Let it be known that while I’ve generally been somewhat sceptical about new and improved UI designs, I’ve at least tried to approach them with open mind.

In many cases, I’ve found them quite interesting. For example, when Firefox decided to move from alert windows to full-page error messages, I went digging for the option to nuke them - only to find out later that the full-page error messages make sense. I hated MSIE’s approach that replaced the 404 pages completely; Firefox displays the server’s error pages and just displays the full-page error message if the server burps completely. Also, I was quite sceptical about the idea that Firefox should move the tabs above the address bar, but I’ve so far not found it too distracting; at least they have had the decency to not put the tabs in the title bar or above menus, like ahem some browsers. That would be just plain wrong. In its current form, it’s not that bad. I even haven’t so far disabled the Safariesque brain damage of combined reload/stop button, even when it’s also kind of wrong, because most of the time, I hit Esc or Ctrl+R on keyboard anyway.

This isn’t to say that Firefox is perfect in all respects. Nope.

One of Firefox 4’s improvements was the add-on bar. This is currently a little bit broken, for example: the add-on bar was supposed to replace the normal status bar, and the status messages appear only when they’re actually warranted, but the fact remains that the add-on bar is still there - which means we get the status messages and add-on buttons. I like the new status notification system, but Firefox designers have yet to figure out where to put the add-on buttons.

But this isn’t the worst thing. Firefox 4 decided to use the menu button idea from Microsoft Office; nowadays, I think I need to heartily recommend people to move to OS X and Linux, which have desktop environments where people have actual human interface guidelines that dictate where the menus should be. OS X users still get normal menus, as do the Linux users. Come here! You know you want to!

But an unforgivable “improvement” slipped in in Firefox 6. I wasn’t going to whine about it, but this thing isn’t dictated by any HIG to be Evil, and thus, Firefox UI designers have just went ahead and implemented it, because everyone else does it. I don’t think Firefox designers should follow the lead when everyone else is wrong.

What was this improvement? Oh, it was this:

Blurry URL bar

I have a honest question to the geniuses who came up with this idea. Have they ever heard of space-age devices called “video projectors”?

Imagine you’re sitting in a class or conference room where someone’s showing awesome websites to people. Your only choice is to soak the experience in and be amazed right now, because due to the stupidity of the technology at hand, it’s unlikely you’re ever going to see this website again. Oh, you might manage to Google it, but that’s hit and miss.

Why can’t you go to the site? Because the guy manning the projector is using MSIE 7, and you can’t see the bloody URL. With the greyed-out URLs, I’m lucky if I can see the URLs when I’m sitting in the front row.

And now, this horrible monstrosity has found its way to Firefox. I have glasses. Just give me black URLs on white background.

Perhaps Firefox needs some sort of a “projector mode”.that automatically disables this ugliness, and actually makes use of the media="projector" stylesheets. We can hope.

Meanwhile, I suggest everyone who makes presentations to disable this rubbish. Go to about:config and set browser.urlbar.formatting.enabled to false.

Yes, this is just about the only Firefox feature I’ve really needed to disable via about:config right now. I’ve heard of people who stubbornly go disable half of the Firefox functionality so they can get the Firefox 2.0 experience. I don’t believe in that; there has been a lot of really helpful and good features in newer Firefox versions. (Awesomebar is actually awesome.)