Tips and Troubleshooting for Home Dash 1 (and 2)

Ed Lee

Thanks to the initial feedback from people trying out a mysterious prototype add-on, Home Dash felt stable enough to make an initial release today. I’ve been using Firefox with Home Dash as my main web browser for the last couple weeks, and I would consider myself a pretty advanced user that makes use of keyboard shortcuts. So, Home Dash has been implemented with that in mind — but that doesn’t mean it was designed to be keyboard only! (In fact, a number of things are still browse-only and require the use of a mouse.)

Get me back to the original Firefox interface!

Edit: Updated! Starting with Home Dash 2, you can press <alt-ctrl-shift-d> as a temporary return to the original Firefox interface. You can press it again to re-activate Home Dash. This keyboard shortcut is mainly to help you transition to Home Dash if you’re feeling lost and need to use something from the non-Home Dash interface.

First off, Home Dash is meant to replace the existing Firefox interface, so if you want to return Firefox to what it was before, you’ll need to disable the add-on. The following steps should work on all versions of Firefox:

1) Select the menu “Tools” and then the item “Add-ons” to open the “Add-ons Manager”
2) Find the “Mozilla Labs: Prospector – Home Dash” entry and click “Disable”

Home Dash entry in Add-ons Manager

Because it’s a restartless add-on that cleans up after itself, you should be able to use Firefox as if you never installed it. If you want to try out Home Dash again, just return to the Add-ons Manager and enable it. An alternative to step 1 is to open up Home Dash and enter “about:addons” and hit <enter> then continue with step 2.

And now to the keyboard shortcuts!

Home Dash detects when you’re trying to do various common keyboard actions in Firefox such as opening a new tab, selecting the location bar or search bar. This means on Windows, when you use <ctrl-t> to open a tab, or <alt-d>/<ctrl-l> to select the location bar, or <ctrl-k> to do a search, you’ll get Home Dash instead.

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If you hit the command when the dashboard is not open, Home Dash activates as below:

Command Windows Mac OS Description
Location Bar <ctrl-l> <cmd-l> Open Home Dash; selected page opens in current tab
New Tab <ctrl-t> <cmd-t> Open Home Dash; selected page opens in a new tab
Search Bar <ctrl-k> <cmd-k> Open Home Dash with the default search engine active

If Home Dash is already open, you’ll get a related behavior:

Command Windows Mac OS Description
Location <ctrl-l> <cmd-l> Select all the text in the input box to type something new; if the input is empty, the current page’s location will be filled in
New Tab <ctrl-t> <cmd-t> Toggle if a selected page should open in a new tab or the current tab
Search <ctrl-k> <cmd-k> Activate the default search; if already activated, cycle through other searches for side-by-side search

If you want to get out of the dashboard view, you can always hit <esc>. If you typed something in the input box already, it’ll clear that out first and then close Home Dash if you hit <esc> again.

Selecting a result with <enter>

After you’ve typed something into the input box, you can hit <enter> to select some result to open in either the current tab or a new tab depending on how you’ve toggled the “New Tab” button.

Visual <enter> behavior Description
Large result Select large result If you have a “top match” from history or are doing a web search, you’ll see a larger result and a preview of the page will start loading
Side-by-side search Select “left” search If you’ve activated two searches, most of the dashboard goes away to show side-by-side results
Nothing Go to that page This is useful for going to a new site that you know the domain/url or if you want to have Google figure out what the words mean

One nice thing about Home Dash is that you can type as fast as you want once you know what kind of result will show up. This means you can press <ctrl-l>, type “mozilla”, and hit <enter> to go to your top result for “mozilla” without waiting.

Large result as the first result

Managing and switching through tabs

From the tab thumbnail view at the top of Home Dash, you can somewhat arrange them by dragging them left or right to prioritize or deprioritize them. By dragging a tab to the left, it becomes an “app tab” and shows up with the #1 in the corner to indicate that it has a number for easy keyboard access. So if you frequently use one particular tab, you can drag it left and access it by just pressing <ctrl-1> or <cmd-1>.

App tabs on the left with numbers

You can also just switch through all your tabs without actually switching tabs until you find the one you want. This can be done by pressing <ctrl-tab> while holding <ctrl> and hitting <tab> until you find the one you want then release the keys. The preview of the tab shows up on the right side of the screen to help you quickly find the right tab.

Additionally, you can get rid of tabs that you don’t want while you’re switching through them. Just press <w> and the tab is gone! A preview of the next tab will then show up ready to be viewed and/or removed. As usual, you can hit <ctrl-shift-t> to undo closing a tab that you didn’t actually mean to close.

The keyboard shortcuts for switching through tabs can work well with either/both hands:

Action Left side Right side Description
Switch Tab <ctrl-tab> <ctrl-9> Go to the next tab (or previous by holding <shift>)
Remove Tab <w> <delete> Remove the tab and go to the next (or previous with <shift>)
Select Tab <space> <enter> Select; or just let go of the <ctrl> key
Cancel <esc> <0> Stop previewing tabs and return to the current tab

Switching through tabs with previews

For an even more advanced behavior, you can first open up Home Dash and type in some words to filter out some tabs. Then when you start switching through tabs, you’ll only see the ones that matched the results. So if you want to just close a bunch of tabs from some site, search for that site, hit <ctrl-tab> and start deleting!

As this is just version 1 of Home Dash, these keyboard shortcuts might not do the same thing in future versions! But hopefully we’ll try to keep them working.