Mozilla ponders major Firefox UI refresh
Same look and feel on all editions, including tablet, phone and Windows 8 Metro, may show later this year
Mozilla is working on a revamp of Firefox to synchronize its various versions -- desktop, tablet, phone and Windows 8 Metro -- into a single visual style, according to documents posted by members of its user interface (UI) design team.
The project, which does not have a name, and the earlier blending of Mozilla's mobile and desktop design groups, is meant to bring more coherence to the various versions of the open-source browser.
"One of our major goals for the year [is] getting Firefox to feel more like one product -- more 'Firefoxy' -- across all our platforms, desktop to tablet to phone," Madhava Enro of the Mozilla UI design team, said in a post to his personal blog yesterday.
Enro posted a slideshow he and others used the week before to present their proposals at a company get-together. According to the presentation, some UI elements will be shared across all Firefox editions, among them a lean toward "softer texture" and smoother curves in the design.
By the looks of it, Firefox on the desktop will change most dramatically. The mock-up of the new UI, dubbed "Australis," does not show the orange Firefox menu in Windows, an element which first popped up in Firefox 4 more than a year ago at the last major UI redesign. The tab condensed most commands formerly on the traditional Windows menu into a single-click destination.
Australis is even more streamlined than the current Firefox UI, a move consistent with the trend toward minimalist designs as evidenced by rival Chrome's long-time look, and the changes Microsoft made last year to Internet Explorer 9 (IE9).
Also part of the project is the UI of the new Metro version of Firefox on Windows 8, the operating system upgrade Microsoft will likely launch later this year. Third-party browsers can be built to install both a traditional browser for Windows 8's desktop, and a Metro edition for the touch-enabled, tile-style side of the new OS, without the latter having to go through Microsoft's app store.
Mozilla has been working on a Firefox Metro app for months, and the most recent status update reported that the still-internal build had added Start page pinning, a Metro feature that lets users "pin" favorite sites as individual tiles on the page. Clicking on a pinned site tile loads the website, even if the default browser, in this case Firefox, is not yet open or active.
Google has also committed to developing a Metro version of Chrome for Windows 8, putting the top three browsers on a collision course for share on the new operating system, and pride of place on the devices, including tablets, that will rely on it or its second cousin, Windows RT.
Some Firefox UI elements will land on the desktop long before the redesign is in place: Firefox 13, set to ship June 5, will include a revamped "new tab" page that lets users select from recently- and frequently-viewed sites when they create a new tab.
Chrome and IE9, among other browsers, currently include have a similar feature.
Mozilla has not set a timetable for mutating its current UI into the new designs, although in a year-long planning document published previously, the refresh is listed under the goals for the second half of 2012.
Past UI changes to Firefox have raised the hackles of some users. In 2009, Mozilla said it would "ribbonize" the then-under-construction Firefox 3.7, to reduce clutter and mimic the upcoming Windows 7's look and feel.
Mozilla quickly clarified its position, saying its proposal had been "worded kind of poorly." In the end, Firefox 3.7 never appeared -- it instead became Firefox 4 -- and the changes, although substantial, did not include a Microsoft-esque ribbon.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.
- IE6: Retired but not dead yet
- Chrome users won't give up, keep pressing Google to restore old-style new tab page
- Google quashes 31 vulnerabilities, restores Metro mode 'steppers' with Chrome 34
- Firefox's UI face-lift on track for April debut
- Ex-Mozilla engineer blames Microsoft's rules for Metro Firefox's death
- Mozilla patches 20 Firefox flaws, plugs Pwn2Own holes
- Google reverses field, promises to restore Chrome's scrollbar arrows
- Update: Google ships Chrome 33, patches 28 bugs
- Mozilla's top exec defends in-Firefox ads, revenue search
- Mozilla taps in-Firefox ads as it searches for more revenue
- Silicon Valley's 19 Coolest Places to Work
- Is Windows 8 Development Worth the Trouble?
- 8 Books Every IT Leader Should Read This Year
- 10 Hot Hadoop Startups to Watch
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Gartner Magic Quadrant for Client Management Tools The client management tool market is maturing and evolving to adapt to consumerization, desktop virtualization, and an ongoing need to improve efficiency.
- Infographic: Converged Infrastructure Benefits This Infographic quantifies the savings organizations are realizing from increased deployment speed, higher availability, and lower annual costs.
- CIOs Deliver Productivity Breakthroughs with Intelligent Digital Signage Retailers have long recognized the influence that digital signage provides over a shopper's point-of-purchase decision making process.
- Going Paperless? Here's What You Need to Think About As makers of some of the world's most popular PDF solutions, we often consult with businesses & governmental agencies that have the goal...
Enhance Your Virtualization Infrastructure With IBM and Vmware
Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Virtualization technology is now expanding beyond the server compute elements to encompass networking and storage...
Transforming Finance, Procurement and Supply Chain Effectiveness with Cross-Functional Analytics
Date: May 6th, 2014
Time: 1 PM EDT
Attend this Webcast to find out how Oracle's packaged analytic applications enable line-of-business managers to examine all...
All Desktop Apps White Papers |