21st 2005

Opera Now Free: Opera Fans – Start Spreading

As I was hoping a while back, Opera (the desktop version) has now become real freeware, without ads. This is truly great news for the web.

Now, hopefully, the Firefox and Opera communities can work united (sort-of, at least) towards the main target: to bring down the marketshare of that old, stinking, vile pile of a browser known as Internet Explorer.

Now, some may think

Oh, what does it matter, now that IE7 is just around the corner? Microsoft are working towards standards compliance now.

And here’s why it matters: We still don’t know if Microsoft’s intentions with Internet Explorer 7 really are good. In fact, they most likely aren’t – simply because they have no reason to. They do seem to be caring at the moment, but they did so about five years ago as well… It’s merely an overgrown PR stunt. If we ever let Internet Explorer’s market share grow as high as it was a year or two ago (~95%), I think we will find out the hard way that Microsoft’s aim was, once again: domination and (most importantly) lock-in. 8-|

So, if we (i.e. us Firefox and Opera fans) make sure that our favourite browsers always have a healthy market share, of at least 10% each (and hopefully a lot more), I think we can keep this Internet thing moving. If we want to be able to use any CSS3 stuff before we die we had better give it our best try.

Sunday, September 4th 2005

Binary Patching Now Working in Firefox

Ye-haa! The Software Update in Firefox now features great, wonderful, slick binary patching. You can update from one version to another by just downloading a few hundred kB or so. Just check this screenshot sequence:

Screenshot of Firefox 'update available' window

Screenshot of Firefox downloading updates

Screenshot of Firefox Software Update, step 3

Updating Firefox, after restart

This, together with the setting to download and install updates automatically, makes it possible for me (and these other guys) to install Firefox for friends and other acquaintances without having to follow up with update installations.