Thursday, June 19, 2008

Firefox 3 Bookmark Management Highlights

Hand-Made Mac Tip No. 5
Bookmark Management Features - Firefox 2 vs Firefox 3

Firefox3
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I finally updated to Firefox 3 today. I think I'm in love. So far, Firefox 3 feels smooth and silky. It's peppy and easy on the eyes. One of the first things I notice is that the scrolling feels and reacts much like the swiping on an iPhone. I don't have an iPhone yet, but I've petted my sister-in-law's iPhone, so I have at least interacted with the device and played around with the UI. I have my MacBook Pro's trackpad gesturing set to scroll with a two-finger swipe, so the human interaction required is a very familiar feeling and consistent between the devices – trackpad to iPhone. I'm sure that was no accident.

FF3 prefs
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It takes a little bit for your eyes to adjust to the tracking, but I tried it with and without the scrolling features enabled and I do prefer the smooth and auto scrolling features checked as opposed to unchecked. Try it out for yourself and see if you notice the difference.

Another thing that struck me right away is how much FF3 is a lot like Safari. My preference has been Firefox for a long time now, but once in a while I do check in with Safari. I would love to be able to say I'm a complete Apple purist when it comes to the apps, but I just can not commit to using Safari full time. That may change and I hope it does, but for the time being, Firefox is my preference.

Take a look here at the user interfaces side by side. (You can click on the screen shot images for a larger view to see more detail.)

This is Safari 3
Safari 3 UI
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This is Firefox 2
(At this phase in the game, it still had a Windows-looking feel to it.)
FF2 UI
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This is Firefox 3
(Now look at how much more Mac/Safari-like this polished UI is. See what I mean?)
FF3 UI
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One of the biggest reasons for not being faithful to Safari is all the whining and moaning about the security flaws. I guess I give in too easily to peer pressure, but it just doesn't give me a good vibe. I haven't personally been affected by anything, but when I was a site tech, I remember having to jump through some hoops to make Safari more secure for the schools and that, to me, just didn't sit well. Security should be built in and turned on by default.

There was also the occasional problem of certain pages not being coded for or loading in Safari. When I had to make a decision about which browser to use for the clinic I support, I went with Firefox because I just couldn't take the chance of some medical or insurance website not loading for the staff. I'd rather they just stick to Firefox and use Safari as a backup if needed.

I wish I could love Safari, I really do, but it's just not there for me yet, honestly. It's just not my personal habit right now, but hopefully that will change in the future. I really hope they give people what they're asking for in Snow Leopard when it is released and I hope it comes with a tighter, tougher Safari to gain the good reputation it deserves along side of all of the other secure feeling associated with Apple and the Mac platform.

You and I may know the truth about what really happened when Safari got pwned a few months back, but those who aren't "in the know" so to speak still freak out about it and that's just not cool. Apple is just going to have to work a little harder on it's problem child, Safari, in my opinion. And that's ok. It's progress.

I usually recommend Safari to most of my clients who are just doing simple web browsing, so it's not like I go around bashing the product. I just think certain browsers are more appropriate for a certain user. Most of my senior citizen clients are really not interested in online banking and doing a whole lot that requires me to worry that much about their security. I mean, it's not like their surfing porn sites or downloading games. (at least not to *my* knowledge and I'd like to keep that nice clean image in my head, thankyouverymuch.) Of course safety is always a high priority, but Safari is plenty sufficient for people who have not developed a persnickety attitude towards user interfaces like I have.

Speaking of persnickety, I'd like to tell you about some of the features and differences I've noticed between the two versions of Firefox. For this post, I'll be focusing on bookmark organization. This is not for the squeamish. I am not right in the head when it comes to organizing stuff. I'm sure I have some sort of "condition" but just humor me and check this out.

Here is a view of the toolbar and bookmarks toolbar in Firefox 2. You can put folders in your bookmarks toolbar which will result in a drop-down menu. I love using this method for bookmarks I interact with in cycles. For me, it's not enough to pay all my bills on one site at my bank. I like to be able to interact with each of the sites to check things out since we don't get any paper bills. I think only our water & sewer bills are paper. The rest are all online. I also interact with a lot of social media tools and drop-down menus organized by category are great for that.

FF2 FInances Dropdown Menu
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The same feature exists in Firefox 3 only it looks slightly different.

FF3 Dropdown Menu
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In this screen shot, notice how the bookmark manager in Firefox 2 looks. In FF2 you could put separators in between folders and give them names. This seems to be missing in FF3 though.

FF2 Bkmrk Laundry List
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Now in Firefox 3, there are a whole new set of organization tools for bookmarks like tagging. Perhaps its been there all along, but now I have occasion to really use it! At first, I really didn't like it because it felt to similar to the way Safari handles bookmarks which was another thing I didn't like about Safari.

After playing around with the new bookmark manager in Firefox, I grew to love it. I started tagging and sorting things and I was feeling very happy about my new-found obsession.

FF3 Bookmark Mgmnt
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There are good reasons for wanting to tightly organize your bookmarks besides just satisfying your inner Rain Man. If you interact with social media, it helps to have all the different tools handy in one area so you're not hunting around for them. If you like to share links with others, for instance, a blogroll or a link list, you can export your bookmarks as an html file and edit the text for use on a website. Using the bookmark manager in Firefox also enters those fine details on the resulting webpage with live links as seen in these examples.

FF2 Bookmarks HTML file
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FF3 exported html file for bkmrks
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Sorting and viewing the columns in the bookmarks manager is a little different than in Firefox 2. Shown here is an example of where to find the column list.

FF2 Column Selection
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Here's where it moved to in Firefox 3. It's viewable once you've selected Organize Bookmarks from the Bookmarks menu bar. Pretty crafty, huh?

FF3 Collumn View
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Lastly, I'd like to point out the new bookmark feature. It's pretty obvious when you choose to bookmark a page for the first time. You can either click on the blue star in the location bar, press command-D on the keyboard, or select Bookmark This Page from the Bookmarks menu. You now get this slick-looking HUD (heads up display) that appears. It is stationary and seems to shoot out of the corner of the star once engaged.

Clicking on the triangles within that HUD expand more options for where exactly to store the bookmark you wish to save. This is nothing new, but the interface looks dramatically different from the previous version. It's much more obvious now.

FF3 Bkmrk HUD
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Well, this concludes my first look into Firefox 3 and some of the fine tuning it has to offer in this new version. I hope you may have learned a few new tips or tricks you can use. Please don't send me the bill for your therapist; however, but if you can recommend a good one, that would be helpful for me!

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