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Firefox Panorama: The Web browser's next big innovation

Last month I wrote about a new Firefox feature in development called Tab Candy. I'm happy to report that it has made it into the Firefox 4 Beta under the official name of Firefox Panorama.

Last month I wrote about a new Firefox feature in development called Tab Candy and I was pretty bullish about it. I wrote, "Launching Firefox 4 with Tab Candy should be Mozilla’s top priority." I also had a bunch of readers who agreed with me and, after seeing the visuals of Tab Candy, responded with messages like, "I want this NOW."

I'm pleased to report that Tab Candy has been officially named "Firefox Panorama" and has been included in the latest build of the Firefox 4 Beta. It's definitely going to be a part of the popular open source Web browser -- in fact, it's Firefox's best new feature, maybe even a killer feature that could win back some power users from Google Chrome.

Not all of the concepts that Mozilla's Head of UX Aza Raskin talked about in his Tab Candy reveal in July have made it into the official version of Firefox Panorama, but the core feature -- being able to group tabs together and having an OS-like interface to quickly jump between tab groups -- is now going to be part of the next Firefox.

Raskin has a detailed blog post in which he lays out how and why the Firefox team developed Panorama, including the basic design principles. Some of the design issues he mentioned included:

  • Harness the power of spatial memory
  • Seeing is remembering
  • Minimize required interactivity
  • Remove distractions: out of sight, out of mind

Here's minute-and-a-half video clip in which Raskin explains what you'll see in the new Firefox Panorama:

You can download the Firefox 4 Beta if you'd like to take Panorama out for a spin.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

31 comments
Umbabunga
Umbabunga

I'm not impressed at all with Panorama. It's way more confusing than it needs to be and adds too many layers of abstraction. Someone wrote a detailed post here outlining a MUCH better design to do the same thing: https://wiki.mozilla.org/User:Broccauley/Fixing_TabCandy In short: just help us group by window!

simmon77
simmon77

For those who'd like to have a zooming user interface like panorama on their mac: check out Raskin.app which lays out all the relevant documents on a single flat surface. http://raskinformac.com

LeeBurchfield
LeeBurchfield

Once the tabs are displayed in "windows" on the desktop, it really looks a lot like Windows 3.1.

Mycah Mason
Mycah Mason

Of course this feature isn't going to appeal to everyone (look at a bunch of the comments above). For example, if you only have a page or two (tabs or windows) open at the same time then this only makes a simple task more cumbersome. However, this feature looks GREAT to someone like me. I always have lots of different tabs and windows open (work stuff, research, entertainment, "spin-off" items, etc.) I often end up closing windows/tabs because I just can't continue working with all of the open pages without being able to organize them. It starts to become scatterbrained. Organizing the tabs in this way will be a great browser improvement to stay organized. I would definitely start using Firefox again for this feature (although I will still continue to use IE for compatibility).

cpcarl
cpcarl

This is something that just might cause me to make the switch to Firefox. Being able to group related tabs would definately help me in my browsing.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

What is that old saying? 80% of the people use 20% of the features. 20% of the people use 80% of the features. Well, I can see most people not using this feature. what's the point of grouping similar windows tabs together - especially if you will have to redo it every time you open Firefox. This adds to "management" but doesn't really do much. So they are grouped together. As for the windows tab preview, I think all the recent OSs have this feature already. Example: In Windows 7, by hovering your mouse over the browser in the task bar, you can see the various windows tabs. This is nothing but bloatware. It could slow down opening of Firefox. It definitely will add to the download and installation size. I think there is only so much that can be done in innovation for a browser.

paperilla
paperilla

For some reason I don?t find this such as killer app (just kind of nice feature). I think what is missed in firefox is the feature in Safari for reading articles where you can bring in front just the article without the frames and ads.That is great feature.

TaDaH
TaDaH

I'll probably try out the latest beta now.

