Rated 3 out of 5 stars
I've tried Fastest Search in the past (maybe about a year ago? I'm not entirely certain). At the time I did not much enjoy it, but seeing as it is the Pick of the Month for this month, I decided to give it another go. I'm sad to say I'm still disappointed.
In short: It is an add-on full of potential and many nice features, wrapped in a very un-appealing and difficult to use package, which takes far longer and more effort to learn to use than it should. Needs much more work in this area!
First of all, my reaction upon installing it is the same as it was last time, I looked at the menu that pops up after clicking the FS icon for three seconds then mutter "Wow..." It is not intuitive at all, and only after I've accustomed myself to what kind of features the add-on provides, does its organization become apparent; up to that point I was lost. It has too many colors, too many divisions, too many bolds, too many links...
There are things that I expected to find in the add-on but couldn't, maybe they're there or maybe they're not (I finally found the search-list by hitting Shift+Enter when searching, took me a while). I've been watching the video and I've been reading all the FAQs and docs provided, I'm not halfway done on either and I can tell you this with certainty: I've spent far more time than I normally would to customize anything in my firefox. Normally I would have given up long ago, I am only continuing because I've already started writing the review and feel like I should finish.
- The so called "Find in all tabs" feature is nothing more than a glorified tab switcher, it gives you a popup dialog to choose a tab to switch to, and all it does is automatically run whatever search on it. The only difference here from the default behavior is the "automatically" part. This is not what I expected when I read "Find in all tabs" at all and I don't find it any useful at all either. I would expect (at least!) something like the Match List (Shift+Enter) to appear, with a list of all matches on all tabs. Also, the "restrictions" dialog that always pops up is a real bother, and I didn't find a way to disable that, although to be honest I haven't checked very thoroughly for it. I seriously would hope it can be disabled, hitting enter twice, and sometimes more, to run a search is just wrong!
- It always seems to start a new search in a page from the first result, sometimes I prefer it to search from the point where I click or where I left off previously, like it does by default in firefox (I don't mean "Find Again", I mean a different search altogether).
- The search UI elements (results count, the results distribution bar thing on the right, etc) is very visually un-appealing and intrusive. They are just there, huge and with lots and lots of colors, and above the webpage taking space and covering it. This is especially problematic for the FS's search panel, which appears in front of the webpage covering a large chunk of it up. Also, the distribution bar thing on the right can cover up the scrollbar in frameset webpages (your own FAQ is one such example, the scrollbar is only barely visible for me because of it). For someone who prefers simple things, this is a big no-no.
- You are imposing on the user a very intrusive and visually un-appealing UI. This is subjective of course, it's only my personal opinion, maybe others disagree. But the search UI elements from my previous point, together with all the cluttered and messy preferences dialogs, reminds me of how Windows 95 and 98 used to look. If all of firefox looked like this, I would switch to chrome...
- Features like the drag&drop images and links capabilities have no business being in a search-related add-on. If I was a user looking for features like these, I would never expect to find them in an add-on called "Fastest -> Search <-". Placing these features in a separate add-on would greatly improve FS, as it would unclutter it a bit, thus making it simpler to learn to use, as well as promote these features more efficiently when they're in their own add-on.
The first time I tried FS was for the Regex search feature, and since I know my way about the inner-workings of firefox and add-ons I eventually managed to get to it and disable everything else I didn't need. I know many casual users (in real life), and I can assure you none of them would take the time needed to just figure this out. A 40-minute video is just too long! I'm a power user, I know a lot of the inner working of the search and find capabilities of firefox, and as a person I'm very patient; I gave up 11 minutes and something into the video... Seriously, it's too big, I suggest you break that thing up into many smaller bits! For most people, 5 minutes for configuration and learning to use is already too long, and that is with a direct and intuitive UI and documentation, which, I'm sorry to say, is not the case with your add-on.
