Netscape 6 Debuts Tomorrow

Tuesday April 4th, 2000

Steve Case of AOL will be at InternetWorld tomorrow launching the latest version of Netscape's browser suite, Netscape 6. This might seem an anticlimactic followup to the leaked version that appeared a few days ago, but it will be one more thing to celebrate at the anniversary party on the 6th.

UPDATE: You can watch the webcast tomorrow at the AOL corporate site.

#52 Re: UI Clarification

by astrosmash

Wednesday April 5th, 2000 3:48 AM

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A few points about the current Mozilla and Navigator 4.7 interfaces:

1. Edit boxes: Edit boxes are not edit boxes until they are activated. This drives me nuts! Especially on the Location Bar. It can make the UI seem really unresponsive at times.

2. One Click pop-up menus: I really like how in 4.x, pop-up menus activate on the mouse-down event, rather that the mouse-up event(ms-windows standard). It makes for some really quick mouse work. This is currently missing in Mozilla. The Menu appears on the mouse-down event, but it does not respond to the mouse until the button is raised. (It always takes two clicks to do anything with a pop-up menu)

3. Keyboard shortcuts / Tab selection: (The only thing that MS has contributed to the GUI world). Keyboard short cuts and tab selection *must* be fully functional or people will never stop bitching, especially WRT standard dialogs and wizards.

3.5 Using the keyboard to select and 'click' a button on a web page should provide some indication that the button was actually clicked. (The button should look like it was clicked)

4. One of the main reasons why I use Navigator is for the excellent feedback that is returned when it's in the middle of doing something: - Busy cursor in the gfx window. Standard cursor on the UI. - Status bar always displays meaningful information.

IE4 did not come close to accomplishing this, and IE5 still doesn't have it right.

I think that Mozilla must do this better than Nav4.x, considering the apparent sluggishness of the UI (Especially on X)

All to often you are sitting and waiting for Mozilla, but you're not quite sure what it's doing. In other words, sometimes you aren't sure that anything happed as a result of clicking that button, or hitting that 'enter' key; and after a while you begin to lose faith in it.

It is still way to easy to get into a situation where throbber is throbbing, status bar is spinning, yet the status bar text reads "Done" ( Specifically when using the back/fwd buttons, and also when mousing over a link during page load)

UI lag is also present on operations that create new windows. (The UI appears dead for the time it takes to construct a new window, which is a long time) Extensive use of the busy cursor is required.

4.1 Window destruction takes an incredibly long time, preventing the browser window underneath from repainting itself. This isn't a UI design issue, but it is very ackward none-the-less, especially when you like to browse with multiple windows.

5. Bookmarks: I love everything there is about Navigator 4.x bookmarks. I have my bookmark root set to the personal toolbar, with a number of sub-folders stemming off of the toolbar. This is incredibly handy for both getting, and setting the bookmarks.

When bookmarking a page, it's very easy to keep things organized by simply dragging the link onto the personal toolbar, and into the appropriate sub-folder.

As well, I usually keep the bookmark manager stuck to the left hand side of my screen (ala sidebar) behind everything, so that complete bookmark management is always very easy and convenient to get to.

The current UI bookmark implementation fails on two accounts: - You can not drag items on to the personal toolbar. It worked on earlier builds (~M7 ?) but it has since been removed. (Is this simply a skin issue, or is there more behind it?) - The bookmark sidebar is non-functional when compared to the bookmark manager. These two should be functionality identical (give or take a couple of columns), otherwise, what's the point.

(I may sound bitter about these things, only because I think I read in the UI newsgroups earlier that the current implementations of the personal toolbar and bookmark side bar were essentially finished, and are not going to change. That would suck.)

5.1 It would be really rad if the sidebar could be dragged out of the browser window, and into it's own window. (Bonus points for allowing it "dock" to a side of the screen) I never browse at full screen, and I always have a number of browser windows open, so it seems silly to have 2 or 3 visible sidebars and menus on my desktop.

5.2 The personal toolbar is way to small. It looks way cooler when it's small, but it's also far less functional.

6.0 Skin Specific Issues: The skin isn't 3D, which is a refreshing change, however, when most controls are clicked or selected, the only visual 'clicking' indication they give is to move down and to the right by a pixel. Considering that this is a non-standard UI, and that most novice users won't know which controls can and cannot be clicked, it should be made painfully obvious that: a) the control can be clicked (perhaps pop up on hover, maybe just change color); b) The control is being clicked (inverse the control color during the click)

This may seem like a small point, but it's the little things that count, especially when a user is forced to use and learn a completely new and unique UI.

6.1 It would also be nice if the menu items blinked to indicate that they have been selected, again, because of UI sluggishness.

7. Some minor points:

Scrolling: Another thing I like about Navigator 4.x (win32) is the window scrolling when dragging/selecting past the browser window boundary. It's very smooth and very easy to control. Mozilla does this (or did this) to a certain extent, however, it seems that this has always been treated as somewhat of a side-effect (current builds do not scroll at all) It would be really nice if there was a small button (perhaps on each scroll bar) that, when dragged, would scroll the window in a similar way that 4.x currently does, without selecting any text.

Selection: Text selection inverts the text, yet it also inverts the background. The 4.x implementation is better, as it can aid in reading poorly designed web sites when the background color/texture clashes with the text. (This seems to have been fixed in later builds)

Status Bar: Status bar should display button and menu help text (and bookmark urls) on mouse hover like in 4.x

Final Note: I think a lot of people really liked the first Mozilla skin. It would be crazy to not bundle both of these skins (or more) with Netscape 6.0, so that users can at least choose to use either a more traditional interface, or the radically new interface.

Whoa! That ended up being way longer than I had intended. If you got this far, thanks for reading!

-- Darren