Taskfox Prototype: Ubiquity in Firefox

As a user experience exploration, Ubiquity has been incredibly successful. Over a million downloads have highlighted the need for the web to be connected more tightly with by the power of task-based interfaces. Due to the passion of users, the user tutorial has been translated into ten languages. Similarly, the thousands of commands written for Ubiquity illustrate a latent desire to be able to write tiny amounts of code that enhance the web in fundamental ways.

We are currently working on bringing some of that power to Firefox. See the link for the goals and non-goals for Taskfox, which is what we call the Firefox feature inspired by Ubiquity. You can see some static mockups on the mockups page of the project wiki. Static mockups only get you so far, however. To really get a sense of how something feels, you need to touch it and see it in motion.


Some thoughts:

* The main thing we haven’t prototyped is the interaction of the awesome bar results and the Taskfox commands. We know that this is a major remaining question so we’ll be prototyping that soon. We’ve more or less ignored that interaction for this prototype.

* We’ve moved all modifiers into the suggestions area. That is, you can’t type “translate Hello, World into Japanese”. Instead, you type “translate Hello, World” and select Japanese inside the preview. This simplifies the interaction in the Awesome Bar, and makes the interface a bit more discoverable and localizable, at the cost of effortlessly typing what you want to do. Fortunately, everything in the preview will be keyboard navigatable so you’ll still be able to tab-and-type without using the mouse.

* Being able to navigate results with the keyboard is lacking in Ubiquity proper. We’ve tried to solve that in TaskFox.

* We’ve made “diving into results” a fundamental part of TaskFox. Clicking the more arrow (or using the right arrow keys) slides everything over for an ultra-fast way to checkout a more detailed view of information. See the video for more detail.

* We haven’t concentrated on visual style, so forgive it.

* You can drag results and they’ll “tear off” to form their own window. In this way, any result/detailed view can become more permanent. E.g., if you want to start a youtube video playing you can pull it off and place it in a corner of your screen while you continue browsing. The torn-off window can be re-docked into your tabs.

Try it out yourself

The demo is written entirely in HTML and Javascript (with some help from jQuery). It has only been tested in Firefox. It’s a prototype so type slowly, or it won’t work.

Go to the demo!

Get Involved

We have a weekly public meeting every Thursday at 3:00pm PDT (10:00pm UTC). These are open to everyone, no RSVP needed. To join in, dial in to one of the following numbers:

* +1 650 903 0800 x92 Conf# 8604 (US/International)
* +1 416 848 3114 x92 Conf# 8604 (Canada)
* +1 800 707 2533 (pin 369) Conf# 8604 (US Toll Free & Skype)

You can also join #fx-team to chat about Taskfox on IRC, or discuss it on the mozilla.dev.apps.firefox newsgroup. Anyone can help out by creating your own mockups or prototypes, filing bugs, write patches, and generally giving input.

— Aza Raskin, Blair McBride, and Alex Faaborg from the TaskFox team.

29 responses

  1. SamF wrote on :

    I cannot wait for this. I have been using Ubiquity for months, but taskfox looks much more polished. I love the integration with the awesome bar. I hope in the mouse based iteration there is a CoolPreview like option incorporated to allow for page previews when hovering over a link.

  2. Davisr wrote on :

    I can’t wait until this is implemented as a Firefox extension!

  3. dprakas wrote on :

    I dont know whether this is the right forum to put forward my comments. I tried looking for proper forum in mozilla but did nt get it (need to be more user friendly).
    My concern is over a period of time, I have been watching Firefox’s performance from 3.0.1 to 3.0.10 the progress is alarming. Its performance impact on the system is going to bite its own legs. Before 6 months mozilla was my favourite browser but now, the moment i open it it takes a large chunk of memory (almost 35%) compared to Chrome’s (15%). If it continues in the same way then “Spread Mozilla” theme will loose its goal. Please gimme back my spedy and ultra fast Firefox.

  4. Florian Fiegel wrote on :

    Have I to say that I want this ASAP? Go, go, go …

  5. Seth Phillips wrote on :

    If you could email me at sethscomptut@yahoo.com when its finished, that would be awesome.

    PS: Firefox is way better than IE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Joojaa wrote on :

    >> One problem I see is that you have to know all the commands.

    Well you have to remember a whole lot of things to make browsing happen anyways. Thing is your over emphasizing the fact that people do what they intend. In fact more often than what we like to admit what we end up doing is unintentional.

    Natural language helps because then at least you can try to guess. And off course if a user would never be one to use such things no harm done.

  7. Acidzburns wrote on :

    I tried taskfox for a while and translating english into indonesia, so far everything has been translated perfectly. Even the structure of the sentence is correct.
    This is very very exciting stuff we got here. And extremely useful for traveller with internet access, judging by the accuracy of the translation.

  8. Dominic wrote on :

    This is great! It can be for advanced users (in very obvious ways – makes tasks 10x faster, and is has a nice command-line-based feel), and it is also very good for novice users, as they put everyday words (such as “translate this”) into their browser– It will truly revolutionize not only the web, but the way we use computers.

  9. Tim wrote on :

    What is the point of this? I mean it looks cool and all but as I was watching the demo the results of an action are all listed in this tiny little window. How is this better than having the full width of the window available? It just seems like you’re trying to cram more of the Web into an even tinier window.

