Platforms & Apps

The PEC Review: Firefox 4 Panorama

On average, Americans spent about 56 hours on the Internet in June 2010, according to a recent Nielsen Wire report. Ecommerce merchants, whose workplace is on the web, likely spend many more hours online than the average user.

With so much time spent online, a web browser’s features and performance can have a significant impact on how efficiently someone is working. This is especially true when accessing administration panels on ecommerce platforms, processing orders, social marketing, or using web-based email solutions.

Think of it this way, if the Internet really is the information super highway, your web browser is your car.

In the recent fourth beta release of the forthcoming Firefox 4 web browser, Mozilla introduced a great new feature that helps solve one of web browsing’s functional bottle necks and makes it easier for digital natives—those of us that “live” online—to focus on specific tasks without having to close tabs we’ll need later.

For solving a problem that I knew I had, but didn’t really know how to fix, I am awarding Firefox’s Panorama feature four out of a possible five stars in this “The PEC Review.”

“The PEC Review” is my weekly column dedicated to introducing you to the products or services that I believe will help you improve your ecommerce business. This week, I am stepping a little outside of the norm, and reviewing a feature of a product rather than the entire product. But when you see just how Panorama works, I hope you agree that it was worth the attention.

The Trouble with Tabs

In the course of monitoring email accounts at Yahoo! and Google, social marketing, watching the backend of several sites running on Magento, developing new sites or applications, composing marketing emails, browsing Practical Ecommerce, and reading RSS feeds on Feedingo, all while listening to Grooveshark or Pandora, I often have dozens of tabs open in several browsers. And I know that I am not alone.

You see, this is the trouble with tabs. I open one start to work on something, stop to manage another task, and I don’t want to close the first tab since I know I will need it again in just a few minutes.

For another example, at the very moment that I am typing this sentence, I have 14 tabs open in Firefox 4 beta, including six that I used while researching this article—the Nielsen statistics I mentioned in the first paragraph included. I also have two other browsers (Chrome and Opera) open with 12 more tabs in use between them.

With so many tabs open it can become difficult to focus on one task, such as writing this article, without closing tabs (the social media stuff specifically) that I know I need to work on next.

Panorama Groups Tabs

Panorama solves this problem. It allows me to organize my tabs into groups. Clicking control-space bar on a Windows PC or option-space bar on a Mac will launch Panorama, which is essentially a drag and drop canvas.

I sort my social media tabs into one group. My article research tabs go into another group, as do two development related tabs. I leave a few other miscellaneous tabs together, too, in a sort of catchall group.

When I select one of the research tabs, the group becomes my focus. I still have 14 tabs open, but only six are front and center, appearing at the top of the Firefox browser. The remaining eight tabs are hidden. They are still there, but they are not cluttering things up.

If I toggle back to Panorama and select the social media group, just three tabs—Facebook, Twitter, and—come to the top, where I can focus on them. The other 11 open tabs are completely out of view, but still safely tucked away in Panorama.

Simple But Effective

Panorama sounds simple. But in practice, it effectively lets me focus on just one task at time. I can even keep tab groups from one session to the next, by saving them before I close the browser.

four stars

To help clarify how liberating Panorama can feel, imagine that you have five stacks of paper on top of your desk. You need to keep all of the papers, even switching back and forth between them, once someone emails or asks a question. But while those papers are necessary, they clutter your desk, get mixed up, and even make it hard to focus on the one pile your working with at the moment.

Panorama sweeps your desktop clean, without misplacing any of the piles of paper work. You see just the stack you’re working on, but all of the other piles important papers are just a hotkey away when you need them.

Summing Up

Firefox’s Panorama feature has been a real help to me these past couple of weeks. I believe it can help you, too, which is why I awarded the feature four out of a possible five stars in this “The PEC Review.”

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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