Unified Extensions Button UI/UX/Usability Tweaks

G’Day Guys,

I don’t personally feel the exact same way as this post (The new Unified Extensions Button in Firefox 109) about the new Unified Extensions Button being redundant in the face of the Overflow Menu.
With the way I used the Overflow Menu with extensions, it’s more a complete replacement for me than it is an unnecessary extra.
Though I can understand how it could be annoying to have to have two buttons now where before one was sufficient, for people who also wanted some in-built browser buttons in there as well.

Perhaps the workaround there would be for users to hide the overflow menu entirely and develop extensions that just wrapped those features they wanted accessible, which is not ideal, but would be a way to re-unify those interfaces.
Better still if there were a browser-based toggle to emulate the previous ‘Unified Various Extra Stuff Menu’ behaviour by including both extensions and built-in’s somewhere, without actually requiring a full-fledged extension wrapper (if it’s even possible) for each browser feature.

However, what I do miss is the control I had over how easy it was to access certain things in certain ways.
In that sense, the Unified Extensions menu feels like a definite regression.


For some background, I categorise my extensions into basically three groups, based on how I use them.

I have ‘passive’ extensions, which I don’t need to actually interact with via toolbar buttons because they’re on the right click menu or otherwise make themselves available (or just go about their business) in-context without me having to go look for them (ie: Search By Image, Augmented Steam, NoCoin, etc).
I also have ‘active’ extensions, which I want to frequently click into and interact with via their icon in the context of the toolbar (ie: OneTab, PushBullet, etc).
I also have ‘hybrid’ extensions, which I do want to have readily available to click into and interact with via the toolbar, but would only do so infrequently so I wouldn’t want them constantly visible like an ‘active’ one (ie: Tampermonkey, Dark Reader, etc).

The ‘old’ way I had the browser accommodate these distinctions was pretty simple and intuitive, and being able to shuffle things around like this to make them easier to use or less unnecessarily visible, is actually how I came to have those categorised distinctions in the first place.
‘active’ extensions lived either on the toolbar itself, or I dragged them to the ‘top’ of the overflow menu.
‘hybrid’ extensions lived below the ‘active’ ones in the overflow menu.
‘passive’ extensions lived in the ‘Manage Extensions’ page and were dragged out of the overflow menu/toolbar into the hinterland of unused icons on the toolbar customisation page unless they did something like dynamically update their icon with information I might want to see at a glance, in which case they’d live at the bottom of the overflow menu.

This was entirely possible with my relatively respectable extension count of 34 because the breakdown is something like:
Active: 4
Hybrid: 9
Passive: 21

Which made for a reasonably minimalist toolbar with few extension-related icons, and a quite compact Overflow Menu where I could access everything I needed to at a glance, without needing to go ‘searching’ for the one I was after.


The new Unified Extensions button does not currently allow for this level of control/categorisation/organisation/usability/etc.

All those ‘hybrid’ extensions are now hopelessly intermixed with the ‘passive’ ones, and the ‘active’ ones I would typically have preferred to leave at the top of the overflow menu are either now also buried among the ‘passive’ bunch, or I am forced to instead pin to the toolbar.
To make matters worse, nothing in the extension menu is predictably placed, because it sorts them in a strange way that I am yet to determine the logic behind.
As far as I’ve gotten is “First it’s ones you can click to do something with, then ones you can’t”, which doesn’t explain why (for example) these extensions are in this order:


It is definitely not alphabetical, not even Permissions -> Alphabetical (in as much as it actually shows me any differences between permissions).
Perhaps it’s the order I added them in, but that doesn’t seem correct either unless they were installed in a random order when syncing my settings onto my new machine.

Each extension also takes up WAY more vertical space than entries in the overflow menu:

Which, combined with less ability to be selective about which are seen and in what order, makes the menu very cumbersome to use.
You can’t even start typing into a textbox to filter or jump to what you know you’re looking for, you just have to scroll to the right bit or scan for the (hopefully sufficiently distinct enough) icon.


My suggestion(s) to make the new menu more useful, more user friendly, and less cumbersome, would be to do some (or all) of the following:

  1. Allow users to re-order the way extensions appear in the list. So they can choose for themselves what order they appear in.
  2. Allow users to ‘categorise’ extensions in the list, and display those extensions in collapsible categories, the default collapsed-ness for which could be user-specified, even if it was just “remember whether the user had it collapsed or not and reapply”.
    This sort of thing would even allow for a potentially easier way to ‘surface’ extensions that needed attention by having a pseudo-category that was always at the top, and temporarily showing them in there until the permission was granted or whatever.
    Perhaps some Dynamic ‘OOB’ categories could even help explain how the current sort ordering works…
    Users could then group and hide/show extensions however they wanted to facilitate their daily usage.
  3. Allow users to filter the extensions list, by providing a “extension name like {input}” box they can type into.
  4. Scale the Extensions List to make the entries closer to the size of the Overflow Menu (currently they’re like 2x the height or something), or provide some way for users to be able to set their own preferred scaling (or make it relative to something users can already pick the scaling for, but I don’t know what, if anything, that might be).
  5. Remove the ‘Extensions’ heading for the menu, as it consumes way more space than it pays back in usefulness… Unless ‘filtering’ (#3) is to be added, then potentially it could be kept alongside it, but would still need to take up less space even with the filter input alongside it.
  6. Allow users to ‘Re-Unify’ the list of extensions and the list of ‘other stuff’ that can be put into the Overflow Menu, though again I’m not sure if/how that could technically be accomplished.
  7. Add a ‘shortcut’ to the ‘options’ menu. ie: Add this:

    to here:
    Screenshot of the menu with similar entries to the one from the 'Manage Extensions' page, on the Unified Extensions Menu
    Since Remove and Report are there as well anyway.
  8. Add a standardised ‘back’ button to more easily be able to return to the extensions menu, eg:
    Screenshot showing the 'Library' browser feature providing a 'back' button when accessed via the Overflow Menu
    Or even have the Unified Extensions button do that if an extension is already open (currently it’ll just close the extension window, but so does clicking literally anywhere else).

Also, I hope it would go without saying, but for these user-specified configurations (categories, orderings, scaling, etc), I would like to see them synced through FFSync.
Since extensions are already ‘in-scope’ to a degree for the sync, I’d hate to see FFSync be overlooked/regress extensions-wise, as the Unified Extensions button became fleshed out more.
I’d also like to see more basic things added to FFSync, like the default search provider setting and whatnot, but that’s a different story.


In conclusion… I’m not exactly opposed to the Unified Extensions button, but while adding a new button to address a technical limitation with adding new security based features (which it sounds like was the reason) is an understandable necessary evil…

Please don’t stop short of making it as useful or more so than the previous features/functionality it’s replacing.
Particularly since we can’t choose not to switch.
Particularly since the new security feature is something that will be interacted with and relevant far less often (only really if/when it changes), than people actually trying to use the extensions.

Cheers.

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