    Maybe this might be useful for utilities like translation or a calculator, but for search results? Forget it.

  10. Lyx Nyx wrote on :

    Sorry, I don’t get it.
    I’m watching you demonstrate a Firefox addon that throws all my normal search results into a mini drop down window. Whoo hoo. Waited my whole life for that. Right. And then the big reveal… pressing the arrow icon in the mini window to open another ‘mini’ page next to a search result…and an icon arrow back. Whoo hoo! Needed that too. Wait, don’t we all have back/fwd buttons built right into every browser ever made? Oops. Wait Wait… there is still that other ‘cool’ feature right? The one that lets you type in funny abbreviated commands (just like all those programming languages that every novice user loves!). Yes! That’s it! So let me see here… what was that American Airlines flight info trick he did? Um… ‘flight’… no, um… ‘flightinfo’… no, hmm, um… ‘americanairlines’… no, dang… um.. ‘amairflightinfo’… argh!! OK! Forget it. I can’t see ANYTHING useful about this silly addon. What does it give me I don’t already have? Why would I want to remember 16,000 arcane little commands? And why on earth would I prefer to see a truncated and tiny search results page, when I could see everything I was searching for in my full browser window or tab?
    Again…I don’t get it.

    Other than that, -great demo! 🙂

  11. tkroenert wrote on :

    I like to have TAB – Completion 😀

  12. Joseph Lancaster wrote on :

    Very nice work. I agree with Boereck about selecting the commands.

  13. lukas wrote on :

    The first idea is best.

  14. MMcCubbing wrote on :

    A quick suggestion for “translate” would be to include not only the native characters, eg: こんにちわ, but also the transliteration, etc eg: “Konnichiwa.”

    I think I used the term correctly, I’m not exactly a language guy.

  15. Boereck wrote on :

    Another thing: It would be great if you would categorize the awesomebar entries, as other browsers do. This might not be so important right now, where the entries are populated only by suggestions from bookmarks and history. But if there are also command suggestions, you better keep them separated 🙂

  16. Boereck wrote on :

    One problem I see is that you have to know all the commands. You have to provide a way to show the commands without typing, or people will only find them “by accident”. If you list all commands when pressing the down arrow on the right side of the awesomebar, the drop-down list would be too crowded. maybe you can add a small empty gray bubble on the left side of the awesomebar to allow command selection. Another advantage is, that you can first type and then think “oh, I want to translate that” and you can select the prefixing command afterwards.

  17. kyle wrote on :

    Idea 1 Command Bar + Action Button is the best idea. Idea 2 is the main reason I got rid of ubiquity. Too hard to get to, I never remember to hit the hotkeys before I just do my task a different way without thinking about using ubiquity. And Idea 3 is no good either because I like to have just the one long bar on top, don’t even like the search bar so I got rid of it since I can use the location bar for searching just by typing a word to search for and hitting enter. Why have 2 bars when you can use 1 and still have the same functionality?

  18. JB wrote on :

    Just watched the demo. Looks promising! Having to use arrow keys is almost as bad as having to use the mouse. Hopefully, there are some emacs-ish and/or vi-ish keybindings by default to navigate down, left, right, etc.

  19. Jet wrote on :

    Great work. Does Taskfox support command line history, like the bash shell?

  20. Samuel wrote on :

    It’s slick, I see, I just wish your search bar at the bottom in FireFox was slick like tht, or slick like Safari is.


  21. Nico wrote on :

    Very nice !
    Probably more usefull for me that Ubiquity itself.

  22. Jörg Bilert wrote on :

    I just watched the video and was amazed…
    especially the drag-feature caught my attention. It made me wonder why there should be a bwroser-window at all. Is there a plan for a view-mode reducing firefox to the Taskfoxbar?

  23. Charlesj wrote on :

    I do use Ubquity often, it’s fairly useful. This to me it seems like this is trying to change web browsing than just being a tool. Good luck with development.

  24. Felix S. wrote on :

    Hey there,
    I think the keyboard-shortcut in Ubiquity is a great idea.
    May it coeld be integrated in the NEW Awesomebar?!

    Greetings Felix

  25. Phil wrote on :

    Great idea, I really like being able to drag out the windows with videos or other things. I don’t understand how the preview is faster than just clicking back. Altogether I dont see this actually saving me time. Usually I can already tell by the name of site with comments below (as in a google search) if it is the site i want. If not i hit back. Neat feature but I would only see my self using this for the drag out ability.

  26. Vahagn Grigoryan wrote on :

    Thank you verrry much. It’s a great idea, please implement ASAP 🙂

    I’m very excited.

  27. John wrote on :

    I’m hoping this will be highly optional! Can’t see most of my friends/parents/less tech savvy actually using this.

  28. Endolith wrote on :

    “That is, you can’t type “translate Hello, World into Japanese”. Instead, you type “translate Hello, World” and select Japanese inside the preview.”

    Why not allow both?

  29. Miguel Wickert wrote on :

    Hello, I’m getting this error from Ubiquity testing. Ubiquity doesn’t work for me at all.

    Error in test testTagCommand: undefined (in file:///Users/migwic/Library/Application%20Support/Firefox/Profiles/bt8qu985.default/extensions/ubiquity@labs.mozilla.com/tests/test_tag_command.js, line 54)

    How do I fix this? Thanks!