Mozilla is working on several different branches of the web browser at the same time currently.
The latest public version, Firefox 3.6.6 just released today, and Firefox 3.7 which will be renamed to Firefox 4.0 later this year.
The latest Nightly version of Firefox 4.0 concentrates on finalizing the graphical user interface of the web browser.
We have reviewed some design changes like tabs on top or Windows Aero support in the past already but recent changes justify taking another look to see what is new and changed.
Chrome and Opera users will recognize many similarities to interface elements in their browsers while Firefox users on the hand may need some time to get used to those changes.
The most obvious user interface changes are visible in the Firefox header. The menu bar has been reduced to a Minefield/Firefox button which displays the menu items on click.
Tabs are not on top of the address bar by default. That's again similar to how Google Chrome and Opera display tabs but there is still an option to display them at the bottom instead if that is preferred.
Both options can be reverted by customizing the top bars in Firefox. The menu can be expanded and the tabs placed under the address bar. It remains to be seen if those options will be available in the final Firefox 4.0 release as well.
Firefox users who have placed other UI elements in the menu bar in previous versions will notice that they are automatically hidden if the single menu button is active. A bookmarks bar placed in the menu toolbar for instance is not visible in the default design. Lots of free space in the main toolbar which could be put to good use.
The title bar has been removed, page titles are now displayed in tabs only.
The navigational elements fit nicely in the design. The arrow symbol next to the forward and backward buttons provides a listing of the last opened tabs in the web browser.
New buttons can be added to the toolbars as well, available are for instance buttons to display the bookmarks or download manager.
Windows Vista and Windows 7 users will notice that the Aero implementation is still not optimal depending on background colors. A dark background image makes the displayed menu bar items almost unreadable.
The graphical user interface nears completion but it is likely that it will be fine tuned by the developers to sort out the latest quirks before the beta versions and release candidates get released.
The revamped add-ons manager is another new interface element in Firefox 4.0. The manager displays in a tab in the browser now and includes options to manage add-ons, themes, plugins and to get new add-ons there.
Firefox users who want to test the latest Firefox 4.0 builds can download it from the locations below for their operating system:
[removed as they are no longer recent builds]
What's your take on the new Firefox design?
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