I'm Aza Raskin @aza. I make shiny things. I simplify.

I'm VP at Jawbone, focusing on health.

 

Firefox Panorama: Search proof-of-concept

There are two modes people use for finding information: browsing and searching. Browsing is for when you don’t know exactly what you want to find, and search is for when you know exactly for what you are looking.

A supermarket makes a good example of the browse versus search distinction. Say you want to make a salad. When you go to a supermarket your browse for ingredients: you wander through the vegetable section picking up the the ingredients that strike you as delicious. You don’t know exactly what you want, but seeing the vegetables helps you make the selection. That’s browse.

When you are searching for something in particular, like tahini sauce, the browse-model of supermarkets becomes frustrating. You end up wandering through the isles trying to find the category that tahini sauce is filed under: Sauces? Ethnic? Condiments? What you’d really like is to perform a Google-esque search to immediately find for what you’re looking. The closest things supermarkets have to search are the employees who, when asked, will bring you directly to your desired item. That’s the power of search.

Firefox Panorama (née Tab Candy) gives the best way to browse through your tabs and groups, but is lacking in search. We are working on fixing that. Search is a feature where speed is the number one priority, so we’ve worked to have the visual aspects of search be lightening fast (almost no animation) and the entry method be instant (just start typing). Here is our proof of concept.

RT @aza Firefox Panorama: Search proof-of-concept | Follow @aza on Twitter | All blog posts

View all 116 comments



Amr

Question about performance:
Do the tabs in the background (that are not displayed) affect Firefox’s usage of the memory?
let me rephrase:
Does having 100 tabs open in Panorama (background and foreground) is the same as having 100 tabs open in Firefox 3.6?

I hope that clear enough :)


    Currently the do, although you can use an extension like Bar Tab. Our goal is to unload unused/aging tabs from memory transparently behind the scenes.



      Amr

      That’s great. I hope this can be implemented soon. Panorama will help users (a.k.a. me) pile tens of tabs in the background.



lmarcetic

Flash Player 10+ Required
etc



Florian

Is there a way to somehow save all the tabs and their panorama-associated informations (place, size, labels etc) ? Because I just cmd-Q’ed ff4-b5 to go to ff4-b6 and my tabs were gone. :(
Anyway, I love the “type to search”, I feel almost as efficient as when I’m using vim ;)



raph

I did not try it yet, but this key feature of searching efficiently is (among many other) already implemented in vimperator : type b (in normal mode) plus some keywords and you will see a list of tabs matching the keywords you’ve just typed — and it’s fast !



    Florian

    Hence me saying “it reminds me of vim way of life” ;)

    Anyway, @Aza, do you have any good technical readings about Panorama ? I’m wondering about backgrounded ajax websites, and the not-very-lightweight library used to create the miniatures. Anything I should read ?

    Thank you.


      You can read a high-level intro or more formal documentation inside the Tab Candy files (we have a lot of jsdoc-ish comments in there).


Ship it :-) Looks good, nice job.



Tom

That looks awesome! Super efficient for a tab junkie like me. Can’t wait to use it.


Time will tell, but my personal opinion is still that Panorama is not for regular users, I have already mentioned why.

Search seems like a good addition to Panorama view, but… you can do the same from the Location bar. So I don’t expect people to open Panorama to search. On the other hand, people may decide to search when they have opened Panorama, but IMHO it will be a rare situation



    Florian

    I kinda agree, I consider myself an advanced user, and I will totally use panorama, I’m already using it, just wasting time moving my mouse on the miniature I want, with this search thing, it will be awesome, but I’m not sure my dad will use/know/like it, too. ;)



Ankur Jalota

I’m using Panorama in FF 4 beta.Like @Florian, I don’t use it bc my groups are not saved across Firefox sessions.


I wonder, what does Panorama actually search? Is it just the title of the tab or full text? Full text would be nice but would probably block the UI unless you can efficiently multithread it and reduce the results.


    At the moment just the titles, hopefully over time we can be smarter (including full-text search).



Maureen

Highlighting the tabs while searching looks great! One question. What will happen if the search returns a tab that is in group that is stacked? Will you expand the group?


LOL. Love the profanity on the reddit page when you switch back and forth.



John K

It’s really interesting to see the science behind this (and it’s clear that Aza knows it).

Does anyone recommend a blog that discusses cognitive psychology as it relates to interface design (aside from this blog, of course)? I’d love to explore these topics in more detail.

Thanks in advance.



Ale

How great would be to integrate / develop some kind of bookmarks panorama!
To have a visual set of bookmarks instead of a list, creating a thumbnail preview of the page the time I bookmark it, the possibility of group them, and even search between them!
Or even load a full group.
So I can easily find that page I bookmarked months ago and I cant remember where it is in the sea of bookmarks I have…



    Florian

    Mhh, just open all your bookmarks in Panorama ? ;)



mawcs

Aza, I left a comment over at Lifehacker.com http://lifehacker.com/comment/29234458/


    Not sure that the distinction between proof-of-concept and mock-up deserves the rant you gave it, but it is indeed running and working code. You can play with it by downloading https://hg.mozilla.org/mozilla-central and building Firefox, or waiting for the next beta.



    Awesome

    The reason why it’s not developed as an add-on is that it’s actually easier for Aza to code something (and developers of Firefox) when that something is built-in.

