Prototype Interfaces For Firefox Proposed

After decades of GUI development and inspiration from Google and other search engines, Mozilla suggests the command line is again part of the interface discussion.
On the Mozilla Labs blog, Alexander Faaborg, a user experience specialist at the Mozilla Corporation, has posted several mockups of possible interface improvements for the Firefox Web browser.

Faaborg stresses, "[W]e currently have no official plans to implement these features for Firefox 3," even as he concedes that a prototype extension may eventually be released through Mozilla Labs.

After elaborating on the respective merits of command line and graphic user interfaces (GUI), Faaborg laments that interfaces combining the best aspects of these two approaches "have gone largely unexplored by interaction designers," and he proposes several possible Firefox actions that could be implemented using just such an interface.

The fact that the command line is again part of the interface discussion, after decades of GUI development, owes a lot to Google and other search engines.

As Aza Raskin, president of interface and software design company Humanized, observed earlier this year on his company's blog, "The move back to language started with Web search engines in general, with Google placing the capstone when its name became the house-hold verb for 'typing to find what you want.' In fact, Googling is almost always faster then wading through my bookmark menu (which says there is something wrong with using menus as a mechanism for accessing bookmarks)."

So it is that Faaborg has suggested a keyboard-based Web search interface mockup, to hasten online searches. And he provides examples of how switching between browser tabs and navigating through browser history links might work using an interface that relies both on text input and mouse interaction.

"Just because the command line predated the graphical user interface doesn't mean interfaces based on windows, icons, menus and pointers are always superior to interfaces based around using the keyboard for input," said Faaborg.

The command line: It's the new black.

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