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Firefox for Mac: User Interface Grievances


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Firefox for Mac: User Interface Grievances
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Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2005-02-11, 01:18

People have seen me complain about how bad I think the user interface is for Firefox on Mac OS X. It may be able to squeak by on Windows and Linux where interface elements and behaviors aren't as universally consistent, but on Mac OS X where nearly all apps inherit the same, correct UI behaviors "for free," Firefox stands out like a sore thumb.

I've never taken the effort to compile a list and organize these problems until now and I may well have let some things out. I've tried to separate these "bugs" into general categories. To some of you, few or none of these may matter at all. That's okay and that's your opinion. However, such a large list of inconsistencies can make Firefox feel quite uncomfortable for veteran Mac OS X users. In fact, some of them can be wholesale deal-breakers for users with physical disabilities.

This list was made using the official Firefox 1.0 (and later 1.0.7) version as a reference.

General UI
  • Firefox is not localized. Changing your preferred language in System Preferences has absolutely no effect on Firefox.
  • The resize button acts like the Windows/Linux maximize button, but it does not even take the whole screen. It leaves 128 empty pixels to the right.
  • About box is not in a separate window if a browser window is open.
  • Any opened sheet makes the attached window modal, preventing you from opening any other windows or doing anything else.
  • The About box and Preferences sheets/windows never appear if the Bookmarks Manager is in front.
  • Preferences are not in a separate window if a browser window is open. If no window is open, it becomes modal.
  • Preference icons should be at the top like Safari's, iChat's, Mail's, iTunes', [...] preferences.
  • Tooltips are not native tooltips. Note the incorrect shadow and lack of transparency.
  • Contextual menus are not native. Note the incorrect shadow, incorrect selected pattern, incorrect font, poor font spacing, and lack of transparency.
  • Contextual menu items cannot be selected by typing letters.
  • Contextual menu items cannot be executed by pressing the space bar.
  • There are no window proxies anywhere and command-clicking the window title does nothing. While not a necessity, this is a convenience and Safari, OmniWeb, and even the years-old Internet Explorer all offer these features.
  • HTML form widgets look nothing like Mac widgets.
  • Dragging of images is not WYSISYG. Instead, Firefox creates a large marquee box with the cursor at its x and y midpoint.
  • Changing tabs is not documented in any menus and uses nonstandard, unintuitive keyboard shortcuts (control-tab and shift-control-tab).
  • The full screen option does not actually go full screen and windows are still resizable when enabled. Applications can and should hide the menu bar and Dock to utilize the full screen in a kiosk mode. There is no check mark or other indicator in the menu when full screen mode is enabled.
  • Option-clicking a disclosure triangle (like in the bookmark manager) does not expand all child elements.
  • Page source, page info, manage bookmarks, and many other windows have a toolbar widget that does absolutely nothing.
  • Page source windows present a blinking cursor implying editability, but input is not accepted.
  • Changes in a user's highlight color and "scroll to here/jump to next page" option are not recognized until Firefox has quit and restarted; these should be live options.
  • Mac OS X's "Smooth Scrolling" does not work.
  • The whole menu bar rearranges itself depending on the context of the frontmost window (web browser, bookmarks manager, DOM inspector).
  • The "Bring All to Front" menu is always disabled and is moot on Mac OS X anyway.
  • Some menu items never become disabled but should. New Tab, for example, should be disabled when a browser is not the front window (instead, for example, the downloads window) because it does nothing.
  • Command-period does not stop page loads; this is a Mac convention that dates well over a decade.
  • Scroll wheel does not work in all areas, namely the preferences window.
  • Horizontal trackpad/ball scrolling and shift-scroll wheel navigates backwards and forwards. It should scroll horizontally.
  • Middle-click does nothing on links. In other Mac browsers and on other operating systems, middle-click should open a link in a new tab or window.
  • The rightmost and leftmost few columns of pixels in all toolbars are discolored.
  • Popup menus cannot be navigated by typing the first few letters of an item.
  • Command-up/down arrow do nothing on regular web pages. They should scroll to the top and bottom of a page (respectively) like Home and End.

