'PC World' Looks at Mozilla Firefox 0.8

Thursday April 1st, 2004

The May 2004 issue of PC World features a short article about Mozilla Firefox 0.8. Reviewer Tom Spring likes the new download manager and the range of extensions available but concludes that the browser "remains too geeky for nontechies" — he said it took him half an hour to master toolbar customisation.

#1 typo in title

by zulk

Thursday April 1st, 2004 5:23 AM

word -> world

#2 half an hour?

by kwanbis

Thursday April 1st, 2004 5:25 AM

he must be retarded :|

#8 Re: half an hour?

by pmsyyz

Thursday April 1st, 2004 7:55 AM

haha, yeah.

> However, Firefox remains too geeky for nontechies: Customizing some features isn't intuitive (it took me half an hour to master toolbar adjustments).

nontechies don't customize anything.

#15 Re: Re: half an hour?

by brianlmoon

Thursday April 1st, 2004 10:57 AM

> nontechies don't customize anything.

True, true. I have had my wife using Fire(bird|fox) for months now. She does not change anything.

#24 Re: Re: Re: half an hour?

by eealex

Thursday April 1st, 2004 5:42 PM

Hi. New to here (but long fans of Mozilla). Just want to point out that people will take forever long to customize IE.

#28 Re: Re: Re: half an hour?

by eealex

Thursday April 1st, 2004 11:49 PM

Hi. New to here (but long fans of Mozilla). Just want to point out that people will take forever long to customize IE.

#26 Re: Re: half an hour?

by neilparks1

Thursday April 1st, 2004 9:47 PM

It is too bad that the help screens were omitted from the milestone. It might almost be worth releasing an "0.8.1" just to correct that omission.

If the reviewer had had the internal help screens available when he was trying to customize the toolbar, then he could have mastered it in five minutes.

#3 Half an hour?

by RMo

Thursday April 1st, 2004 5:26 AM

I don't understand how it can take someone who knows anything about computers *half an hour* to master toolbar customization: it's drag and drop, or drag off if you don't want it. Am I missing something? The instructions even say so...

#5 Re: Half an hour?

by mlefevre

Thursday April 1st, 2004 5:47 AM

You quite possibly are missing something - you're making assumptions. There's more to it than dragging and dropping, you have to understand what the buttons are, there's additional toolbars to think about, extensions. The instructions don't mention that to remove an item you have to drag it and drop it back into the customisation panel - that took me some time to figure out (admittedly, it was a matter seconds, but it wasn't immediately obvious).

#16 Re: Re: Half an hour?

by WillyWonka

Thursday April 1st, 2004 11:07 AM

This is normally solved by placing a trash can icon somewhere. I know Alias|Wavefronts Maya does that with it's toolbar customization (And I'm sure they aren't the first ones to do it).

#20 Re: Re: Half an hour?

by dan123

Thursday April 1st, 2004 1:05 PM

It could have been the spacers as well. I needed to experiment with them for a minute or two the first time I saw them and I'm a geek.

I think the toolbar buttons in the panel need to show the same tooltips as the toolbar buttons in the browser area. Spacers need a tooltip with a brief description (e.g. 'This spacer expands to fill the available space pushing the toolbar buttons either side along the toolbar').

Also some brief text in a title bar or at the bottom (e.g. 'Rest the mouse pointer over a button in this panel for a description, drag buttons to and from the toolbar above to customise it').

I'm not sure if a recycle bin would be a good idea as that might be confused for another button.

Hopefully Someone Important will see this...

#37 Re: Re: Half an hour?

by RMo

Friday April 2nd, 2004 1:42 PM

OK, they don't say exactly how to get rid of them. (Though hopefully the help files will.) And it did take me some experimentation, too. (Both with that and the spacers.) So you're right. But I still have no idea how he could possibly take half an hour...

#39 Re: Half an hour?

by DougBTX

Saturday April 3rd, 2004 9:22 AM

I understand.

When you drag a file in Windows Explorer, you see the file being dragged. When you drag a toolbar button in Word, you see a little image of a button. When you drag a button in Opera you see a faded out version of the button.

In Firefox, you get a fuzzy little rectangle below your mouse. Most people would not know that this is supposed to represent "dragging", so would wonder why nothing is happening.

Also, clicking on the icons gives no responce to the user that they have clicked on the buttons. Also, the area where the icons are listed does not respond to the mouse wheel.

In IE, there is a button with "add" written on it. In Firefox, there are no buttons. Which is more intuitive?


