Panorama to be removed from Firefox, offered as an add-on

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 2, 2013
Updated • May 7, 2013

Are you using Firefox's Panorama feature? Mozilla designed it to provide Firefox users with better tab management capabilities. It allowed users to group tabs, only display groups in the tabbar and display all tabs in full screen on a separate page.

I ran into issues with the feature when it was first introduced back in 2010 because if the shortcut key that the feature was mapped to and what was likely a bug in Panorama.

What made things worse for me was that there was no option to disable Panorama. It was one of those things where the developers decided that Panorama was good and everyone had to live with it regardless of whether it is used or not. You can invoke Panorama currently with the Ctrl-Shift-E shortcut.

A recent bug listing on Bugzilla indicates that Mozilla plans to remove Panorama code from the Firefox web browser, move that code into an add-on and offer that add-on instead to users who are interested in the features Panorama makes available

Panorama has a very small user base and there's basically no chance that we will enable it by default or even improve its visibility and discoverability anytime soon. In its current form it is indeed quite fragile and causes intermittent test failures here and there when touching platform code. We're not going to spending any time on improving Panorama and its feature or its design and UX - thus it should just be removed from Firefox.

I myself still am a Panorama user and I don't think there's any replacement for it so I think the way to go is to provide an add-on that provides exactly the same feature. It is my belief that this will encourage contributors to help keep Panorama alive because it's much easier to contribute to a self-contained add-on.

I prepared a patch to remove Panorama from Firefox and moved all the code an add-on that provides the same functionality. The add-on does of course only work with the patch applied to a custom build.

Mozilla plans to install the Panorama extension automatically for existing Panorama users so that they ideally won't notice any difference and can continue using their tab groups.

I'm not using Panorama at all and won't really miss the feature. While I would have been ok with an on / off switch as well, turning the feature into an add-on is even a better solution as it will remove code from the browser that the majority of users do not make use of. Those who do can install the add-on or get the add-on automatically to continue using it. (via)


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  1. John Chase said on February 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I’ve created an extension which adds back the removed functionality. It’s preliminarily approved now, but should be fully approved by tomorrow. Feel free to check it out. Feedback is welcome! Cheers.

  2. Simon said on February 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I really don’t use the feature, but hopefully people won’t lose all their grouped tabs due to auto-updating Firefox.

    1. Simon said on February 7, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      “Mozilla plans to install the Panorama extension automatically for existing Panorama users so that they ideally won’t notice any difference and can continue using their tab groups.”
      That is what I get for taking a quick glance at articles.

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm

        Haha, do not worry, it happens to all of us at one point or the other.

  3. Jim said on February 4, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    There is similar functionality in KDE4. I wonder if that’s where the FF devs got the idea (or vice versa)? To be honest, I don’t use it in FF and I wish I could disable it in KDE (probably can, but I haven’t found where). If you’re working in KDE and accidentally move your mouse to the wrong spot, POOF, you get a display similar to Martin’s screenshot, except it is all your open windows. Your train of thought is disrupted and you now have to select the window you were previously working in to get back where you were. I guess someone, somewhere might find that functionality useful, but I have no problems with locating open windows via the taskbar. Likewise there are several ways to locate open tabs in FF. Definitely functionality for a niche market. Moving it to an add-on is a good idea. Props to the FF devs for stepping up and doing it. Question is, how much more code can and should be moved out like this?

    1. evenorbert said on February 4, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Jim, you can disable it in the System Settings, search for screen corners, or desktop corners (it will be in Window behavior). FF didn’t get it from KDE, it’s a completely different feature. In FF it is an excellent idea for creating different groups for eg. different projects or interests, so you don’t have 100 tabs in 1 window.

      I will miss this function, but I like the seperate add-on idea. Hopefully the community will improve it, because Panorama is one of the best function Firefox has ever had.

  4. Marc said on February 3, 2013 at 10:04 am

    It was about damn time. I just can’t find any compelling reason to add or keep code that affects browser performance and stability regarding a non-basic feature that’s barely used. Addons are the right platform for features that point to a specific nich of users. Not to mention the waste of human resources destinated to fix the issues caused by it, which may be better spent on other active development areas. I’m really hoping the incoming social features get implemented as an addon.

