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Tips and tricks for Firefox guidebook

Discussion of general topics about Mozilla Firefox
Mozcerize
 
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Joined: July 30th, 2004, 1:13 pm

Post Posted August 17th, 2004, 6:26 am

Well, I'm not sure. I don't think the guide should be *solely* a repeat of info that is easily found elsewhere. The info that michaell suggests is easily found of Texturizer and well linked-to from the various Firefox pages.

I think that a good proportion of new users would also want to know such details as TomToper suggests. If you're going to install ten or so extensions I think that users would rather be forewarned of possible conflicts than have a conflict happen causing the browser to crash (and when it does, it's normally ugly). Such a crash would no doubt make the majority of non-techie types switch back to IE or Opera within a matter of seconds.

Perhaps what we're seeing here is a need for a guide with more than 50 questions! Maybe a hand-holding walkthrough in Part 1, then some slightly more complex things in Part 2.

TomTopor
 
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Post Posted August 17th, 2004, 6:31 am

I'm not sure that level of detail really belongs in the type of guide we're talking about. The tips should be that extensions exist and how you can get them, and maybe also that it's not a good idea to install 20 extensions at once just to see how they all work. :)


Sorry, but I have to disagree. I understand your wariness about too much detail, but if there are users who actually =know= that installing extensions a certain way causes problems, or =know= that a particular extension has been a constant bad actor, why not share it with the rest of us?

The tip, after all, can be phrased to let the user know that this is the contemparary circumstance and could change in the future.

A guide that pretends everything is okay, it seems to me, doesn't serve anyone.


t

ankh

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Post Posted August 17th, 2004, 1:16 pm

When you discuss tweaks that require editing files -- please preface that section with a discussion
--for EACH OS (and mention that they DIFFER);
--specifying the location, and names, of the Profile and contents;
--as created by starting Firefox for the first time; then shutting down;
--the files that will have appeared after restarting the first time;
--the files that will be added after the user has gone through a sequence, doing normal actions including: save a preference, save a bookmark, and (what else do users change that creates a new user file? list them all ...) upon shutting down;
--why all those new or changed files matter;
--how to set copies of them aside before updating anything;
--how to put back, and where, and when (after a new release creates a new profile, what's safe to overwrite with your old files).

I'm sure there is not yet a good clear answer to the above for OSX, probably because the files used aren't yet nailed down and the Profile moved not long ago.

But all of the user settings are based on the assumption that they can be _preserved_ and people who don't enjoy messing with the innards do not react well to working through setting up the browser then losing the settings. And it happens, now, often, in beta.

Yes, clever smart experienced people don't get bothered with this; but there's a whole world of people out there who'll need it spelled out.

Tesla

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Location: Washington State

Post Posted August 17th, 2004, 9:06 pm

A couple of options that I like for the user files.

user.js options:
Code: Select all
// URL Google Search
user_pref("keyword.URL", "http://www.google.com/search?btnG=Google+Search&q=");

// URL Inline AutoComplete
user_pref("browser.urlbar.autoFill", true);


userChrome.css option
Code: Select all
/* Make the Search box flex wider
   (in this case 400 pixels wide) */
#search-container {
   -moz-box-flex: 400 !important;
}

michaell
 
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Location: London, UK

Post Posted August 18th, 2004, 3:23 am

TomTopor wrote:Sorry, but I have to disagree. I understand your wariness about too much detail, but if there are users who actually =know= that installing extensions a certain way causes problems, or =know= that a particular extension has been a constant bad actor, why not share it with the rest of us?

Because I don't think it's "us" that the guide is aimed at. The people getting the guide are people that are buying Firefox on CD. If an extension is that bad, it shouldn't be on update.mozilla.org anyway. Information like that will mostly be out of date by the time the guide is printed and shipped.

Anyway - no need for us to argue about it. Blake will put out of the thread whatever he thinks is useful :)

ramses0
 
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Joined: August 18th, 2004, 4:17 pm

Post Posted August 18th, 2004, 4:20 pm

This is one I came up with today.


Bookmark your webmail's compose page (I've used yahoo for quite a long time). Then, make a "smart bookmark" out of it by attaching the keyword "compose"

Yahoo mail also respects ?subj=... on it's mail link, so mine looks like:

http://us.f532.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?subj=%s


Then, I just type "compose Title of message", and get jumped right over to message compose windows. Neat! :^)

--Robert

TomTopor
 
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Post Posted August 18th, 2004, 5:59 pm

Because I don't think it's "us" that the guide is aimed at. The people getting the guide are people that are buying Firefox on CD.

Ahhhh. Didn't realize that.


t

michaell
 
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Location: London, UK

Post Posted August 19th, 2004, 2:48 am

TomTopor wrote:
Because I don't think it's "us" that the guide is aimed at. The people getting the guide are people that are buying Firefox on CD.

Ahhhh. Didn't realize that.