#4 Built in help will help

by gids

Thursday April 1st, 2004 5:33 AM

We can't make assumptions about the difficulty of tasks for different users. One thing that will help in this regard is the built in help which is great for these sort of tasks and will be present in 0.9.

#6 Geeky?

by dave532

Thursday April 1st, 2004 5:49 AM

Opera - definitely, Mozilla (Seamonkey) probably but Firefox - defenitely not!

I mean the Firefox interface has been designed to be as user friendly as possible and IE users should have no trouble migrating. Toolbar customisation is about as user friendly as you can get it - and it's not even an essentiual function.

Basically I believe that all the tasks you do with IE are as easy to do with Firefox, plus there's a lot of other extras that are easy to learn about that make browsing a pleasure, but not knowing about them doesn't make your life harder.

#7 Non techies?

by fedetxf

Thursday April 1st, 2004 6:47 AM

I think publications like pc world live to keep everybody in the mainstream. they never recomend anything too different from what people already do or use.

#9 Re: Non techies?

by buff

Thursday April 1st, 2004 7:58 AM

I absolutely agree with this. Firefox is not too geeky for the general public to use. I set my mother up on it and she thought I had upgraded Explorer since it worked so well! The more techical features like customizing the UI, advanced preferences might go missed by the nontechies but the UI is simple enough that they still get the benefit of Firefoxes features without using them. My mother realized after a couple of days hitting the tab button opened up a tab and she wondered why popup ads no longer appeared. I have to admit though it is a little funny that she thinks her new browser is an upgrade to IE. So, if a user like this can love firefox then everyone can.

#10 May issue?

by mqwtm

Thursday April 1st, 2004 8:10 AM

It's only April 1, and the May issue's out already - that's far more confusing than toolbar adjustment. If it weren't for the label, I'd be convinced that the "half an hour to grasp toolbar adjustment" statement was an April Fool.

Also, nice to see Thunderbird hasn't been "renamed" Quim...

#11 Listen!

by kquiggle

Thursday April 1st, 2004 8:58 AM

We all need to really listen to reviews like this, and not try to debate or argue the concern away. Here is a guy who is presumably is comfortable with technology, and he is telling us that he found parts of it "too geeky" (the entire articale is actually quite favorable). It doesn't matter if we agree with him or not - we need to understand why he felt that way because this means other people will also. The issue her is not whether he is right or wrong - this issue is, "Why does he have that impression, and how to we prevent/correct it?"

One suggestion: Every new release of Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird should include a "reviewer's kit" - a guide to the product and a press release.

#12 Re: Listen!

by mozkeith

Thursday April 1st, 2004 9:31 AM

Thank you, kquiggle, for saying what I've been thinking this entire time. Spoken like a top-grade product manager. This is the attitude the community needs to adopt in order to allow open source software such as Firefox to continue making great strides in quality and respect, and to allow users and companies alike to consider it even more seriously than they are starting to today.

#13 Re: Listen!

by mesostinky

Thursday April 1st, 2004 9:52 AM

I agree we need to listen to reviews but you also have to understand that you can't please everyone. All product reviews are not created equal and all reviews are not valid. Many times products receive invalid criticism and there is nothing we can do about that. This particular reviewer saying that it took him half and hour to figure out how to customize the toolbar is not something that should be taken seriously. No other reviewer AFAIK has harped on this issue and no users here report a usability problem with this feature so you just have to shrug and move on.

Regarding his statement that Firefox "remains too geeky for nontechies" is also completely false. Sorry just because he got hung up on one item that everyone else can easily use doesn't make Firefox too geeky. The ONLY geeky thing about Firefox is plugins. Someone new to Firefox may have to install a plugin or two for optimal web browsing. Every other aspect of Firefox is pretty dam easy. Its not like you can't just download it and be off and web browsing in minutes. There simply are not enough hurdles put in the way of the user to say this is a product for techies only.

"The issue her is not whether he is right or wrong - this issue is, "Why does he have that impression, and how to we prevent/correct it?""

As I explained just because one person who happens to be in the press has a problem doesn't actually mean there is anything to correct.

"One suggestion: Every new release of Mozilla/Firefox/Thunderbird should include a "reviewer's kit" - a guide to the product and a press release." the homepage for Firefox. Everything you've asked for sits right there and is clearly laid out in the Resources section. :)

#22 Re: Re: Listen!

by Ben_Goodger

Thursday April 1st, 2004 4:30 PM

I agree with kquiggle... I understand you can't please everyone (I displease numerous people on a daily basis) but we have to try and please the tech evangelists because they're the ones that get new people to try our software.