  5. citizenJ said on February 3, 2013 at 1:58 am

    I hope they restore the standard window object prior to Firefox 6. Panorama is the reason you can’t use external screenshot to capture scrolling pages because Firefox render everything on screen as a single object.

    1. Ken Saunders said on February 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      What do you mean by external screenshot? An external application?
      There are some add-ons that capture entire pages.

      I personally use Picozu Shooter.

      There are others of course.

  6. Anon said on February 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Hmm, I actually do use Panorama. But, since it’s going to be turned into an addon I am more than OK with this decision. I am not losing anything and people that doesn’t like it doesn’t need to use it, so yeah.
    I only hope that they don’t force me to reorganize all tabs like when the feature got some update some time ago. Other than that, cool decision.

    Anyway the feature does have uses, I used it as a mini-blank-session thing for browsing galleries or tab-intensive research, and to keep a coding session separate from the main one without having to use a separate profile (thus keeping my usual cookies and bookmarks in the same window). I also have a session exclusively for mozilla pages (including browser internals like about:config and such) , and I also have a “read it later” session there…I somehow notice such pages in there but forget about them if I bookmark them otherwise).
    But it is definitely addon material. Like, for users that use tree-style-tabs to organize their sessioning, it’d be redundant to have Panorama.

    I’d make the start page thingy an addon too, if I had to pick the next target for addonization.

  7. Transcontinental said on February 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I’ve never used Firefox’s Panorama feature. The development states as I read it here that the feature had few users. This does mean also that a working staff developed a feature on the basis of perhaps a few techies that mistaked their likings with those od a broad audience.

    Panorama is perceived as a gadget. I think it is. There are things to improve, not only the core code which is actively taken care of, but on everyday features browser users really need. Look at the add-ons where many users say the corresponding feature should be default ones.

    For instance, before bringing out social connections to Firefox, why not — which is easier and not incompatible — imagine the ease of use for instance of having default toolbar buttons for tasks often called and that basically require opening the Options panel ? Many other examples before going on a “Saturday Night Fever” approach of the fondamentals of a browser. IMO of course.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      I agree with you on this one. Instead of implementing features into Firefox, developers should consider releasing add-ons first if technically possible to see if demand is there before they implement it into the browser for all users, and especially so if they decide not to provide an off switch for that feature.

  8. Euroscept1C said on February 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Truly nice… Too much bloat lately.

  9. Ken Saunders said on February 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    There are several features that were initially add-ons and made default (lightweight themes for example).
    They should be returned as well.

  10. Sören Hentzschel said on February 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Martin,

    the link “ran into issues with the feature” leads to wp-admin… ;-)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 2, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks Sören, corrected.

  11. ank91 said on February 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    FIREFOX v18.0.2 is out?????
    true or not?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Does not look that way. Mozilla is testing 18.0.2 to fix reported crashes on Facebook.

      1. ank91 said on February 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

        sorry but many {pirates} website is providing links to download v18.0.2.
        you can search on google too.
        and a download link to mozilla server also has been shared on dl4all.
        i m confused.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on February 3, 2013 at 10:22 am

        It is a test build, not the final version.

  12. lainiwaku said on February 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm
    1. Caspy7 said on February 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Interesting. Reminds me a bit of what Opera did with keeping the management in the browser UI (“stacks” or something?) rather than making the user leave to go to a different management interface.

      The original designer of Panorama had a vision that tabs could be shared between windows (something not yet technically possible at the time) and perhaps also use the interface to share with friends or other computers of yours.

      There were some cool ideas and I’d kinda still hope that there would be a future evolution of the tab management paradigm that would be more usable but encompass some of these ideas.
      I keep too many tabs open (and multiple windows) so the idea appeals to me.

  13. meth said on February 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    via techdow again, yay

  14. Sam said on February 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Panorama is the only reason I use Firefox over Chrome.

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