As a fellow add-on developer to another, I commend you on the multitude of features you offer, I realize the amount of work you have put into it and I'm sure all your users greatly appreciate it. However, I believe you are making a very serious and wrong assumption about your potential users: you assume everyone will take a large portion of time to learn how to properly configure and use your add-on, and this, together with all the other things I mentioned, is the main reason why I think FS does not deserve even 4 stars!
It truly is an add-on full of potential, if you addressed these issues somehow, I would definitely re-think my whole review. But as it is now I just can't agree with this choice as Pick of the Month. As a firefox user, I would still use a combination of Omnibar and my own FindBar Tweak over FS. I realize it sounds a bit suspicious of me to say this, seeing as I'm the developer of FBT, but I do think both of these alternative add-ons are much more visually appealing and better integrated with firefox than FS is.
High points (these are pretty much the only reason why my rating is not lower):
- Regex search, that's nice!
- Location bar/search engine related features are a nice alternative to add-ons like Omnibar (although, if pressed, I would still choose Omnibar over FS, as it shows both the search suggestions and the bookmarks/history results in the same list, whereas with FS I have to choose every time between one or the other by adding search engine keywords, or maybe by some other way I didn't even find)
- I haven't tried the text recognition feature, but at least in concept I find it very interesting, so it deserves a plus here as well.
I appreciate a detailed review, but I think yours is biased. As usual to all reviews that raise questions or issues, I'm replying point by point:
1. Unusual and difficult to navigate options system - this one I explained on the FAQ page (http://mingyi.org/FastestSearch/faq.html) and to other reviewers before. I find it annoying ONLY when you need to change a lot of settings in several different sub options panels in a row, and such a scenario only happens to a new user that wants to customize a lot, which fits your profile. But as time progresses, you'd need to change few options and accessing those few options this way is hands down faster than thru the Addon Manager. I actually hope other addons can do that, especially when Addon Manager SOMETIMES takes a minute to open and freezes Firefox (if you have 20+ addons).
2. Find all tabs only lists tabs where match was found - indeed, this is not ideal. But I've explained in the video, which you said you watched, it's mainly due to performance reasons for the regex support, which searches slow (if user has dozens of tabs that finds thousands of results per tab, it's a real problem). But "a glorified tab switcher" is NOT a good summary of this feature. Which tab switch supports regex, whole word search, + tab title/url search with its own regex support? Which tab switcher instantly highlights search results on each switched tab along with a result list (if so chosen in Text Search Settings - I'm surprised you didn't find it. This is clearly a text search feature, shouldn't take much time to find at all)?
3. Search UI elements not good looking and taking too space. FS is not graphically appealing, I agree with that. The default search panel does take more space than Firefox findbar. BUT, very importantly you can use the small search panel option (in Text Search Settings), which is smaller than Firefox's own Findbar and do not reduce viewing area, or Find-as-you-type. I don't see any addon offering a smaller search panel, not to mention this functional.
4. Imposing ugly UI on user - I would welcome help in improving this aspect - but don't call me IMPOSING ugly UI on user. I don't impose anything, I provide FREE and feature-rich service to user, with a UI that is as much as my poor graphical capability allows. If you don't like it, either try to help out or do not use it.
5. Drag-n-drop shouldn't be in FS. That's a decision for me, isn't it? If you check FS's categories, one of which is "Download Management". Where did you find that I ever said this addon is search only? If I had decided to do that, I would've named this addon "Nothing But Search".
6. User only wants regex and it's hard to disable everything else. You only need to spend ONE minute to read addon description on AMO to know to go to FAQ to find out how to disable a certain feature (another 2 minutes read at most). No need to watch the 40 mins video (which was indexed BTW in the video description), and rest assured, most users don't just want regex only, or regex at all. I would expect a grateful and/or gracious person to appreciate that I put in regex capability in this addon, rather than saying "I only want regex, why do you put other stuff in". I never said this is regex-only. Ever.