#23 It's wise to pay heed to this article's complaint

by kb7iuj

Thursday April 1st, 2004 4:58 PM

Has anybody noticed that it's the techies who are saying the article is wrong about non-techies finding it too geeky?

We really can't ignore opinions like that; they're very honest, based on people who are just discovering it. We, on the other hand, have the benefit of experience in figuring stuff out.

Incidentally, Microsoft's emphasis on making features as user-friendly as possible (and tech-foreign simultaneously) is one of the major reasons they became so popular. Like it or not, that's one example we'd do very well to emulate.

#33 Re: It's wise to pay heed to this article's compla

by jsebrech

Friday April 2nd, 2004 2:38 AM

It would have helped had he said exactly what bothered him about the toolbar customization. I mean, I can understand not figuring out that a right-click on the toolbar will present a customize option, but customize is right there in the view menu, under toolbars, where you would expect it. And as for the actual customization dialog, how could you make that any simpler? It's simple drag-and-drop. Very, very straightforward. Criticism needs to be helpful. Saying the current toolbar customization isn't user friendly is not helpful unless you mention at the same time why you think that, and what you got hung up on.

The one thing I wish there was in the customization dialog is a cancel button. I believe any configuration action should be cancellable, and those that aren't should warn you they aren't.

#14 Too Difficult?

by garfieldbond

Thursday April 1st, 2004 10:48 AM

Man, has this guy never used an OS X app or something? Or is he too stuck in his IE/Office method of customizing toolbars? Customizing the toolbar is almost *exactly* the same as on OS X, the only difference being that it's a little hard to find some free whitespace to right click on in Firefox (usually OS X apps have a little more white space).

Maybe we should add "Drop an icon back into this window to remove it from the toolbar" to the windows as well.

#30 Re: Too Difficult?

by brother

Friday April 2nd, 2004 1:49 AM

he works for _pc_ world.

#34 Re: Too Difficult?

by jsebrech

Friday April 2nd, 2004 2:39 AM

You don't have to right-click on the whitespace, you can right-click the buttons themselves.

#17 Minimal intelligence

by wvh

Thursday April 1st, 2004 11:18 AM

He sounds like the kind of person whose virusses flood my inbox every day.

Ofcourse, we expect a minimal level of intelligence, whether we are taking about hardware, software or the internet. If such a simple program is "hard to use" for him (or anybody), I don't think he will be missed on the internet. In fact, we might even congratulate ourselves for protecting the 'net against people too stupid (or ignorant) to use the software they need or without a minimal understanding of what they are doing. There are already enough virus propagators as it is.

People ought to take at least a bit of responsability, and get a clue. I mean, for driving, at least you need a driver's license. For things like jerking off or taking a piss, you don't need a license. Internet is more like the former than the latter. Sadly enough, the last years I feel more like a sewer-worker than a sysadmin or internet software developer.

Besides... "toolbar customisation"? That is not a newbie activity, nor will any new user indulge in such a level of technicality. Some people can't program a VCR. Some people don't rearrange toolbars. It doesn't mean it's too hard; it means people don't care enough to switch their brains on and learn it. See, sometimes you must learn something. The fact it requires thinking, does not make it 'hard', all by itself.

#19 Re: Minimal intelligence

by tniem

Thursday April 1st, 2004 12:38 PM

I do not agree that toolbar customization is not a newbie activity. I have helped people get involved with Firefox (well haven't since the name switch) and it is one of the first things they want to do. They want to have the "Go" button or a link for all their bookmarks or a print button (there are others but I can't remember what is default any more). Browsing the help forum on Mozillazine that is one of the most common questions, how do I change this on my toolbar? Now, I do not know how you could make it any easier (other than adding "to remove an object drag it back into this window") but do not say that new users do not want to change the toolbar. I have found that is one of the first things they change when using Firefox.

#21 Re: Re: Minimal intelligence

by jgraham

Thursday April 1st, 2004 3:14 PM

Well the problem with the tooolbar customisation is that it's a little hard to find (the "Microsoft Standard" is to place that type of functionality under the Tools menu) and it uses a widget that isn't found anywhere else under windows (of course, it should be more familar to Mac OS users but windows users outnumber users on other platforms). The widget has the non-obvious effect of changing the behaviour of the toolbar buttons from buttons into movable objects. This is convenient when you get the hang of it, but there's nothing obvious to indicate the change of state (little grey borders aren't meaningful). Therefore, if the interface can't be made intuive somehow, itt would be very useful to add some text along the lines of "Drag icons to and from the toolbar" (that wording sucks but you get the idea)

#25 Re: Re: Re: Minimal intelligence

by polidobj

Thursday April 1st, 2004 6:31 PM

Actually in IE 6 the customize option is under view. Firefow has it in the same place. Also I like firefox's sidebar over IE's explorer bar. It tells what it does. What is an explorer bar just from its name? I agree though about the widget.

