Archive for July, 2009

Firebug 1.4.0

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

The Firebug team is proud to announce the release of Firebug 1.4.0!

Starting back in Oct. 2008 with Firebug 1.4a1, the Firebug team added features (and yes we removed a few) through 1.4a31 in June, 2009. Then we worked on bugs through 11 beta releases to 1.4b11 (ok that one was today). Developed on Firefox 3.0 and tested on Firefox 3.5, Firebug 1.4 is now our recommended release for all users. We will upgrade existing users of 1.3 on Firefox 3.0. (All versions of Firebug are available from, in case you want to stick with 1.3 or you need to use an older version of Firefox).

Firebug 1.4 is a true community achievement. We have had contributions from many developers and a few designers, with additions both large and small. The Firebug user interface has been translated into many different languages. We got excellent, timely help from the Firefox development team. And unheralded but sincerely appreciated, we have hundreds of users who take time to write bug reports and create test cases critical to making this complex software useful.

Over the next week we hope to give you more information about the changes in 1.4, Here are some of the highlights as a teaser:

Some more details are available in the release notes.


Followup on the newsgroup please.

Firebug 1.4b11 and 1.5a15

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Turns out we missed a few patches from 1.5 that we need for 1.4, so the debugger continue button broke. So we have 1.4b11 and 1.5a15. Also fixed:


Please post followups to the newsgroup

Firebug 1.5a14 and 1.4b10

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

To finish up 1.4 we have been cleaning up the icons. This resulted in Firebug 1.5a14, and 1.4b10.

  • For Linux and Mac users, you should see a new set of debug icons that Windows users have had for a while.
  • All platforms have a new inspect icon from Templarian: Templarian_inspector
  • The Break On Next is now disabled in panels other than Script. breakNextDisabled

Note that the Continue icon will show up in all panels if you stop on a break point. continueActive. In Firebug 1.5, we plan to have break on next in all panels, doing different cool things.

Please install these versions and try them. We do 1.4.0 tomorrow morning.  Really. 😉


Please post followups to the newsgroup.

Firebug 1.5a12

Monday, July 13th, 2009 has Firebug 1.5a12. It includes:

  • New ‘off’ icon for Windows
  • Fix for issue 1697, keep the console scolled to the bottom,
  • updates for Hungarian, Dutch, French, Danish, and Czech locales.
  • (internal) Implements fbs.forceGarbageCollection() for Firebug developers to debug GC issues. (not for 1.4).

Unheralded Firebug 1.5a11 included:

  • Implement preference “allPagesActivation” to fix issue 1968, Firebug does not stay minimized
  • (internal) Remove Firebug.isClosed() method, there is no placement==”none” now.
  • (internal) remove externalBrowser, not used in 1.4


Please followup in the newsgroup.

The Future of Design and Software Development at NPUC 2009

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Ok shameless plug time. I won’t be working on Firebug Thursday, July 9, because my department at IBM Almaden Research is hosting our New Paradigms in Using Computers workshop. The theme this year is related to Firebug: “The Future of Design and Software Development“.  We have six invited speakers from leading academic and industrial research groups covering a wide variety of topics and ideas.

IBM will have streaming video from most of the talks if you want to check it out. Starts at 9am Pacific time.

Then on Friday maybe we’ll get 1.4.0…


Adds User-Agent Stylesheet Editing to Firefox

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

If anyone is interested in a small but high impact project involving Firefox C++ code for Firebug, take a look at [Bug 503007] Provide Javascript Access to User Agent Style Sheets. It involves extending an existing interface, so most of the work is in understanding how to create a patch consistent with the Mozilla coding requirements and in creating the matching test cases to pass review.

The feature would allow Firebug and Chromebug to support User Agent Style sheets properly.


1.4 Issue Summary Revisited

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Since the 1.4 Issue Summary post we’ve made great progress.   The remaining issues:

  • Some users are confused by or object to the use of the [X] icon. Resolution : We understand the issue and we’ve implemented a plan, adding a glaring extra word — “Off” — to the UI and a new tooltip to warn users of the change in behavior of the icon.
  • Minimize does not stick. Resolution: actually there were a lot of related issues around minimize and the external window behavior; all we know about are fixed.
  • Ajax calls sometimes generate bizarre messages. Resolution: we need help from Firefox on this one.

All of the fixes are in Firebug 1.4b7 and 1.5a10.

The only thing between here and 1.4.0 is uncertainty: did these recent fixes introduce more bugs? Are there bugs as yet unreported that impact many users most of the time? We don’t know the answers and we don’t have any way to find out.  In the next day or so we’ll send out 1.4.0 and find out…


Please post followups to the newsgroup.

Evolving the User Interface: 1.3 -> 1.5 -> 1.4

Monday, July 6th, 2009

The 1.4 user interface design has many improvements. One improvement has caused some confusion as users of Firebug 1.3 try Firebug 1.4b: the Firebug window-control icons.

