Saturday, October 11, 2008

AwesomeBar and Me - Why I've left Firefox.

I upgraded to Firefox 3 back when it was in beta. Then, I uninstalled and went back to Firefox 2. I tried it again a few weeks later. Then, I uninstalled and went back to Firefox 2.

This was quite a while ago, but I will explain how I felt at the time:

Something was lacking in Firefox 3 that made me uncomfortable, and unable to be productive. Namely, the address bar, which had been replaced with something called the AwesomeBar. My main beef with the AwesomeBar actually isn't its ugly look, or the fact that it retrieves bookmark results, but rather, the fact that it requires visual interaction to be used effectively. The address bar was reliable. I knew what it would do when I typed. Its algorithm was something that could be fully comprehended in my head. I knew if I had cleared my history before starting, and had gone to once, then visited and and that I could simply press Alt+D "c" down enter to go back to Furthermore, it was the same knowledge I used to operate the old Start->Run dialog back in Windows, and the same knowledge I use to operate every autocomplete field in every website and every dialog box in both Windows and Linux.

With the AwesomeBar, my absolute and complete knowledge of the data being searched was taken away. Sure, I know which types of things it searches, but I don't know what data was present (in page Titles, for example) The extra steps are that I would have to press Alt+D, type, then look at the results and determine if there was an error, if so, I would have to arrow to the desired result before pressing enter. The developers of Firefox knew this, that's why they redesigned the widget visually to try to create enough visual distinction so that it could be scanned quickly. The problem is, I don't want to visually scan it at all. That isn't something I have ever been accustomed to doing and it slows me down and takes my focus away from the page I was browsing.

Since that time, I have continued to use "good old" Firefox 2. However, for whatever reason, my Firefox 2 installation began to become unstable. It would freeze up requiring restarts quite often, usually when I click on a javascript-based link. I finally got irritated, and decided that maybe it would be time to update or switch.

First, I tried Crossover Chromium. It is goofy because of its dependence on wine. I will give it another chance when it has been ported natively to Linux.

I searched through the Firefox add-ons/extensions to see what has been created, and found both "oldbar" and "Old Location Bar" - I had tried oldbar before, so I decided to go with "Old Location Bar," bit the bullet, upgraded to Firefox 3, and installed the extension. I didn't read carefully enough, and I presumed Old Location Bar would do what I wanted, as people were praising it for being better than oldbar. I was disappointed with Old Location Bar. It still didn't solve my problem at all.

Firefox 2 is freezing up. Firefox 3 is not efficient. I decided to go "old school" and switch to Opera.

I installed Opera 9.27 from the Hardy repository. Just a little ugly feeling in the menus, but the toolbars are not too bad. I can live with this. Alt+D doesn't work! Dang. So, I did this:

Tools -> Preferences -> Shortcuts -> Keyboard setup - Opera Standard -> Edit.

The one under "Browser Window" that says "Focus address field | Focus message list" I clicked, and changed to "d alt", clicked OK, and clicked OK again. Alt+D ... works!

Now I did some experiments with the address bar. It works!

I realize I'm not using the latest release of Opera. I may try upgrading and see if it still works. But, as long as it does what I need, maybe this older release is fine.

As I save this post, regrettably, I will change my default browser to Opera and uninstall Firefox 3. It isn't because I wanted to. It's because I was forced out. If I knew how to fork the Firefox code and reinstall the genuine old Address Bar, I would rather do that.