Browser Toolbar
  • The customize window should be a sheet. Because it is not, it can easily get "lost" behind other windows.
  • If the customize window gets lost behind a window, the toolbar refuses to accept normal input.
  • If the customize window gets lost behind a window, the Customize... item in the context menu is disabled.
  • Command-drag of items does nothing.
  • The Remove Item is missing from the context menu; toolbar icons can only be removed when the customization window is open.
  • When dragging items off, they are only removed if dropped into the customization window.
  • Dragging of toolbar items is not WYSISYG. Instead, Firefox creates an ill-fitting marquee box with the cursor at its x and y midpoint.
  • Display type (Icon & Text, Icon Only, Text Only) is missing from the context menu.
  • Use Small Size option is missing from the context menu.
  • Command-clicking and Shift-command-clicking the toolbar widget does not function properly. It should cycle forwards and backwards through the display types and sizes. Instead, these act as regular clicks, toggling all toolbars.
  • Modifying toolbar item arrangement does not affect all opened windows. Modifying display type and size does not affect all opened windows.
  • Clicking the address field or search field should insert the cursor at that location; instead it selects all of its contents.
  • Option-return in the address bar opens a new tab. The Mac convention for using the option key is to initiate a file-saving download.

Bookmarks Manager
  • The toolbar is not editable.
  • The toolbar collapse/expand widget does nothing.
  • Dragging column headers gives no visual cue other than making the column header's text white (which should not happen anyway).

Text Entry, Navigation, UI
  • System services are not supported at all (ie. spell-checking, Services menu items)
  • Double-click and drag does not select whole words at a time.
  • Double-click does not select the whole word if it includes any punctuation like an apostrophe or hyphen.
  • Option-left/right arrow (and shift-option-left/right arrow) does not consistently skip words. It generally works correctly going left except that it stops at some punctuation like an apostrophe. Going right, though, it stops on every word, space, and punctuation inside words.
  • Option-up/down arrow is inconsistent with standard Mac text behaviors. It should jump to the beginning of the line after the previous line break or the end just before the next break. Instead, Firefox mimics page up/down and moves the cursor to a new position.
  • Shift option-up/down arrow is buggy and inconsistent. It should expand the current selection to the beginning or end, respectively, of the text until the next line break.
  • The cursor sometimes disappears completely from text fields/areas on web pages.
  • Drag and drop of text is not WYSIWYG. Instead, Firefox creates a large marquee box with the cursor at its x and y midpoint.

User Accessibility
  • Text-to-speech is completely absent.
  • Tabbing between text fields does not give a standard glow to indicate selection.
  • Firefox appears to completely ignore the Full Keyboard Access option in System Preferences. No elements other than text fields are selectable by the tab key. Buttons and other widgets are neither accessible in web pages nor in the application's overall interface.
  • Spoken User Interface is nonexistent except in the main menu bar and window titles. Note that this ability in menus and window titles is a feature of the default menu and window classes; so, Firefox developers have effectively done nothing.

Does anyone else have anything you'd like added to the list? Please, feel free to share them here with me.

I don't at all intend this as a rant against Firefox. I love Firefox... on my PCs. On my Macs, though, it feels like a Jhonka going through puberty. Heck, maybe with organized list like this we can even attract a little attention from the Firefox developers and get some of these buggers fixed!

The quality of this board depends on the quality of the posts. The only way to guarantee thoughtful, informative discussion is to write thoughtful, informative posts. AppleNova is not a real-time chat forum. You have time to compose messages and edit them before and after posting.
  quote
octavist13
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: IL
 
2005-02-11, 10:11

Wow man, I'm a veteran OS X user myself and I didn't notice a lot of these things before. I think they should hire you for the next version.
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Moogs
Hates the Infotainment
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
 
2005-02-11, 10:25

Or since it's open source, he could just join the official team. I'm sure if he submitted a nicely outlined document like that, they'd welcome him aboard.


...into the light of a dark black night.
  quote
Koodari
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
 
2005-02-11, 11:35

Unbelievable you caught all that.

I'm running "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X Mach-O; en-US; rv:1.7.5) Gecko/20041107 Firefox/1.0" and I think they must have already fixed/changed some things that you complain about, though?

I can't get shift - scroll to do anything, correct or incorrect behavior.

I can't open multiple Preferences. If it's open in one window, the menu item in others is active but does not do anything. I can open Preferences in one window, About box in another window.

If the Bookmark Manager is at the front, menu shows only Bookmark Manager specific items. Preferences is greyed out.

There are a number of things slated for 1.1 release including a non-sheet preferences window, with category icons on the top. Supposedly also full keyboard access.

