Installing multiple add-ons from a collection

Since the launch of collections last year, one of the most common feature requests AMO gets is the ability to install all or some of the add-ons in a collection at the same time. There’s really only one thing that has held us back from offering this functionality, but unfortunately it’s not something easily overcome: conflicting first-run experiences.

These days, almost every add-on has some sort of first-run experience, whether it’s a new tab that’s opened, a sidebar, a wizard, or (worst of all) a modal dialog. When several add-ons are installed at the same time, these elements all fight for attention, often in confusing and unexpected ways. I wrote a post on this some time ago that showed an example of what havoc can be wreaked with only 3-4 add-ons, as well as some suggestions on how developers can improve this area.

Earlier this week, Lifehacker featured the new Massive Extender add-on which works with Mozilla’s Add-on Collector to batch install add-ons from a collection. I’m excited to see this add-on and will be watching its reception closely to see what sort of experiences users have batch installing add-ons. From experimenting with it briefly, the add-on seems to be well-made and has a lot of useful features. But, as expected, batch installing add-ons from a collection and then restarting was not such a fun time.

Standardized support for first-run pages should land on Firefox trunk in the next few months, and other work on the Add-ons Manager revamp should help the situation as well. Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can let users install mutliple add-ons at once as long as those add-ons meet some “good first-run experience” criteria to be determined later.

Until then, Massive Extender is a good way to install an entire collection for those brave enough.