Mozilla plans to 'ribbonize' Firefox

Will hide menus by default in refresh of dated look-and-feel on Windows

Mozilla plans to "ribbonize" Firefox for Windows Vista and Windows 7 to reduce clutter and free up space for the browser display, according to company planning documents.

"Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menu bar is going away," said Mozilla in its published plans for revamping the Firefox user interface. "[It will] be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon, [which is] now in Paint and WordPad, too."

As Mozilla noted, Microsoft has extended Office 2007's ribbon-esque "Fluent" user interface to Windows 7 with the latter's "Scenic Ribbon" framework. In both those designs, a wide ribbon-like display at the top of a window replaces the traditional drop-down menus, small icons and toolbars that have standardized Windows applications' look-and-feel for decades.

Last month, Microsoft confirmed that it will offer Windows 7's ribbon application interface to Windows Vista users in an October update.

Calling Firefox's current Windows look "dated and behind," Mozilla said it would hide the menu bar by default on Vista and Windows 7 as of Firefox 3.7, a minor upgrade expected to ship in March 2010.

The move will let Firefox developers use "Glass," the Windows 7 interface theme, and free up vertical space, a concern of netbook owners who face smaller screens.

Although the scheme has been approved by Mozilla's user interface designers, it's not a done deal. "This direction is at the [user interface] team proposal stage, to be approved by drivers and subject for constructive community feedback," the company said.

According to Mozilla's plan, Firefox 3.7's menus will be hidden under a small number of buttons or tabs, much like Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari do now. "They don't always agree on which item should go in which menu, but the general principal is sound," states Mozilla's wiki.

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