Firefox's new download manager will receive a bunch of improvements

Martin Brinkmann
May 1, 2013
Updated • May 4, 2013

Mozilla introduced the new download panel in Firefox 20. It replaced the web browser's previous download manager, and the core difference between the two was the position of the download information in the interface and the type of information that is displayed to the user.

The new download dialog displays a single icon in Firefox's toolbar that indicates whether a download is happening or not. It displays the time that is remaining for all downloads that are currently running. A click reveals the last three downloads in the interface with no option to display more downloads or additional information other than the file name, size, domain it is downloaded from, and the time the download was started. A click on the show downloads button opens the library that is displaying all downloads in the browser.

The old Firefox download manager opened in its own window where it displayed all downloads on a single page instead.

firefox new download manager

Anyway, the release of the new feature to the stable channel was criticized by part of the browser's user base for a number of reasons: from the limited number of downloads displayed in the panel to missing information to missing warning messages when downloads run and you close the browser.

Mozilla developer Marco Bonardo has published a list of changes that will come to the new download panel in the Firefox web browser in the near future. It addresses many issues that users of the browser have with it, and while it can't fix them all due to the nature of the panel, it can fix the majority of them.

Priority improvements:

  • Notify ongoing downloads when closing the browser (bug 851774)
  • Increase number of downloads in the panel (bug 780837)
  • Reintroduce speed for each download (bug 812894)
  • Make multi-selection commands work properly (bug 844606)
  • Properly handle removed files in the UI (bug 726451)
  • Add back referrer support  (bug 829201)
  • Undetermined progress indicator when only unknown size downloads are in-progress

The improvement address core issues like the fixed number of downloads displayed in the panel or the missing transfer speed indicators for individual downloads.

It is not clear when the improvements will find their way into the browser though. As Marco notes, Mozilla is low on resources right now so that it can take some time before the changes become implemented into Firefox and visible to users of the browser.


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  1. asdf said on December 12, 2013 at 3:57 am

    The new download manager in annoying as hell. Adding more clicks to reach the same end result is almost never an acceptable option in UI development.

  2. rickxs said on May 6, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I dont like it, actually find it annoying , very small writing I’m with bsod on this & use the same

  3. Uhtred said on May 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    The priority improvements would certainly be good over what it’s doing right now.

    They mention “unknown size downloads”

    That’s interesting because it implies they can usually figure the total file size… what would be really nice is if they said in each description the total file size and actual downloaded amount, e.g. 100mb of 250mb.. It’s frustrating downing multiple split rars only to discover later on when you come to unzip that one failed to complete.

  4. A&L said on May 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I like it ;-)
    using cyberfox

  5. blue_bsod said on May 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    When I noticed the download icon on the toolbar change info as files were being downloaded, I disabled the addon I used previously to handle downloads. After 2 weeks of using the newly upgraded functions of the new changes. I had to revert back to the addon I disabled (Download Status bar). Though the new icon had more info, if you use tiny icons, the info it now shows is there, but in tiny format so difficult to read if you expect to read any numbers. Also it does NOT handle downloads in the background if you exited the browser as Download Status bar does. Which also does a lot more and has more features like custom *speed* colours, custom bar height, duration, text size, button size, bar size and more.

    *speed* colours are very useful for mass downloaders like myself to monitor and adjust download to maximize speed.

    Also my 3.4Ghz quad core, 4G RAM, Windows 7-64b with 25M cable connection I can handle 20+ downloads at a time using the Download Status bar addon. The updated Firefox one only handles 4 simultateous downloads and places the rest on a queue.

  6. X said on May 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Martin,
    Nothing to do with the D/L Manager, but maybe worth communicating to your blog’s fans.
    Mozilla accuses Gamma of dressing up dictators’ spyware as Firefox. See:

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Hi. I read about that and thought for a moment to write about it, but since a lot of sites have already published articles about it I decided against it.

  7. Greg said on May 1, 2013 at 8:18 am

    I like the Firefox UI. I would like to see some changes like making the Bookmarks Library into its own Tab instead of own Window. But I see no need for “Australis.” it is sad to see the customizable Firefox (what drew me to the browser from IE in the first place) die.

    1. BobbyPhoenix said on May 1, 2013 at 8:55 am

      I agree. My favorite look of Firefox was when they went to the “Strata” look in version 4. Once they went to the rapid release, and started changing the UI every six weeks I really started getting annoyed. I don’t need, nor want, Australis. Thankfully there are great Add-ons that can change things to the way I think they should be. I run the Nightly version now, and I have it looking like the old Firefox. Here is what it looks like on my Windows 7 machine (Using an Ubuntu theme for Windows 7 from DeviantArt):

  8. Matt said on May 1, 2013 at 2:30 am

    I’m thankful these improvements are being made. That said, it’s mind-boggling that this new download panel has taken so very, very long to implement (so long that I saw many bloggers mistakenly claim Mozilla had ripped off Safari for the design, when it was quite the opposite), and despite that super long gestation, it still managed to be released in such a rough state.

    I can’t imagine the torrent of angry comments Australis is going to incite if people flipped out this much over the download panel.

    1. Gennaro Prota said on May 1, 2013 at 3:50 am

      They seem really determined to make a lot of inconsequential changes. And they are low on resources. Is it just me or their latest actions are very difficult to understand?

      1. Matt said on May 1, 2013 at 3:57 am

        You have a good point. If they’re understaffed at the moment (I’ll go ahead and guess that a bunch of devs have been pulled off desktop Fx to work on mobile FxOS), the obvious course of action would be to put the brakes on a lot of these UI changes, which most people are dreading anyway.

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