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Taskfox: commanding the future of Firefox

By Barry Collins

Posted on 30 Mar 2009 at 09:42

Mozilla has revealed how it plans to integrate plain text commands directly into future versions of Firefox.

Dubbed Taskfox, the move sees Mozilla's Ubiquity project become part of the browser itself, allowing users to type commands directly into the address bar.

You can, for example, type "map cleveland street london" to bring up a Google Map of that location, or "amazon-search the great gatsby" to find that book on Amazon, without visiting the website directly.

Ubiquity, which has been available as a Firefox extension for several months, already has more than 1,200 commands in its library and over 200,000 regular users, according to Mozilla.

Mozilla claims that power could be put to good use. "The basic idea behind Taskfox is simple: take the time-saving ideas behind Ubiquity, and put them into Firefox," the Taskfox wiki claims.

"That means allowing users to quickly access information and perform tasks that would normally take several steps to complete."

Design mock-ups

Mozilla's designers have produced several mock-ups showing how Taskfox could be integrated into the browser.

Three separate treatments show what happens when commands are typed directly into the address (or "Awesome") bar, but Mozilla's design team concede this could cause confusion. "How do you get back to the normal URL-going state of the Awesome bar?" the designers wonder aloud on in a blog post.

"Presumably you could hit 'escape' or 'backspace' to go back, or there can be the standard 'x' in the URL bar - but is that discoverable enough?"

Mozilla is also working on treatments for integrating Taskfox into the top-right hand search bar, or via mouse gestures.

Big plans

The TaskFox integration is part of Mozilla's long-term plan to raise Firefox's game.

Firefox architect Mike Connor recently told PC Pro how the organisation plans to incorporate more labs projects into the browser.

"All the stuff we set out to do in the beginning is already done," Connor, said.

"We're looking at where we can incorporate features from Mozilla Labs. We're looking for more pure innovation than just incrementally getting better. It's nice to try stuff where we don't know if it's going to work."

Top five stories on PC Pro:

1. Security guru: don't surf the web with Firefox

2. Google offers free music downloads

3. Asus brings DVD drives to netbooks

4. Skype arrives on iPhone

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