George Orwell would use Firefox

Firefox with Firebird Shadow

When the Mozilla Foundation announced the name change for their web browser from Firebird to Firefox, there was a predictable response of skepticism. It was the second name change and people were understandably skeptical that the name would continue to change.

Even though the Mozilla Foundation was clear that Firefox was indeed the final name and was subject to a significant amount of scrutiny to avoid any future pitfalls with the name (trademarks, etc.), people still felt the need to chime in with suggestions.

And no, Thunderbird will not be called ThunderFox. Ever.

All of this was something of a tempest in a teapot – with the world of developers and webloggers (each of us a marketing expert) with an opinion (see the Slashdot thread – or don’t). Fortunately though, the final name change took place just before Firefox began its foray into the mainstream.

As the good Mozilla Foundation folks predicted, there was a small fire-storm of criticism (thunder-storm?), and then, only a few months later, Firefox has been generally accepted and the name changes forgotten.

While it’s not on the scale of the great Orwellian WWF-to-WWE switch, our own little Orwellian name switch has gone quite smoothly. Except for one hold-out office mate who insists on calling it it “firecat”, people have gotten comfortable with the new name, and with the rate of growth and exposure that will come with the 1.0 release this summer, a growing percentage of the Firefox users will never have even known the previous names.

Firefox is Firefox, Thunderbird is Thunderbird, and we all live happily ever after. Onward to 1.0!


New Artwork for the Mozilla Thunderbird Email Client

Thunderbird iconFollowing the updated artwork for the Mozilla Firefox browser, the Mozilla Visual Identity Team has finished new artwork for the Mozilla Thunderbird email client.

Again, the icon was based on sketches by Stephen DesRoches and ideas from the rest of the team and drawn by the talented Jon Hicks (get him something from his wishlist).

We may update the Firefox icon somewhat to better match the new Thunderbird icon. Great work Jon and the rest of the team.

As others on the design team post about the new icon, I’ll keep a running list of their posts here:


A9 Search Plugin for Firefox

The new Amazon search site, A9 (based on Google search results) is all the buzz today. You can read about it at, metafilter, and John Battelle’s Searchblog.

For any Firefox users those interested in trying it out, I have put together a quick A9 search plugin for Firefox.

A9 Search Install the A9 Search Plugin for Firefox


Branding Mozilla: Towards Firefox 1.0

Firefox iconBack in October of 2003, I wrote an article with a series of criticisms and recommendations for the branding and visual identity of the Mozilla software projects. Partially, I suspect, due to my cheap and somewhat inaccurate use of the “2.0” version in the title of the article, it got quite a bit of attention. There was a Slashdot article about it, with loads of Slashdot-esque replies.

In open source software development, the usual reply to any requests, suggestions, or criticisms is the classic refrain: “Where’s the patch!?” This reply is a (sometimes) polite way of saying, if you don’t like it, fix it. That’s how open source software development works. Therein lies its beauty.

Since the recommendations in my article were not the kind of things that can be fixed with a software patch, I got the graphic design equivalent of a “where’s the patch” response. Bart Decrem from the Mozilla Foundation contacted me and asked if I would be interested in helping out with the branding work (i.e. “where’s the patch!?”). A few months later, I’m the lead of the Mozilla Visual Identity Team.

Our tasks is to improve the quality and consistency of the visual elements of the Mozilla products. Icons/logos, default themes, and other visual aspects of the software are all on our radar.

The team includes two of my co-workers at silverorange, Daniel Burka and Stephen DesRoches as well as other volunteers from a bunch of different time zones. Kevin Gerich and Steven Horlander have done the Mac OS X themes for Firefox and (soon) Thunderbird. They’re also working with Daniel on the default them on other platforms.

Our first major piece of work was to create a new logo and icon set for the Firefox browser, which was newly renamed (formerly Firebird).

Firefox logos

Jon Hicks did the illustration of what is now the new Firefox logo and icon. The form was based on an idea by Daniel Burka, and a sketch by Stephen Desroches. Other icons in a similar style will follow for Thunderbird and other appropriate locations.