Batsy01
Batsy01

Hmmm...Mozilla kinda took a page from Microsoft's playbook. Technically not an 'innovation', they've taken Apple iPhone's folder concept and modified and applied it to tabs. Even Microsoft argued a while back in 2009 that we're visual creatures and that search needed to evolve text links to visual thumbnails and that they were going that route (whereas Google has dominated and refined the text link search area) However, with that said, I like the new feature.

seanferd
seanferd

I never really cared for the Chrome style thumbnail page (or whatever it is called), but I think I would actually like this FF innovation.

cliff
cliff

I use my browser in the same manner, and have many tabs open at any given time. To this point, I have been limited by the way tabs are handled. I must eventually close down tabs because the number has become unwieldy. I can see where this feature won't excite everyone. To me, however, it looks like a godsend.

jstevens
jstevens

I can see how you can feel that way, however when I am working on multiple projects I am constantly switching tabs between the varrious items I am researching for them - using this feature can lessen confusion and "tab overload" as it were (that time it takes you to skip over the tabs you don't want because they are totally unrelated to the one you want)

seanferd
seanferd

At least 4 or 5 that will do this. So, no reason to bake it into the browser core.

Displacednaija
Displacednaija

...Be new. Innovation can be using inventions in entirely new ways to solve problems.

fatman65535
fatman65535

It will not change my mind; as I have been a FF user since the days of 1.0. I like to explore the latest and greatest on my own time, so back in 2007, when the first Firefox 3 betas came out, I ditched FF2 completely, and used the betas in day to day surfing. Now that the Firefox 4 betas are out, they are getting a workout on my machines. In fact, this browser session is Firefox 4 beta 4. Now, to `Tab Candy` (excuse me, `Tab Panorama`) when I first heard of the concept, I had to at least check it out. OK, while it does not completely suit my way of working, Since I have a wide screen monitor, I use `Tree Style Tabs` and stack the tabs on the right; so for me, switching tabs was always easy. But, I do see its merits. Recently, during lunch, I had my PERSONAL laptop running, and I was surfing the net using Firefox 4 beta 4. My boss, who was sitting next to me at the table noticed a couple of things. One of them being that she is not the only Alicia Keys fan at the company (think wallpaper, and one set of extremely luscious lips). She also noticed that I use Ubuntu Lucid (she took me as a Windoze person); and most importantly. all of the launchers along the side of my screen. She was curious as to the significance of all of those `bombs` and `grenades` (launcher icons). So, I hovered the cursor over one of the `bombs`, which was that mornings nightly. Those of you who know what a `nightly` is in Firefox terms, can get why I chose a `bomb` as the icon. So, I launched it, and clicked on the `About` menu item. She took one look at the date, and quietly said: "That's today!", followed up, by, "Can you get me a Win 64 build?". I went to the FTP site, and pulled down that Win 64 build, and put it on her flash drive. While I was at it, I got the Win 64 beta 4 version for her also. I reminded her about installing to a DIFFERENT folder so she will not clobber her existing Firefox 3.6 installation; and how to share a profile between the two. The next morning, she called me into her office, and said: "I had completely underestimated you! I like what I saw in `Tab Candy`, so you can expect to perform a short demo of Firefox 4 beta at the weekly staff meeting." Okay!!!! Now, considering that at WROK PALCE (some of you will get IT), I am somewhat low on the totem pole, and criticized as a `dinosaur` by the 20- and 30-somethings; so you should use your imagination to visualize the expressions on their faces (`WTF` works for me!). Those kids got all `shown up` by a dinosaur, and God knows I enjoyed it.

chroswalt
chroswalt

Awesome feature, it is very likely this feature will get me to switch from Opera. However in the current Beta the location of the Panarama button is on the wrong side, it should be on the left side for easier access.

