Photon Engineering Newsletter #5

Justin Dolske dolske at
Thu Jun 8 23:14:04 UTC 2017


Time for a solid update #5 <>!
So far the Photon project appears to be well on track — our work is scoped
to what we think is achievable for Firefox 57, and we’re generally fixing
bugs at a good rate.
Search Box?

If you’ve been paying attention to any of the Photon mockups and design
specs floating around, you may have noticed the conspicuous absence of the
search box in the toolbar (i.e. there’s just a location field and buttons).
What’s up with that?

[image: win10mock]

For some time now, we’ve been working on improving searching directly from
the location field. You can already search from there by simply entering
your search term, see search suggestions as you type, and click the icons
of other search engines to do a one-off search with them instead of your
default. [The one-off search feature has been in Nightly for a while, and
will start shipping in Firefox 55.] The location bar now can do everything
the search box can, and more. So at this point the search box is a
vestigial leftover from how browsers worked 10+ years ago, and we’d like to
remove it to reclaim precious UI space. Today, no other major browser ships
with both a location field and search box.

That said, we’re being careful about understanding the impact of removing
the search box, since it’s been such a long-standing feature. We’re
currently running a series of user studies to make sure we understand how
users search, and that the unified search/location bar meets their needs.
And since Mozilla works closely with our search engine partners, we also
want to make sure any changes to how users search is not a surprise.

Finally, I should note that this is about removing the search box as the
default for _new_ Firefox users. Photon won’t be removing the search box
entirely, you’ll still be able to add it back through Customize Mode if you
so desire. (Please put down your pitchforks and torches. Thank you.) We’re
still discussing what to do for existing users… There’s a trade-off between
proving a fresh, clean, and modern experience as part of the upgrade to
Photon (especially for users who haven’t been using the search box), and
removing a UI element that some people have come to expect and use.

Recent Changes

   - Hamburger panel is now feature complete!
      - An exit/quit <>
      menu item was added (except on macOS, as the native menubar handles this).
      - A restyled zoom control
      <> was added.
      - One small feature-not-yet-complete: the library subview is reusing
      the same content as the library panel, and so won’t be complete until the
      library panel itself is complete.
      - A number of smaller bugs and regressions fixed.
   - Initial version of the new Library panel
   <> has landed
      - It still needs a lot of work, items are missing, and the styling
      isn’t done. Landing this early allows us to unblock work in
other areas of
      Photon (notably animations) that need to interact with this button.
      - We haven’t placed it into the toolbar by default yet. Until we do
      so, if you want to play with it you’ll need to manually add it from
      Customization mode.
   - We’re getting ready to enable the Photon structure pref by default on
   Nightly, and are just fixing the last tests so that everything is green on
   our CI infrastructure. Soon!


   - Landed a patch <>
   that allows us to move more of our animations to the compositor and off of
   the main thread. Previously, this optimization was only allowed when the
   item’s width was narrower than the window, now it’s based on available
   area. (Our animations are using very wide sprite sheet “filmstrips” which
   required this — more about this in a future update).
   - Work continues on animations for downloads toolbar button, stop/reload
   button, and page loading indicator. The first two have gone up for review,
   and unfortunately we found some issues with the plan for the downloads
   button which requires further work.


   - Finalized spec
   <> for
   the preferences reorg version 2. The team will now begin implementation of
   the changes.
   - The team is working on improving search highlighting in
   about:preferences to include sub-dialogs and fixing some highlight/tooltip
   - The spec for Search behavior
   <> is
   also being finalized.

Visual redesign:

   - One of the most obvious changes this week was the removal of the
   window drag space <>
   above the tabs. The tabs are now flush with the top of the window. To allow
   for dragging the window, we’ve increased the space to the left of the first
   - Fixed some bugs with the appearance of the back button
   <>, permission icons
   <>, and bookmark
   items <>.


   - Enabled the basic onboarding overlay on about:newtab
   <> and about:home
   <>. Now you can see
   a little fox icon on the top-left corner on about:newtab and about:home on
   Nightly! (Here’s the full spec
   for what will eventually be implemented. We’re working on getting the first
   version ready for Firefox 56.)
   - Finished creating the message architecture
   <> so that the
   Auto-migration code can talk with Activity Stream


   - Even more tests for sync reflows, covering the Photon menu and its
   subview transitions
   - We now have a test checking which JS components and modules are loaded
   <> at which phase of
   startup, and started taking things off app-startup
   <>. These tests help
   ensure we don’t accidentally regress improvements to Firefox startup… We’ve
   already made some fixes where code that was supposed to load lazily was
   being loaded during startup, and these tests will catch that.

That’s all for this week!

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