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Mojo/Mozilla: Browser
Issues Meeting Notes
Browser: Automatic Form Fill
Last Modification: 
Author: German W. Bauer
Creation Date:  1-25-01

Issues Meeting Notes for January 25, 2001


We looked at the latest (not currently checked in?) improved incarnation of the form fill toolbar design. Steve Morse was giving all attendees a run through. Compared to previous designs he experimented with moving the toolbar to the bottom of the content area. It was also now only spanning the width of the content area itself rather than the full window.
German gave a small overview of competitive products namely IE 5.5 on Windows and IE 5 on Mac. Steve was also showing us an add-on product to IE/Win named RoboForm which fills the same niche.

Design Pros Cons

Netscape 6 (newer version w/ toolbar)

  • complete form fill in one step
  • alternate data for field possible
  • smart fill algorithm
  • seems intrusive (ask for every domain/form, in your face toolbar)
  • chrome heavy
  • low discoverability (cryptic controls)
  • user has to initiate form fill

IE 5.5/ Win (field by field autocomplete)

  • non-intrusive (works like autocomplete)
  • one-time confirm dialog, after that capture always on
  • no extra chrome needed, it's just automatic like autocomplete in URL bar
  • no 1-step autofill for form possible

IE 5/ Mac

  • very simple setup (one panel in preferences)
  • simple mechanism does not provide a means to have alternate data in a field
  • user has to discover and initiate the form fill
  • unusual marking of field to point out what gets filled in
  • simple setup
  • simple mechanism does not provide a means to have alternate data in a field, setup of user data works in sets

German then proposed a design that attempts to unify the advantages of a field by field autocomplete design (no toolbar required to initiate) with the convenience of access to a one-step autofill.

  • Attempting to combine the advantage of 1-step form fill with the convenience and low-intrusiveness of autocomplete.
  • No extra toolbar or controls on existing toolbars needed
  • Menu would stay the same
  • Could use the same backend technologies.

Discussion Results -  Implement access to form fill through fields

After discussing the pros and cons of these approaches, the majority of folks at the meeting agreed upon the this refined proposal.

The possibility of combining the autofill approach with autocomplete (against larger sets of data) was discussed. Although not the user majority case, it is helpful where one autocompletes against large sets like bugzilla forms or for commercial data entry applications. It was pointed out that autocomplete can be implemented on top of the current prefill functionality.

Alec brought up the possibility of hooking up autofill to data sources other than formfill (such as the address book).

The different ways to initiate autofill were discussed, here is an overview:

Browser Start Typing into Field Single Click into Field Double Click into Field
Netscape 6 RTM dismisses data popup show full list of data fill first value (most recently used acc. to Steve)
IE 5.5 match data against typed string - show full list of data

It was agreed that it did not make sense to have a vastly different design from IE, as many Windows users are already accustomed to autocomplete. In particular, the current 6.0 behavior of filling in the first value is unexpected behavior for the majority of users accustomed to Win32 autofill mechanisms. It was proposed that we might make both single and double click show the full list and match the typed string against the available fill data once the user starts typing. It was also agreed that this aspect needed usability verification/testing to finalize design.

Action items:

German to write up specification proposal for autofill
Alec to investigate autocomplete
Ben to investigate resizability of popup menu lists

longer term: test autofill initiation (single, double click type-in behavior etc.) with real users