Of course, I don't want to discourage anyone here from going over to the Mozilla Store and buying stuff :) (Although of course the Firefox CD/guide isn't available yet, 'cause blake's still writing it - you could buy a shirt though...).

aconbere

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Post Posted August 20th, 2004, 10:19 pm

I'm not sure whether I understood the intent of the guide. But perhaps I'll clarify how I saw it being aproached so that the issue can be made clearer. As I see it, a new user needs to know fairly quickly how to set up some basic asspects of firefox, this will be wildly new for interent explorer users that have never ventured outside the box, and they might need some guidance to find their way. If a guide were to be made however, it seems fool hardy to insert tid bits like "This makes the urlbar snap wider" ... "this puts a neat editor on your machine" ... "do this action to receive this nifty bonus"... As far as I can tell users won't be interested in this list.

What I've tried to do when getting friends set up is show them some of the more interesting features in firefox

in a list:
* Tabs
* Extensions
* Userfiles

I tried to write a small article that would take them through some of the day to day tasks that can be easily recognized by a new user. For example searching dictionary.com (a dictionary search is built into IE), which takes us through installing an extensions. Or Ad Blocking (pretty basic) but implimentation takes us through a) installing another extension (chromedit) and further, editing user files, where I suggest some other usefull edits they could preform.

The basic idea when I wrote that little peice I posted earlier was to expose the user to as many of the important firefox features in an easy to use guide that would follow along some of the more commonly desired browser features (easy access to media "dictionary" ... get rid of annoying ads "ad-blocking script" ... etc)

This way the user becomes aquainted with the more essential firefox functions (allowing them to seek out more advanced examples) that could be brought up later. But for a basic intro to tips and tweaks. For the IE user, I'm not sure that starting out with extension incomatability (when a user may not even understand the process of using and installing extensions) is really the right choice.

Anders
Last edited by aconbere on August 21st, 2004, 9:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

TomTopor
 
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Post Posted August 21st, 2004, 2:23 am

aconbere wrote:...This way the user becomes aquainted with the more essential firefox functions (allowing them to seek out more advanced examples) that could be brought up later. But for a basic intro to tips and tweaks. For the IE user, I'm not sure that starting out with a bunch of rubbish on extension incomatability is really the right choice.

Anders


Some of us have a different definition of what constitutes "essential" and what constitutes "rubbish."

tt

aconbere

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Post Posted August 21st, 2004, 9:33 am

I'm sorry that's terribly inflamatory and not really clear on what I mean (it was rather late). It's not that I don't think that extension compatability isn't essential in the long run, but in atempting to teach a user how to customize firefox to their own specifications I feel that there might be signifigantly larger hurdles. For example, "what the heck is an extension", "how do I install an extension", "how do I use the extension once it's installed", "how do I uninstall an extension".

Perhaps a small list of effective compatable extensions would also be nice to include.

Again, I'm very sorry if I offended you (You'll notice I edited the line), I truly didn't mean to imply that the idea of extension incompatablity is actualy rubbish, but that from the view of a relatively new user, I think it might be over alot of heads, and apear that way if the basics haven't been handled properly.

Anders

Tzephtan
 
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Joined: August 20th, 2004, 5:04 pm

Post Posted August 21st, 2004, 11:38 am

Extensions really are the most important difference between Firefox and the rest.

I truly believe that Mozilla needs to have more "Officially Recommended" extensions, which would be extensions that are recommended for Grandma that would get her used to using extensions.
Then take the guide and walk through how to work with these "Officially Recommended" extensions. This is on top of explaining how to get the essentials like Shockwave, Flash, etc.
Wouldn't Grandma love "Nuke Anything"?


Also, it'd be nice to have an extension site that is a mix between update.mozilla.org/extensions and texturizer.net/firefox/extensions. I like the clean look of texturizer, but having recommendations are important, like update.mozilla.org.
The most important thing is getting newbies to use Thunderbird and Firefox.
Otherwise they'll be using Outlook and Internet Explorer and clogging up our bandwidth with their virii.

TomTopor
 
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Joined: January 18th, 2004, 10:01 am

Post Posted August 21st, 2004, 2:23 pm

aconbere wrote:I'm sorry that's terribly inflamatory and not really clear on what I mean (it was rather late). It's not that I don't think that extension compatability isn't essential in the long run....I truly didn't mean to imply that the idea of extension incompatablity is actualy rubbish, but that from the view of a relatively new user, I think it might be over alot of heads, and apear that way if the basics haven't been handled properly.

Anders


Gracious apology accepted.

I fully understand your reservations, but it seems to me that because Firefox is designed to be a stand-alone browser rather than a suite, it's the extensions that make FF so flexible and valuable.

And now that the developers have made extensions relatively easy to install (and, equally important, uninstall), I think the more help a potential user gets on how best to use them, which to avoid, which might conflict, the better off the hapless user is.

For some users, (even we experienced ones) knowing how to exploit extensions is, in fact, far more essential than knowing, for instance, how to edit a .CSS file, or even a .JS file.

(One tip that definitely should be in the book is how to =create= a USER.JS file, along with a clear explanation that it functions as a master preference file while PREFS.JS is a session-only preference file.)

