Mozilla and Google are both working on app versions of their browsers for the Windows 8 operating system. Today, Mozilla made available first Nightly builds of Firefox that make available a special version of the browser for Windows 8's start screen environment.
Firefox users who want to test the interface can do so by installing the latest Nightly version of Firefox on their version of Windows 8. Note that this is only possible on Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, and not on devices powered by Windows RT like the Surface RT.
It is also worth noting that Firefox needs to be set as the default system browser for the app version to become available on the system. If it is not the default browser, it will automatically launch all websites and protocols on the desktop.
You can make Firefox the default web browser on Windows 8 the following way:
- Open the desktop version of the browser.
- Select Nightly > Options.
- Switch to Advanced > General and select Make Nightly the default browser.
- This opens a Windows control panel applet that enables you to change the default application.
- Select Nightly from the list and click on set this program as default.
First thing you will notice when you start Firefox from Windows 8's start screen is that it launches in a nice looking full screen interface just like any other Windows application. You find the address bar at the top with back and reload buttons, a plus icon to launch new tabs, and a selection of top sites, bookmarks and recent history items on the new tab page.
You can display all open tabs with a right-click which displays them as thumbnails at the top. From here it is possible to switch between tabs and to close tabs.
The majorty of keyboard shortcuts work in this version of the browser as well, from opening new tabs with Ctrl-t to switching between tabs with Ctrl-1 to 9, or adding pages to the bookmarks with Ctrl-D. Some shortcuts do not work yet, like saving pages with Ctrl-S for example.
Websites can be pinned to the start screen of the operating system and there are a couple of minor options available as well, like displaying the download history.
I really like the overall design of the browser even though I'd prefer it to display tabs all the time and not only on right-clicks. You can access a couple of settings using the Charms bar including what Firefox should display on startup (the start page or the tabs from the last sessions) or whether you want your data to be synced.
Note that this is a preliminary version for testing purposes. It is likely that Mozilla will add a lot of options to the browser in the coming months. For now, it looks really nice but lacks functionality that I'd like to see in the browser. One example of that is that add-on support is not implemented yet even though you can open about:addons already.Enjoyed the article?: Then sign-up for our free newsletter or RSS feed to kick off your day with the latest technology news and tips, or share the article with your friends and contacts on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ using the icons below.