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Firefly

August 17th, 2007 at 4:00am — Rating: Firefox pointFirefox pointFirefox pointFirefox no pointFirefox no pointLink

No, I'm not talking about the Firefly series that was canceled, I'm talking about the Firefox extension that simulates the Windows Explorer.

Overview

FireFly takes the familiar tree file structure that everyone is used to with Linux and Windows and includes it into an extension that is familiar to users no matter what operating system they use.

Installation

After installing FireFly, I was excited to try it out.

I have to admit that after I installed the extension, I immediately started looking for FireFly under the Tools menu. Unfortunately, it wasn't there. I was so accustomed to how the FireFTP extension worked, I thought it would appear in one window altogether.

I guess I should've read the developer overview on the Mozilla Firefox Addons page. That helped with how to find the extension, but as soon as I opened the extension using View > Sidebar > FireFly, I couldn't get the extension to work.

I was greeted with a blank tabbed window that said Folders and Transfers. Again, I had to look under the developer's notes to find out what I was missing. You have to define your drives in the options of the extension (see below)

FireFly Dialog Settings

If you are using Windows, you would type in "C:\" (without the quotes) and press the Add button. If there were others, you could add them as well for quick access while browsing.

As soon as the extension was properly configured, I proceeded to start looking over all the files on my hard drive. When I opened the root folder, I was in for a surprise.

Every click you make on a folder in the sidebar and if there wasn't an existing details view window open, it would create a new browser window. This is definitely a different way of accomplishing the same thing, but as I said above, it would be great if it was all contained in one browser window as opposed to one sidebar and one browser window. I completely understand the thinking, but as Jakob Nielsen would say, "It's kind of breaking the standard of what people are used to."

Features

Once everything is configured properly and you're a veteran to Windows Explorer, this extension is very easy to use.

Copying and moving files are supported, but they are functional through the Cut, Copy, and Paste that everyone is familiar with.

A nice feature I've been using a lot is the ability to split the browsing window into horizontal or vertical sections for browsing more than one directory at a time. It sure beats running 3-4 instances of Windows Explorer to copy or paste files.

The filtering on the browser window toolbar is a welcome feature as well. Type in your filename in the filter and FireFly will return the files that match your criteria. The filtering is also quite responsive on small directories. However, FireFly is not that agile on larger directories. I thought I'd put the extension to the test. I tried filtering on the Windows\system32 directory (we all know how big that can get) and it took a relatively long time to load the files.

Configuration

FireFly's configuration is one of the first things you need to visit before you actually start using the extension.

The configuration dialog can be accessed by Tools, then Addons. Select the FireFly extension in your list and click Options.

The dialog box should look like the image I posted above. Most of the details of the extension are taken care of, like the file types, but there are other detailed areas you may need to fill in before you start benefiting from this extension.

One thing I noticed was the red-colored files. There wasn't anything documented regarding this strange occurrence, but I was able to deduce that the red colored files were file types that could be double-clicked and executed immediately, either as a stand-alone program or if the extension was associated with a file type you defined in the configuration dialog box.

Conclusion

There are some rough edges and design issues that need smoothed out for FireFly to become one of the "OS-gang."

However, FireFly is a start in the right direction for creating an operating system using Firefox. The extension takes a familiar interface and makes it vendor-neutral across multiple OS's, which is an excellent selling point for the extension.

FireFly receives a rating of 3 out of 5.