    There’s lots more good about Panorama than what Aza has described and demonstrated anywhere. The usability is sound. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I know that there are design decisions are correct. For one thing, it’s designed for the future, and because of future dependencies, the tab sets can’t be based on each single window, it had to create an extra level of scope. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Spam below, time for captcha?



      Awesome

      Correction: I don’t know if it’s perfect or not but I know that there are design decisions that are correct.


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Mario Carneiro

Very nice. I question why this is not already in FF (glitx aside). After the initial interest, the only reasons I still use Ubiquity are commands like “tr panaderia” (= translate from Spanish) and “sw Gmail” (= switch to tab with Gmail in the title). Unfortunately, switch to tab is pretty limited in its search capabilities (only titles, only one result, can only search in the same window). I haven’t tried Panorama yet, but I expect it to solve at least some of these problems.

Why wasn’t tab title search implemented from the get-go?

As a user of some 400+ tabs, in 6 or so windows (some buried in nested “restore session” tabs), I can tell that this is designed for my surfing style, and look forward to testing it.



Cef

Panorama is pretty cool, and will bring Browsing to a new level i think. How about sounds and medias in Panorama. Can you control the sounds of Tab, Group, mute a page, or also just directly play a site in his thumbnail preview? For Youtube videos for example, you will have a lot of videos in one group, but then you will always have to go back and forth, enter youtube, then get out of Youtube, how would it be, if you could play Youtube videos as a thumbnail, so you could just play a video, listen to the music, and go to the next one, without having to reenter, leave a site, a thousand times. It would Firefox to a interactive Mediaplayer.

Greetings Cef



justfortherec

I love it!
That’s what I’ve been looking since I’ve started using firefox.
Anyway does this search span over multiple windows? Even with Firefox Panorama one might want to use a second window. A search should find tabs in any window.

Cheers
jftr



Philipp Weissenbacher

Is there a way to switch between results with the keyboard?

Just think of when you searched for bug, but want to open the bug list instead of the GMail tab.
The behaviour would be kind of when you search for text on a website now, hitting enter again goes to the next result.

As enter opens the tab, I would suggest using TAB to switch forward (and SHIFT+TAB to go backward) between matches.

Going from mouse to keyboard and back to mouse to select a second match may get annoying.



jan d

I like the idea. But it is doing something similar to the awesomebar suggestions: type a text, you get the page. It would be great if this could be unified, so I would not have go to to different places.


Not like this. This looks great for the provided search examples where you searched for complete words, but it lacks feedback for incomplete and/or incremental searches. Your approach is ‘too visual’ for the task at hand, if that thing is possible.

What if I type ‘ear’ and want to know which tabs relate to ears, and which to Earth? What if I type ‘visual’ and want to separate tabs for visual languages and those for Visual Basic? The ‘highlight results’ visual approach in the proposed concept is not informative enough.

What we need is the textual context of the matched words in each result. I agree with jan d, the Awesome Bar does this better. I’m not sure they should be unified though – Panorama is for open tabs, while the Awesome bar works best for frequent results in history – and I want a way to keep those two searches (frequent vs recent) separate.

How I imagine it is having each *group* be decorated with a list of text results, showing the whole titles of the tabs that match the query in each group. Groups without any match could be hidden to have more space.



@TuringTest

How’s about “dynamic groups” that are generated when you search grouping together similar results and when you exit search mode things return to normal again? Could have some nice “cellular like” animations if that wouldn’t introduce too much clutter.


@Të: that would completely mess-up with the positional memory of where you placed your tabs. No, I would leave each group at the same place and just replace its contents with text search results a la Awesome bar.


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RCA

I like the comparison you have made with the supermarket. The firefox panorama is a very helpful feature.


Looks really efficient!


thanks for you post
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You end up wandering through the isles trying to find the category that tahini sauce is filed under: Sauces? Ethnic? Condiments? What you’d really like is to perform a Google-esque search to immediately find for what you’re looking.


good article.
browse vs search.


How I imagine it is having each *group* be decorated with a list of text results, showing the whole titles of the tabs that match the query in each group. Groups without any match could be hidden to have more space.


How about sounds and medias in Panorama. Can you control the sounds of Tab, Group, mute a page, or also just directly play a site in his thumbnail preview? For Youtube videos for example, you will have a lot of videos in one group, but then you will always have to go back and forth, enter youtube, then get out of Youtube, how would it be,


Just think of when you searched for bug, but want to open the bug list instead of the GMail tab.
The behaviour would be kind of when you search for text on a website now, hitting enter again goes to the next result.


type a text, you get the page. It would be great if this could be unified, so I would not have go to to different places.


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There are two modes people use for finding information: browsing and searching. Browsing is for when you don’t know exactly what you want to find, and search is for when you know exactly for what you are looking.


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Thomas

Please add support for displaying tab groups from multiple Firefox windows into Panorama.

I’m used to the native grouping of tabs – i.e. by application windows – and that model does not allow me to use panorama to any advantage. (Not all of us are used to the Windows® model of using a computer – i.e. using a single application window.)

Nice feature though.

btw: I’m currently developing an app to allow users more naturally and conveniently keep track of their webpages and documents. I would be glad to cooperate on similar projects, feel free to contact me.
Thomas


That’s great. I hope this can be implemented soon. Panorama will help users (a.k.a. me) pile tens of tabs in the background.


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Very nice video and feature. I will always continue to use Firefox no matter what other say.


Interesting, but might just prove more time consuming. Still, I wonder if in the long run, with hours wasted on waiting for fun one’s productivity will trully increase. Someone should make some tests.


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