May 21, 2010

Fennec 1.1 - Portrait Browsing

Firefox 1.1 on Maemo lets you browse with your phone in a portrait orientation as well as landscape.

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The browser will switch orientations automatically as you reposition the phone, as you would expect. Some browser screens are the same, only taller; others change their layout slightly to better fit the screen on which they find themselves, such as the tools screens.


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If you'd like to lock the screen orientation - say you're lying down but want to read in portrait:

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you can use the standard Maemo screen orientation lock key-combination to do so: Ctrl-Shift-O.

Posted by madhava at 02:25 PM

Fennec 1.1 - Form Autocomplete

Firefox tries everywhere it can to minimize the amount you have to type; this is especially true on mobile devices, where typing is usually so much harder than on a full-scale keyboard. In Firefox 1.1 on mobile devices like the N900, we've added a finger-friendly version of something you're used to on the desktop: form field autocompletion. Using an algorithm similar to the one that powers the awesome bar, Firefox will suggest entries appropriate for the form field you're based on what you've entered before. For forms you use a lot – checking into a flight, entering your address – a single tap can replace a lot of messing around with a keyboard.

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One twist that makes this even more helpful is that the Weave Browser Sync add-on will now synchronize form autocomplete data, with the result that Firefox on your mobile can help you complete forms that you've only ever worked with on your desktop computer before. With sync, you don't need to wear-in Firefox on your mobile - it can provide as much help as Firefox on your desktop system already does.

Posted by madhava at 12:23 PM

May 13, 2010

Fennec 1.1 - n900 zoom buttons

One of the most requested features after we released Firefox on Maemo (Fennec) 1.0 was for a way to "free-form" zoom. Fennec already supported what I call a "structured zoom" - that is, double-tapping that zooms to fit the part of page structure (a column of text, an image) that you're tapping on. That method doesn't help you in every circumstance, though, and that's where a free-form or arbitrary zoom mechanism is useful.

Devices that support multitouch almost all now use the pinch-to-zoom gesture for this, and that's what Fennec will do on such devices as well. The Nokia N900, though, is single touch only, so for version 1.1, Fennec makes use of the device's rocker button to allow free-form zooming in and out:

in landscape
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and in portrait
portrait_annotated

Two interesting things!

  1. The zoom rate isn't constant as you zoom in and out. If it were, the change in zoom level would seem tiny when you're zoomed all the way out, but huge when you're very zoomed in.
  2. The rocker button adjusts itself for whether you're holding the phone in landscape or portrait to maintain natural increase/decrease mappings with up/down and left/right (for LTR languages, anyway). See the photos above for an illustration.

Ideally, you won't notice either of these things in day-to-day use; it should just feel like it works the way you'd expect.

Posted by madhava at 04:35 PM

Smart Tap in mobile Firefox 1.1

Mark Finkle, Vivien Nicolas, Felipe Gomes, and I have put together a blog post about Smart Tap, the technique we're using in mobile Firefox 1.1 to make tapping on small links, fields, and buttons much easier.

From a user's perspective, tapping on small targets should just work out the way you intended more of the time. Behind the scenes, there's a lot more going on to make it feel this way: a larger and up-shifted invisible tap region around the point of touch-contact; favoring higher z-ordered elements; and favoring visited links over unvisited ones, to name a few. Read the full post for the whole story, and let us know how you find it working when you try out 1.1.

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Posted by madhava at 10:50 AM