A big thing they don't have, but will be working on (probably not for 1.1) is to use Quartz for rendering. They're now using that whatsitsname old 2D drawing API on OS X.
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MCQ
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: NY
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2005-02-11, 11:39

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koodari
A big thing they don't have, but will be working on (probably not for 1.1) is to use Quartz for rendering. They're now using that whatsitsname old 2D drawing API on OS X.
Were they actually using QuickDraw for rendering? Do you know by chance what Camino is using?
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Koodari
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
 
2005-02-11, 11:40

Forgot to say, I'm glad I have only used Firefox and not Safari, otherwise all those problems would probably bug the hell out of me
The one reason why I'm not considering moving to Safari is customized quick searches from the toolbar (Google, dictionary, thesaurus, IMDB, my local network search engine...). They're too good to give up and AFAIK Safari does not have them.
  quote
Koodari
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
 
2005-02-11, 11:42

Quote:
Originally Posted by MCQ
Were they actually using QuickDraw for rendering? Do you know by chance what Camino is using?
QuickDraw as well. It's an internal technical detail of the Gecko rendering engine, and Camino, Firefox, Mozilla all just take Gecko and build an UI on top.
  quote
MCQ
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Join Date: May 2004
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2005-02-11, 11:45

Yeah. Google search helped me learn a bit in 5 minutes

Related Bugzilla information on that (seems like it's pretty active right now):
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=245407
  quote
autodata
hustlin
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2005-02-11, 12:02

So, are you going to do one for safari?
  quote
autodata
hustlin
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2005-02-11, 12:37

In defense of firefox on mac, particularly with safari as the apple browser, let's compare:
  • Changing default web browser is done in safari prefs (huh?)
  • Safari throws tabs into a menu if there are too many. Did I tell it to do that? No. So why is it doing it?
  • While firefox lacks spellcheck in text boxes, it does have undo while safari does not.
  • Again in text boxes, using buttons or shortcuts inserts where the cursor is in firefox, while safari puts it at the end of the text no matter where the cursor is.
  • If you have multiple tabs open and accidently tell the window to close, firefox will warn you while with safari you are SOL.
  • Safari's getting rss? Welcome to the party. Firefox's live bookmarks have already eliminated my need for an aggregator.
  • Good luck with the large images in safari. The mozilla browsers, however:

  • Not only is it absolutely fantastic for blocking ads, but you can use it to easily get urls of imbedded media.

  • Safari users don't know what this ^^ is, and for that they suffer.
  • Want to search a web page, rendered or the source? In safari it's a total chore with this thing floating around the screen like a fruit fly. In firefox it's locked to the bottom of the window and has everything you need:
  • If you are a safari user, watch out for sites that use java applets. They seem to crash safari 20-30% of the time.
  • "Type a word of phrase," safari tells me.

The point being that while there are no doubt major improvements needed, sometimes as a user you have to deal with little UI quirks for needed tools and stability. What's more annoying, needing to download a large image from safari and look at it in preview just to see more than a corner of it, or ignoring a useless "bring all to front menu." Is it more annoying to have my browser crash when I have 10 tabs open (some of which are pushed into a menu) or that I can't look at the about box when the bookmark manager is open?

Even with all of this, though, I totally and completely agree with everything you've posted about Firefox, Brad.

Last edited by autodata : 2005-02-11 at 12:50.
  quote
Koodari
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
 
2005-02-11, 12:59

Quote:
Originally Posted by autodata
Changing default web browser is done in safari prefs (huh?)
Indeed. And Mail is just as guilty.
Quote:

Safari users don't know what this ^^ is, and for that they suffer.
I don't know either, and I'm a Firefox user.
Quote:
Want to search a web page, rendered or the source? In safari it's a total chore with this thing floating around the screen like a fruit fly. In firefox it's locked to the bottom of the window and has everything you need:
I don't much appreciate the search bar. It feels like wrong in some way but I can't say how.
  quote
autodata
hustlin
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2005-02-11, 13:15

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koodari
I don't know either, and I'm a Firefox user.
It's an extension, specifically the web developer toolbar
  quote
Koodari
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
 
2005-02-11, 14:01

Okay, installed both adblock and webdev, we'll see what they are good for.
  quote
johnq
Multi-touch Piñata
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2005-02-11, 14:42

Opensource/Mozilla/Firefox/whatever has always, always, always guaranteed a mediocre Mac user experience as with all of Brads examples and similar.

Yes, they tack on oodles of "features" and gee-whiz techtoys but the execution always screams design-by-committee and lacks polish.

I always download them, always test and play with them, never actually "use" them for long. They are mere curiosities I keep in my toolbox for occasional checking.

Sad, because there isn't a good reason for them to suck except for lack of a central (asshole/control freak/Jobs) authority perhaps.

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." - Albert Einstein
  quote
.Hack
Valiant Vicks Vizier
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2005-02-12, 00:21

Hm.... why don't you try Camino, it was specifically built as a mac browser. You might have better luck w/ that
  quote
Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2005-02-12, 00:54

Quote:
Originally Posted by autodata
In defense of firefox...
Well, I said from the get-go that I use and love Firefox... on my PCs and that I really didn't mean this as a rant or attack on Firefox. I know all about the great things Firefox can do.