7. Assumption on users spending time to learn. Yes, most users DON'T want to learn. But I'm NOT forcing them to learn. The defaults pre-packed already offers intuitive text search with many options, custom engine search in locationbar or Smart Searchbox with many prepacked engines along with suggest feature, and auto copy/middle click paste + drag-n-drop open link/save image. For those who don't want to learn, they can intuitively get how to use them. Have you ever seen a complex piece of software that takes no learning curve for ALL features? Even the really simple Microsoft Word has so many books out detailing its features. My in-place linked documentation for nearly every option is way better than reading a book or a separate long doc, so I'm baffled by your complaint about the links and video. So you'd rather read a long book about many features? How do you propose to make the complex options "intuitive"?
8. Omnibar and FBT more visually appealing - hard to say. Omnibar doesn't have much UI (it's just in the dropdown of locationbar). FBT's find in all tabs/match list presentation is highly functional, but visually that fuchsia color is pretty ugly and the match list is just as plainly styled as my match list in FS. The current hit highlight is Firefox's default text highlight that's bland and hard to see. I regard the visual aspect vs these 2 addons merely personal preference.
9. Omnibar + FBT is better than FS. That's highly debatable. I agree that FBT has a MUCH more functional Find in All Tabs result presentation - the best in all Firefox addons for this feature. But what FS lacks is features that need improvement, not the features themselves. What FBT and Omnibar lack is the entire features. FBT doesn't support regex, whole-word search, restricting search to only links or table or other elements, restrict search to only certain tabs (how can a tab-searching addon not offer that?), or find-as-you-type. FBT doesn't add much to Firefox's own search on current tab (except for count and highlight, which FS does a better job). You can't even invoke a result list if you're only searching current tab. When the result list is showing, the visible area of page is largely reduced (in FS you can move the result/summary list panel to another screen even!). Omnibar mixes engine suggest with URLs and bookmarks, it's rather messy (but you think it's a nice feature, so clearly this is personal preference). When I type "g music" in locationbar, I'd much rather see Google's suggest on the keyword "music", rather than having to scroll down the locationbar dropdown to find and figure out if and what are the Google suggests. Not to mention that Omnibar covers only one small feature area of what FS offers, and does not handle adding/editing/ranking engine (and Firefox's has shortcomings) and it's no more intuitive to users how to use it without reading docs compared to FS in the feature Omnibar offers. Just to name a few issues.
10. FS should not be pick of month. This is entirely subjective. You're clearly proud of your FBT addon and felt it was better than FS, while IMO, it's only better in one out of the dozens of features that FS offers, and FBT simply doesn't have the features FS offer. FS covers all the main features of 'InstantFox', 'InstantFirefox', 'Add to Search Bar', 'AutoCopy', 'QuickDrag', 'Super DragandGo', 'OmniBar', 'Dictionary Tooltip', map/weather addons, text search addons, and FBT. In most cases, it even beats those addons. If FS doesn't deserve to be a pick of the month, why are many of these addons featured by AMO at all? Note: I don't claim FS does everything they offer, and FS doesn't do everything better compared to them, but it does all the main things and offers many unique features too. Not to mention that FS is all original coding, not rewrite of others' code.
As a fellow addon developer, I find we're quite different. When a user (maybe it's actually you) noted FBT to me back in June, I commended the Find in All Tabs in FBT and pointed out the issues of FBT to the user (and 10 days later FBT's new release addressed one or two of my criticism). I do like my FS much better than FBT, but I don't go put a negative review on FBT and feel justified to talk down other people's hard work. Your addon has a very well done major feature, that's enough for me to not give you 3 star for lacking all the other really important features and having some issues (i.e., no result list if searching just current tab, highlight remains after closing findbar - intuitively it should be gone, ugly color, annoying "bull's eye" focusing on result, too much space taken by the immovable result list, when user click on "find in all tabs" button, all hits are found but hits in current tab are not highlighted even if "highlght all" is active ...). And I won't go question an addon should or should not be chosen as pick of the month after seeing its monstrous list of features, most of them done well and thoughtfully and some so uniquely and I myself enjoy it (like regex). It's just not me.
You might feel that your review/rating is justified, but I hope you reconsider after my reasoning.