Sketch and Rendering of the Firefox logo

Jon has made a great post about the design process on his weblog. I stole a few of the graphics from his post — thanks/sorry Jon!

Great Wave icon for Camino by Jon HicksI asked Joh Hicks to help out after having seen the custom icons he did for Camino based on The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai. This is possibly the best icon/icon-set I’ve ever seen — it is a work of art. We’re lucky to have Jon working on the visuals with us (thanks Jon!).

Such is the open source world; when a developer looks at something that they don’t like in an application, they fix it (or try). Those of us who are picky about visual and user-interface consistency and polish are looking at the Mozilla applications, and fixing what we don’t like.

There is something truuly significant about the way I was able to go from user and critic, to participant and contributor. I would like to see the same thing in politics and other spheres of life. If you don’t like how something is done, and think you can help improve it, then get involved. Don’t expect someone else to do it.

The Mozilla Visual Identity team is only getting started too. Look for the Mozilla applications, especially Firefox and Thunderbird to get better, slicker, smoother, etc. Thanks to everyone on the team for their great work.


Linky: A great extension for Mozilla Firebird

One of the many great things about the Mozilla Firebird web browser (go get it now if you aren’t using it), is a decision the developers made early in the project. In order to keep the application simple, fast, and elegant — any features that aren’t essential or may be limited in appeal to a fringe group of users are not included in the browser. Rather, they have made it easy to build (and easy to install) add-ons to the program, called Extensions.

Linky ScreenshotWith this simple decision, the Mozilla Firebird team has managed to avoid one of the great pitfalls of open source development — creaping featuritis. Whenever someone asks for a new feature, the answer is almost always: that should be an extension (and it usually already is an extension). Extensions can also serve as a test bed for features that may eventually be rolled into the core (under the watchful and discerning collective eye of the core development team).

What prompted this ode-to-extensions was an extension that I find particularly useful. Called Linky, this simple extension adds an extra menu item to the context menu when you right-click on a selected portion of a web page. You can select a portion of a page (a paragraph with a few links, a group of linked thumbnail images, or a list of links), right-click, and choose Open Selected Links in Tabs.

This simple feature is a great time-saver (what I’m saving my time up for, I’m not sure).

There over 100 other extensions available as well.


Luna Blue Theme (v0.2) for Mozilla Thunderbird Update

Update: Luna Blue Theme (v0.3) for Mozilla Thunderbird is now available.

I’ve prepared an update for the Luna Blue theme for Mozilla Thunderbird. This update will work with (and only with) the latest Thunderbird 0.4 release. If you haven’t updated to 0.4 yet, it’s worth it.

Zip Icon Download/Install Luna Blue (v0.2) for Mozilla Thunderbird 0.4

lunabluethunderbird_0_2.jar – 637Kb RAR File

Here are the changes and updates to the theme:

  • Added small toolbar icons to primary toolbar and compose toolbar
  • Fixed visual glitch with double shadow on status bar
  • Added contact list icon
  • Cleaned up some old icons that were no longer used
  • Lightened disabled toolbar icons (to 80% opacity)
  • New window layout icons in the General Options window
  • Minor updates to some of the box styles and borders in the main mail window (tree view, mail pane, and preview pane) [Note: this isn’t finished and has a few rough edged – however, I wanted to get a working release out for 0.4 ASAP]
  • New throbber – dropped the Windows logo throbber, which we should probably never have used, and added a new throbber based on Garrett LeSage’s excellent BlueCurve theme from Fedora linux (which is now my primary operating system).
  • Some new IMAP, Newsgroup icons, and secure icons that were missed in the first release (a few are still missing)
  • Cleaned up group headers in address book details
  • New Copy, Cut, and Paste icons in Message Compose toolbar
  • Update for new separate attachment inditactor in inbox pane (nice new touch in 0.4)
  • Icon for new Mark toolbar button

I’m not planning on going too much farthur with this theme as I’m more interested in working on refining the default theme rather than a niche (however large) theme.


Branding Mozilla: Towards Mozilla 2.0

Mozilla LizardI’ve been using and enjoying the products of the Mozilla project more and more lately. I’ve been hooked on Mozilla Firebird for a while, and my recent Mozilla Thunderbird theme was my first real contribution (if you could call it that) to the movement.