Yet, I choose not to use it because of, one, all of those irking bugs I mentioned above and, two, I don't need or even want all those dozens or hundreds or however many extensions there are. I know Safari has problems, but they're not as invasive IMHO as, say, the typing problems in the Mozilla-based apps (important to me because, obviously, I do a lot of typing in my browsers).

The point of my post was just to point out exactly why I've said I don't like Firefox. I don't mean to convert anyone by it; I just want to get these issues out under the public eye of scrutiny so that maybe the developers will take notice.

So what if the About box won't open under certain conditions or the preferences don't look right? Well, for a long time I've firmly believed that fit and finish can really have a major impact. A lot of the Mac version of Firefox feels like it's an afterthought which, sadly, it actually is. I'm in no position right now to volunteer time with the Firefox devs; it would take forever just to learn my way around the existing code before I could even add anything of my own.

I just want a good browser that plays nicely with Mac OS X. I don't want something with options for configuring every last bit or with extensions to modify every element or add oodles of extra features. I just want a good browser. Right now, the two that do that best are Safari and OmniWeb.

Firefox certainly has its place. You've shown that you're a prime target. It's just that its place is not on my Dock.

The quality of this board depends on the quality of the posts. The only way to guarantee thoughtful, informative discussion is to write thoughtful, informative posts. AppleNova is not a real-time chat forum. You have time to compose messages and edit them before and after posting.
  quote
Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2005-02-12, 00:54

Quote:
Originally Posted by .Hack
Hm.... why don't you try Camino, it was specifically built as a mac browser.
Camino is indeed much better at integrating the Mac UI. It's basically a Cocoa wrapper for the Gecko rendering engine (very similar in principle to projects like MyOneLineOfCodeBrowser using Cocoa and WebKit 1.0), but it still suffers from just about everything in the last two sections of my list. Plus, you don't get any of Firefox's extensions (if that's important to you).

Still, it's a great browser and I'd highly recommend it to users looking for a free alternative to Safari.

I've actually kept a close eye on Camino's development over the past few months. Camino nearly died a year ago, but it has had some interesting changes recently. Camino as a whole is very well designed and thought out. Now, if someone could just fix the stuff on Mozilla's end, it would probably quickly become my number one browser.

The quality of this board depends on the quality of the posts. The only way to guarantee thoughtful, informative discussion is to write thoughtful, informative posts. AppleNova is not a real-time chat forum. You have time to compose messages and edit them before and after posting.
  quote
Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2005-02-12, 01:15

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koodari
The one reason why I'm not considering moving to Safari is customized quick searches from the toolbar (Google, dictionary, thesaurus, IMDB, my local network search engine...). They're too good to give up and AFAIK Safari does not have them.
AcidSearch

  quote
Koodari
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
 
2005-02-13, 08:15

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
Looks like Acidsearch can replicate Firefox' search functionality. I guess I'll go Safari for a while and see what happens.

Just remembered another thing though. On Firefox I keep cookies disabled and have about twenty sites, like AppleNova, whitelisted. Is there any add-on software to do this with Safari? I don't see such an option in preferences.

I gave OmniWeb and Camino little spins just now, to see what they are about. Guess they're okay, but didn't see anything special. Camino felt like a weaker Firefox. OmniWeb had nice tabs. That's about it.
  quote
usurp
High Monarch of MacDebate
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Kuwait
 
2005-02-13, 08:53

hmm i really dont like safari but this acid search is interesting.
  quote
StevesMom
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
 
2005-02-14, 10:55

OmniWeb is tremendously powerful once you scratch the surface - you can set any option you like per-site pretty much.

The biggest problem I have moving off Firefox is simply that Firefox renders 99% of the web perfectly. Safari (and OmniWeb) renders about 80% of it, reasonably well with some quirks.

I'm sick of hopping browsers, frankly, just to view web pages. Until Safari/OmniWeb gets as good as Firefox at rendering I'm staying put. Or vice-versa ... I would love to see Mac Firefox implement some of the better features from Camino and add a few more too (bookmark sync, for example, how hard can it be to have an option to store bookmarks.html on .Mac ?).