#31 Re: Re: Re: Re: Minimal intelligence

by jgraham

Friday April 2nd, 2004 2:05 AM

> Actually in IE 6 the customize option is under view.

Gotta love that consistency.

#35 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Minimal intelligence

by polidobj

Friday April 2nd, 2004 6:38 AM

I dislike Microsoft like most people here. They do seem have the customize toolbar in multiple places. Some have it in the old place under tools: Visual C++ 6, Visual Source Safe. Some have it in the new place under view like IE, Visual Basic 6. And some have it in both places like Word 2000, Excel 2000, Visual Studio 2002, Outlook 2000. Hell I can't even find a menu for it in Outlook express. I think firefox has it in the right place. It affects how you view the browser.

But come to think of it, it doesn't make much sense to have stop and reload under view. I would think that they belong under something like a commands or browse(r) menu. If not put them under the go menu. The reason I see refresh and stop under view in IE is because they go with the 'go to' command. But those still don't belong under view. Opera seems to have it right using the navigation menu. Also how about customizing menus like toolbars?

#36 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Minimal intelligence

by Waldo_2

Friday April 2nd, 2004 8:22 AM

Customizing immediate aspects of the UI is expected for most program. This would include displaying the toolbars, their various items, and other aspects of the display such as status bar. The menu system is not immediate; people don't expect to customize it (unless via using drag-n-drop on bookmarks to rearrange them, a direct analog to customizing shortcuts in menus). Customizing it isn't bad, but it's not likely to be used much, so it belongs in an extension, if anywhere.

#18 Yeah - but he's a journalist

by John_Colby

Thursday April 1st, 2004 11:48 AM

Doesn't that say a lot?

But seriously - I have to take new computer science students through a long arduous and (for for me) tortuous process of understanding directory structure. Half the queries from students who are 'stuck' I get on my XHTML course are concerned with relative directory paths. So even people who write about computers for a living may not have the technical expertise that we'd all expect. Unless, of course, he's an ardent Firefox supporter and is wanting people to write in and say "it wasn't like that for us".

#27 Eh, I'd sure like to think up solutions but...

by Jugalator

Thursday April 1st, 2004 10:13 PM

... in this case I can't even think of an easier way to customize toolbars than doing:

1. Right-click on toolbar. 2. Pick "Customize" 3. Drag & drop icons you want or don't want.

It's even more streamlined than in IE, where you have two lists you need to move icons from/to, to change which are on the toolbar and which aren't.

#29 maybe he should learn drag and drop technic

by jimich

Thursday April 1st, 2004 11:54 PM

and mouse navigation before test some software :-)

#32 Drag and drop isn't universily understood

by abraham

Friday April 2nd, 2004 2:09 AM

I occationally teach at a non-technical university- There, I often have to explain the student how to "drag and drop". They are not totally ignorant of technology, at least they can use Excell better than me, and they pick up drag and drop fast enough. But they aren't nerds, they don't play with the computers for the fun of it.

#38 aiming for perfection.

by smkatz

Friday April 2nd, 2004 6:21 PM

I've grown to live with imperfections in software. Firefox is better than IE, so most people will accept its imperfections.

One imperfections I noticed immediately in Phoenix 0.5 is that the customize widget takes a while to appear. When I figured it out, my first reaction was "cool", but every time I customized it, I said, "they really need to fix that".

Let's learn from IE.

IE divides its dialouge into two categories:

Toolbar buttons [Add] [Remove] | Avaliable Buttons [Add] [Remove]

All Microsoft software uses this structure.

Firefox is more customizable than that.. but it presents a pile of buttons--the parts of a kitchen sink, unassembled.

It is powerful. But if we used an "XP" categorization, like in "My Computer", we could effectively combine the Microsoft way and our way.

==Toolbar buttons== ==additional toolbars== (the word "extension" should never appear. It requires reading Firefox prophaghanda to define.)

Spacing should be handled via grippies. Adding spacing makes no sense to the average user.


#40 My mom's a geek

by mqwtm

Sunday April 4th, 2004 3:52 PM

If Firefox is geeky, then my Mom's a top-grade geek. She switched to Firefox when Internet Explorer started ignoring button-clicks; now that Natwest have relented ( Firefox is as much of a no-brainer as IE.