The controls from 1.4b are arranged to be consistent with operating systems windows. 1.4Design-WindowButtons From the left the buttons are minimize, detach (so I can maximize), and close. For the developers and alpha testers, it seemed like the design was a step forward. It’s possible that some of the alpha testers were confused, but did not know if the problem was design or bugs.

But now look back at the 1.3 controls. There are just two, 1.3Design-WindowButtons detach and hmm, well that [X] thing. By position and shape, the icon looks like the 1.4 ‘close’ but its implementation in 1.3 was 1.4 ‘minimize’. Naturally users expected the [X] button in 1.4 to minimize. When it closed they thought “arggh 1.4b is broken!”

So now we are in a jam: we can’t be consistent with both user expectations from 1.3 and normal practice.

Here is a proposed path out of this jam. 1.5OffButton Firebug 1.5a9 uses the same icons as 1.4b, but orders them like 1.3 and explicitly calls out the new one. So on the far right we have minimize like 1.3 but the button now looks like minimize. Next in the middle is detach aka maximize, also a new icon. Same position, new graphic. Then comes the troublesome [X] close icon.  We want the same icon, different meaning.  So, in addition to moving it out of the 1.3 position, we add explicit text, yelling to users that it means “off” not minimize.

Yes, this is a clunky solution and it’s not consistent with the visual order we want.  But I propose we ship 1.4.0 with this clunky arrangement because it will dramatically improve the chances that users will understand the new meaning of the buttons. When 1.4.0 is released all current 1.3 users will be upgraded (if they accept it).  Then at 1.4.1 we swap the order of the button, leaving the icons (and function) unchanged. Finally at 1.4.2, we lose the “Off” label.

Two foot notes:

  1. The meaning of the icon [X] varies across and within applications. For example, in Firefox [X] on a tab closes the tab, the page is gone. But on say, the bookmark side bar, [X] means hide the UI but don’t stop managing bookmarks.  From this perspective, both the 1.3 and 1.4 implementations of [X] are consistent with other applications.
  2. In revisiting 1.3 to understand this issue, I was reminded of how clunky the 1.3 UI design is. I’m now more confident of our choices in 1.4.


Please followup in the newsgroup.

Firebug 1.5a9: window controls change

Monday, July 6th, 2009 has Firebug 1.5X.0a9, a pre-view of changes we want to put into 1.4:

  • The windowing control buttons on the upper right are re-ordered and one is now explicitly called “Off”.1.5OffButton
  • When detached (open in new or external window), closing the window (with the operating system control), now changes the placement from “detached” to “minimized”. So the window closes but the page remains active.
  • When detached, Firebug has a “[X] Off” button like the in-browser form.  It deactivates the currently selected web page.
  • The “On for all pages” mode (from the right click status bar icon menu), now disables “Off”, to ensure “always on” means “always on”
  • If Firebug is minimized in the browser and you open a new browser window, Firebug will be minimized in the new browser as well.

In addition this release has a fix for Issue 1970 (“Errors inside an XmlHttpRequest.onReadyStateChange fail silently”). However, there is an intermettint problem that results in a permissions exception that we are working on.


Please post followups in the newsgroup.

1.4 Issues Summary

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

We’ve had a lot of discussion on the newsgroup about Firebug 1.4. As with every new UI, we have a mix of documentation problems, design problems, and bugs.  Here is my attempt to summarize the main problems, so folks know what I heard, as well as what I did not get.

  • Some users have “unstable” URLs: the site they are debugging has a constant domain, but variable URLs. Resolved: Implemented Activate Same Domain.
  • 1.4 does not automatically reload, but 1.3 did. Resolution: need better documentation, may be add option to auto-reload.
  • Some users are confused by or object to the use of the [X] icon. Resolution: issues are still unclear to me.
  • Minimize does not stick. Resolution: see issue 1968. I’ll take a stab at a solution but no promises.
  • AJAX errors. Two pair:  onDataAvailable+onStartRequest exceptions (Resolution: see issue 1879 fixed) and onreadystatecompleted+onsuccess no exceptions. (Resolution: see issue 1970. I’ve worked out a fix, but it’s not ready to commit).
  • CSS Edit problems. All of the symptoms are similar to issue 1894, but the reports keep coming. Some seem related to Show User Agent CSS. Resolution: still looking for a test case; may remove Show User Agent CSS option.

So this is my view of the major issues. I’ve left out a lot of complaints of the form “1.3 was better”, since we don’t have development resources to revisit the 1.4 design at this point.  If I’ve missed some critical, show-stopping bugs or constructive suggestions on how 1.4 can be improved easily, please let me know.

We’ll go ahead with 1.4.0 this week, and next week we will pick up more localizations and bug fixes for 1.4.1.  At that point I expect most activity will shift to 1.5.


Please post followups to the newsgroup.