Granted, the question of what should be in a Guide/Tip book is all pretty subjective, but don't you think such a reference should strive to help as many users in as many ways as possible?

In any event, thanks for a lively discussion.

tt

aconbere

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Post Posted August 21st, 2004, 6:52 pm

So this is a basic kind of layout as to how i envision a guide working in it's most effective form.

YARGH!! the formating is just not working on this... but if you can imagine all the tabs are set correctly in real life ...


-- GUIDE --

-------------------------------------------------------------

A) Cover basic operations including but not limited to

I) Extensions (critical)

1. This section should cover at the very least how to install/uninstall extensions

a. I would prefer to see this inline with several most common extensions, and ones that are hard to debate
their usefulness. I chose chrom-edit because of it's use later in talking about editing user files, and
dictionary-search, cause man... who doesn't need a quick and easy way to lookup words they don't know? :)

2. Inset within this should link to a later section on the more extensive overview of Extensions. This Section could
include such areas as extension incompatibility, ways to rescue a firefox install from an extension crash, and the
importance of backing up user-files (etc.)

II) Customization of Interface

1. This should explain the way in which one might make a very small tool bar, or add bookmark links.

2. Should also include how to make quick links (critical), for many of the people I've shown firefox the google and
dictionary search quick links are one of the most impressive features (I always make the quick link more simple
setting google to the standalone “g” and dictionary.com to “d”)

3. Should also include install/unstall of themes, though I consider this less critical since the basic theme is very
usable, this is also a very nice and lacking feature in IE.

III) Editing Use Files

1. I see this covering getting ad-block support, and maybe removing some annoyances like blinking text etc. Not
much more, but should link to an outside resource that discuss the full extent to which these files can be utilized.

-- Extra Documentation that could be linked to within the guide (though should be available in an easy to get to way from outside the guide --


B) Extensions
1) Incompatibility of Ext...

2) Installation Rescue
1.back up of user files

3) More

C)User Files
1) All the other neat things you can do
2) More

D) MORE

----------------------------------

-- obviously I'm being skimpy as to where the outside links would head to, but having separate articles, one a “guide” that links to outside sources on specific issues and features I believe to be important. A guide shouldn't be a complex mess of information it should be what it's name claims to be, it should be a road map by which someone can navigate to a greater wealth of information, while obtaining easily and in one spot basic tools needed to advance--



If you organize the guide in this kind of way what you end up with is a way to guide new users through some of the basic tips and tweaks, but it gives one the information and the resources to go further, linking to other articles within the documentation that offer advanced information.

I've seen some people use this kind of strategy before with a great deal of success. I particular the gentoo handbook comes to mind which is a very basic users guide for the installation of gentoo-Linux, but is an incredible resource for both beginners and intermediate users as it offers in on place many of the tasks that one needs to use, and links to many more helpful areas of the gentoo documentation.

So while I don't propose that all users should have to dig through the “beginners-guide” I think that it should be of critical importance, and should offer beginners and intermediate users alike the resources they need to advance their use of firefox past that of the typical browser.

Especially if the document is well organized and easy to read, I believe that if you include interesting information that isn't commonly known, but is useful. As well as a real usable feature-full beginners guide that It can be of importance even to advanced users.

That's my feelings on how a guide book should work, though as I posses little agency in how it works in the end, I don't suppose it matters so much :) I suppose I'm making a point to a brick wall.

anyways, I would love to hear what you think about this TomTopor

Yes the conversation is both helpful and interesting I say we keep it up ;)

Anders

TomTopor
 
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Joined: January 18th, 2004, 10:01 am

Post Posted August 22nd, 2004, 4:57 am

aconbere wrote:That's my feelings on how a guide book should work....
Anders


Like you, I have no expertise in writing guides to software, but I would say this:

The first thing is to decide who the Firefox end-user is.

Is he or she a typical consumer who simply wants a browser that will install easily, run smoothly and require a minimum of tinkering (e.g., the retail-store customer who buys a bundled system, takes it home and wants it work straight out of the box)?

Is he or she a geek/expert who regards all software as something to to endlessly refine and "improve" (e.g., the typical K-Meleon user who thinks a day spent with Everest or Sandra is better than sex)?

Somebody in between?

I admire your suggestion for dividing any guidebook into sections of basic and advanced topics, but deciding which is which can be hellish.

For instance, does JavaScript fall under the heading of Basic or Advanced?

Most typical end-users never concern themselves with JavaScript (the default in just about every browser is "On") but is that the best choice?

JavaScript is necessary for many sites, but it slows browsing significantly and is a magnet for porn links. What's the best way to tell a new FF user about this? Do you assume the typical FF user knows at least the basics of JavaScript? I'm sure many novice users aren't the least bit interested in JavaScript but I'm just as sure they'd be interested in reducing their involuntary intake of porn.

I'm getting long-winded here, so I'll shut up, but the sense I have is that Firefox is evolving from a browser for geek/experts to a more consumer-directed product. If that's true, any guidebook has to be written accordingly.

tt

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