But I'm just wishing, Firefox developers don't give a rats ass about the Mac as clearly demonstrated by the existence of Camino at all
  quote
Luca
ಠ_ರೃ
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Minnesota
 
2005-02-14, 11:01

You think OmniWeb is customizable? Take a look at Opera and iCab. No, I don't like either of them, but damn. They're the Eudora of web browsers.
  quote
StevesMom
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
 
2005-02-14, 11:54

I have Opera (registered, across 4 platforms, including my mobile phone) - sure it's customisable but it's customisable in the same way a box of Meccano is. I prefer my web browsers pre-built, thanks
  quote
tombeck
New Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
 
2005-03-15, 08:25

you wrote: "but on Mac OS X where nearly all apps inherit the same, correct UI behaviors"

This one is new to me.
  quote
Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2005-03-15, 08:38

Quote:
Originally Posted by tombeck
you wrote: "but on Mac OS X where nearly all apps inherit the same, correct UI behaviors"

This one is new to me.
It's called object oriented programming. The "inheritance" concept has been used and perfected for decades. If you use an existing class for a feature, you'll inherit all of its existing behaviors and features that every other application inherits. You'll also automatically gain new features as they are introduced to the standard class definitions. When you start "reinventing the wheel" by rewriting your own custom version of every single user interface element, though, you're going to wind up with a growing list of inconsistencies as I mentioned above.

The latter is precisely what Firefox does. It redefines its own versions of everything (and not just in the UI). Why do toolbars and context menus and buttons and text fields and such all "feel" more natural and consistent in other apps like, say, OmniWeb? It's because the developers of OmniWeb used the standard NSToolbar and NSMenu and NSButton and NSTextField classes just like every other application developer should. It saves a lot of coding on the developer's side as well as guaranteeing compatibility and consistency with the OS and other applications.

The quality of this board depends on the quality of the posts. The only way to guarantee thoughtful, informative discussion is to write thoughtful, informative posts. AppleNova is not a real-time chat forum. You have time to compose messages and edit them before and after posting.
  quote
tlforden
 
 
2005-05-20, 22:30

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad
People have seen me complain about how bad I think the user interface is for Firefox on Mac OS X.

User Accessibility[*]Firefox appears to completely ignore the Full Keyboard Access option in System Preferences. No elements other than text fields are selectable. Buttons and other widgets, are neither accessible in web pages nor in the application's overall interface.
To get Firefox to use full tabbing capabilities, you have to modify the 'accessibility.tabfocus' preference in the config.

Enter the config (about:config in the address bar). Find 'accessibility.tabfocus' preference. By default, it's set at 1, which is what you probably see. Set it to 7 and you'll get full tabbing capability.

The following spells out what each number means for this preference.
http://www.truerwords.net/2681

You can use this on Firefox, Netscape, and Mozilla. Camino probably, too, though I haven't tried it there.
  quote
Brad
Selfish Heathen
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Zone of Pain
 
2005-05-20, 22:44

Quote:
Originally Posted by tlforden
To get Firefox to use full tabbing capabilities, you have to modify the 'accessibility.tabfocus' preference in the config.

Enter the config...
So what? It isn't set up like this by default and that's all that really matters. The majority of users stick with default configurations and even more users aren't going to want to hunt down some text configuration file and figure out which variable to change. Nice to know, though.

My grievance stands.

Yes, I know that a some of my issues will be resolved with Firefox 1.1, but I'm waiting for it to actually be released before I modify my list.

The quality of this board depends on the quality of the posts. The only way to guarantee thoughtful, informative discussion is to write thoughtful, informative posts. AppleNova is not a real-time chat forum. You have time to compose messages and edit them before and after posting.
  quote
Moogs
Hates the Infotainment
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
 
2005-05-21, 08:58

Holy crap, this AcidSearch thing is awesome! Thanks a million for linking to that, oh mighty Admonishtrudel.
  quote
Banana
is the next Chiquita
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2005-05-21, 11:43

I wonder if its possible to make a patch to fix at least of problems with Firefox? I seems to remember something about not all patches requires a source code on hand to make and being very simple fix, should be easier to do than going into the machinery itself.

Of course, there's a chance that someone already thought of it before I did and obivously, its absence is because its not feasible. If so, I'm just curious why isn't so.....

Also, it seems a tad bit odd that a browser "completely customizable and configurable" can't be set up so its UI behaves correctly? No "Mac-ize UI" extensions?
  quote
ghoti
owner for sale by house
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Charlotte, NC
 
2005-05-21, 14:12

Firefox suffers from the same problem as OpenOffice and quite a few other programs: applications that are designed to be platform-independent are written using a platform-abstraction layer. This layer is then adapted to all the platforms the program is ported to. While it's possible in theory to design this layer such that it will work seamlessly with all OSs, this is really difficult in practice. There are many small dependencies and assumptions that often make it much easier to implement a new toolbar/window/whatever that fits the design of the program than to adapt the program to use existing classes.

Having said that, however, I agree that a better integration of FireFox on the Mac would be a good idea, especially for features like spell-checking, etc.
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