Hatrix76
Hatrix76

I tried it the first time I heard it but I got to overexcited. I thought it would stick, so if I go home, and work from home I just can open FireFox and have my "Web Desktop" with all the tabs grouped etc. But it lost everything on restarting the browser so, until I can get my sticky Web Browser Desktop with this panorama feature without regrouping everything after browser restarts I will be skeptical, but the Ideas beyond base grouping of tabs, especially the collaboration parts, are mind-boggling and I love them. Especially as more and more of the main programs I work with are browser based ... I'd wish there where a browser based VI thought ...

Jaqui
Jaqui

Firefox UI sucks so badly I can't use it. adding a toy for tabs doesn't fix the flawed UI at all. not to forget the serious memory leak issues Firefox has.

just1opinion
just1opinion

I don't understand people getting so excited over this type of stuff. It may be technically significant to implement but to me it is of no practical use. Hope y'all have fun with it!

cperry
cperry

I've been more and more interested in switching from Firefox to Chrome. This might significantly hinder that transition. When I first heard about Tab Candy, I didn't think I'd like it. After watching that video, I'm 110% sold.

paperilla
paperilla

Thanks for the info I will look those p.i. I never got those. Anyone you guys suggest?

Batsy01
Batsy01

An innovation does not have to ....... ...Be new. Innovation can be using inventions in entirely new ways to solve problems. Sorry, I guess I should clarify that in my view: 1) Innovation is something new or such an improvement that it changes the dynamic of the status quo 2) Something that just makes these easier or better is an improvement, enhancement or upgrade to me. Like for instance: 1) User GUI. DOS/Command lines > GUIs 2) Text BBS > Modern Internet 3) Browsers. Netscape Navigator at the time was so good that it dominated the market and became the defacto standard. So much so that (in my opinion because it looked so much like) MS ripoff the design in later versions of IE 4) Active Directory. The concept of OUs, schemas, containers wasn't MS'. Anyone who did Novell Netware 4 will remember the organizational units. It may not have been totally AD but MS took it and expanded on it. Like Windows 7. Its good. But not an innovation in my books (you won't see any manufacturers run out and copy it - yet MS borrows a number of things from Macs - Vista introduced widgets to Windows). By in large, other than a bunch of new features, its the same OS/GUI since Win 2K But that's just an opinion.

cbader
cbader

Ive always hated the UI in Firefox. I just never could get used to the look and feel of it. Just a lame browser IMO. Im sticking with Chrome.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

This is the 3rd time I've seen you post about the "serious" memory leak. While I agree it's an issue, I disagree that it is "serious". I leave my Firefox browser open for days at a time. When it slows, I close and reopen it. Simple.

kyle.baker
kyle.baker

How do you know it's of no use to you? I played around with it a ways back before it was officially implemented and saw it's potential. When this thing really gets off the ground I can see it being a must have. It relies on spatial memory, pretty much something everyone born has. It'll result in much faster browsing capabilities with saved groups rather than having tons of drop down lists and folders for your favorites and what not. Temporary groups will be group for when needing to switch to a new task mid-task. Don't want your research tabs on one subject cluttering up and intermingling with another set of tabs. So you just open a new group to keep them separated. It will have plenty of uses. Rather than giving it a chance you're shooting it down before it's even fully implemented.

paperilla
paperilla

100% agree. No that big deal.

willda
willda

Jaqui, seems to me that you're not satisfied with any browser interface. If all of the offerings that are available are that bad, maybe you should create your own user interface. With the Gecko engine being open source, you could start with it (unless Gecko is junk too.)

Jaqui
Jaqui

There is no excuse for poor UI design changes like Firefox, I.E. and Chrome have done. I find all of them unusable UI designs. Seamonkey's UI is the most usable left of full featured graphical browsers, and they are butchering it also.

Jaqui
Jaqui

since they have known about the leak for a long time and have not fixed it, that memory leak shows a major failing in the quality of the project and in maintenance specially.

jboyd
jboyd

This is pretty good, not bloat ware as other have mentioned. Categorizing speeds the process whan you have to go to a multitude of sites (like techrepublic)

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