I’m very interested in the success of the project, and so I have written a short article outline some recommendations and ideas for branding Mozilla.

For those too lazy/busy to read the article (or those who understandably might value their time more than my words and ideas), here’s the 10-second version:

The Mozilla Project should adopt a simple, strong, consistent visual identity for the Mozilla products including consistent icons across applications that mesh with the host operating system.

Read the article in full and please feel free to comment in reply to this post.

Branding Mozilla: Towards Mozilla 2.0

Recommendations for the branding and visual identity of the Mozilla Foundation’s product and project line.

Luna Blue Theme for Mozilla Thunderbird – Development Version

I’ve put together a version of Chris Cook’s Luna Blue Firebird theme for Mozilla Thunderbird, the new Mozilla email client application.

We’ve borrowed heavily from Chris’ Firebird themes, so he deserves much of the credit.

This is a rough first version of the theme. There are many elements that are either missing or broken. We have most of the icons completed, but we still haven’t done the newsgroup icons. Also, since I don’t have much experience working with Mozilla themes, there are some elements we haven’t been able to figure out yet.

Since I haven’t found a version of Thunderbird with the DOM Inspector (and I’m too incompetent to build it myself), there are some elements I could use some help on. See this diagram of what I haven’t figured out yet, and let me know if you are able to help.

Feedback, suggestions, constructive criticism, and help are all welcome.

UPDATE: A new version of this theme has been released. See
Luna Blue Theme (v0.2) for Mozilla Thunderbird Update
for details.

Zip Icon Download/Install Luna Blue for Mozilla Thunderbird – Development Version

lunabluethunderbird.jar – 477Kb RAR File


Long-time readers (if they exist) might remember me criticizing the concept of themes and skins (see these two old posts Thoughts on Winamp3 and A discussion of ‘skins’ strangly free of sexual innuendo). You can read about my partial change of heart here: XUL: How I learned to love non-native GUIs.


Mozilla Firebird v0.6: I have a new default web browser

I use a lot of web browsers. I have six different browsers installed on my primary computer, and maybe ten more on other testing machines.

Of all of these, there is one primary browser. When I click on a link in an email or instant message, my primary browser will open it.

Years ago, Netscape 4 was my primary browser. Then, along came Internet Explorer 4, which was dramatically better than Netscape 4. In early 1998, IE4 became my primary web browser. Since then, it has been all IE – including version 5, 5.5, and up until today, 6.

There are other great browsers. Mozilla has had a great browser since before version 1.0. I used it regularly (the standards compliant rendering engine was great for testing web development work). It wasn’t enough to get to switch over entirely, though.

Then along came Phoenix. The browser started as a lean off-shoot of the Mozilla project. It became a great browser very fast. I started using it more and more with the version 0.5 beta release a few months ago. I really got hooked on the joys of using open-source software when a feature request I made was answered by a developer with a patch that same day. Still, Phoenix was in the relatively early beta stages and had some key features missing, incomplete, or broken.

Phoenix has been renamed Mozilla Firebird. The Mozilla project has announced that they will be making Mozilla Firebird the primary Mozilla browser (which means Netscape 8 could be based on Firebird, if that even matters anymore). Today, with the release of beta 0.6, Phoenix-come-Firebird is stable enough that I have made it my primary web browser, and I will secretly install in on my parents computer.

screenshot of Mozilla Firebird default browser setting

I have a few recommendations for anyone trying out this browser. The core browser is kept as clean and simple as possible (about a 6MB download) and additional functionality is handled through a nice extensions system (as opposed to just pilling everyones favourite feature into the core).


Mozilla catches a whiff of the user

thanks for slashdot for the mozilla graphic The latest build of the Mozilla project browser is released (version 0.9.7) and included, among many other improvements, on the What’s New list is the following:

  • If you type into the URL bar while a page is loading, your text is no longer overwritten when the page load completes. (Bug 15050)

This might not sound like a big deal, but it is the little touches like this that make software feel cruel or friendly to the end user. It’s also features like this that aren’t apparent while you’re building the software – but when you’re using the software.