Our little 'bird is all grown up

When I started using Thunderbird, I must admit that I had to force myself. Stephen Horlander and I were creating the Pinstripe theme and I was happily using Apple’s Mail program. A year ago Thunderbird felt unfinished (I can hear you say “duh”), but I needed that dogfood taste to inform the design of Pinstripe.

At first I found it hard to get around the “Netscape Messenger 4” feel of Thunderbird. I wish that the UI had been burnt down and redesigned from the ground up as Firefox was. There seem to be many opportunities for simplification in the menus, preferences and settings windows. Perhaps this is coming.

Recently a raft of really useful features have been added like saved search folders (aka virtual folders), RSS feed reading, and message grouping. As we approach Thunderbird 1.0, despite the “legacy” feel of the UI, I find myself really liking Thunderbird instead of merely tolerating it.

Apologies to Scott MacGregor, but this is meant as a sincere compliment 🙂

Find Bar Feng Shui


I have always thought the UI for Firefox’s Find Toolbar has room for improvement. Recently the Match Case checkbox was added to the bar, increasing the amount of horizontal space it requires. This becomes a problem when the find bar is used in the Help window, where a portion is clipped off unless you widen the window.

I made a Photoshop mockup of how an alternate find toolbar might look. This probably isn’t *the answer* – just starting point for a discussion. What do you like and dislike about the find toolbar, and what should we do about it?

"Live Bookmarks" is not RSS

A few days ago we changed Firefox’s Live Bookmarks status icon to something less geeky.

Live Bookmarks status icon before and after

As people rightly pointed out, Live Bookmarks shouldn’t pretend to be RSS. The status bar icon should not represent multiple flavors of a syndication format. It should represent the Live Bookmarks feature.

Here are some of Stephen Horlander’s original sketches for a replacement Live Bookmark icon

Live Bookmark icon sketches by Stephen Horlander

Initially the RSS button design was suggested by members of the Mozilla Visual Identity team. At the time, it seemed natural that we’d want to use something similar to the semi-ubiquitous orange RSS chiclet found on web sites that offer news feeds. I even rationalized that RSS is becoming an almost generic term for news feeds, and even though Live Bookmarks supports RSS and Atom, an icon that said “RSS” wouldn’t confuse people. What the heck, Apple does it too!

But that’s a poor excuse. You shouldn’t need to know what RSS or Atom is to use Live Bookmarks.

Pinstripe Tabs, part 2

This is in response to Bill McGonigle’s comment about Pinstripe’s tabs.

Bill says: “I think of Pinstripe as truely Aqua-consistent theme for Mozilla. I place consistency one tiny notch above optimal functionality on the Mac, so I would advocate emulating Jaguar’s tab look and feel.”

Pinstripe aims for Aqua-compliance, but it misses the mark somewhat. And where it misses, it’s due to the limitations of Mozilla’s cross-platform UI…
Continue reading “Pinstripe Tabs, part 2”

From the lab: Pinstripe theme tab redesign

After seeing Panther’s new tab controls, I thought it was time to redesign Pinstripe’s browser tabs. I want to make the tabs less visually disturbing than the Aqua tabs while being usable and polished. Here’s what I have so far. Click on the thumbnail below to view the whole image. Please comment on the design and suggest changes. Bonus points if you create a mockup of how you think it should look!

P.S.: The screenshot is of the beta of Pinstripe 3 on Mozilla Firebird with the SmoothStripes theme. I don’t use OS themes myself but I plan to make the next version of Pinstripe more theme-friendly.

Redesigning the Button of Doom

Slashdot has a link to an interesting article about an effort to design a smarter “temporal” Back button for browsers. This paper describes the experiment in detail, complete with pictures of a prototype “enhanced” Back button. According to the paper’s conclusion, the reimagined button is not less confusing than current implementations and it doesn’t necessarily make users more efficient. While the idea of helping users navigate web page history easily is definately worthy of consideration, web authors should be building their sites so users don’t need to use the Back button in the first place.