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Dear Firefox, please fix the crappy Find UI already


Firefox is doing a lot of usability-related work recently. And really, it now sports a fairly usable UI. It's kind of sluggish at times, but it is my browser of choice, mainly for political reasons.

But one thing never fails to piss me off ... why does the Find function have to be so bad?

Many people use large monitors these days (and often, more than one). This means that we often have a large mass of text all over the screen, but we want to find just a single word. This is a common function, and both Opera and Chrome have taken major strides in order to make it usable.

Not only is Firefox's native Find unusable, I couldn't even find an extension that emulates Opera's far superior functionality. And if you're wondering what I'm talking about and why is it so different, just keep on reading after the jump and see screenshots of all three modern browsers doing a Find operation on the same Wikipedia page. You be the judge.


This is our baseline for this comparison. What you're looking at here is a standard Wikipedia page at default zoom level on a 22" monitor. Can you see that word I'm searching for? It's way down there, at the bottom. If you look for it carefully, you can spot it now. But how easy is it to spot the next instance when the cursor jumps to it?

Firefox only highlights one instance of the word every time, and just jumps to the next when you hit Enter again. You then have to visually scan the entire window again and hunt for the highlighted text; sometimes this is easy, and sometimes it's really hard -- depending on the layout and the selection of colors on the page. Even MS Word 2010 does better than this, and it's not even a browser (I mean, it's meant for writing rather than reading).


One step up is Chrome's interface. The major change here is that Chrome highlights all instances of the word on the current view, so you can easily see them at a glance. With Chrome, it doesn't feel like the text focus is jumping all over the screen. You know where it's going to go. Another nice touch (which you cannot see on the screenshot) is that the scrollbar shows nice, bright indicators wherever the word appears, also outside your current view. So if there's another instance of the word way down the page, you can instantly tell even before you jump to it. This is a nice, predictable interface.


And finally, Opera really sets the gold standard for Find. As with Chrome, the text you're looking for is highlighted, and the current instance is "extra highlighted". But one major difference is that as soon as you hit Find, the page dims. This way, every instance of the word really pops out and is super-visible. No way you're going to miss your text with Opera.

So Mozilla, whaddya say? With Firefox 4 coming out soon, is there a chance for one more UI fix?

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Tags: browsers, chrome, firefox, opera, usability