Firefox's new customization panel

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 24, 2013

Mozilla around the release of Firefox 4 made the decision to merge all separate configuration and informational windows of Firefox with the main user interface. You may have already seen that happening with the download panel for instance which has been integrated into the ui of the browser whereas before it had been available in its own window.

Other panels are still under construction, like the options menu for instance which Mozilla aims to integrated on a local page in the browser eventually.

I mentioned previously that I like Firefox for its customization options which are superior to what other browsers have to offer - with the exception of Opera, maybe. You can customize the interface of the browser currently by tapping on Alt and selecting View > Toolbars > Customize from the menu that appears on top. Here you can then drag and drop icons from one toolbar to another, new icons on to toolbars or remove icons that you do not need.

The customization menu opens in its own window in current versions of Firefox, but that will be a thing of the past sooner rather than later. Mozilla aims to integrate the customize menu into a panel in the browser just like it did with the downloads menu.

You may ask yourself why Mozilla is making the change. The project page has this to say about that:

Simplifying the ability for users to find what they're looking for, increase relative discoverability for the important items, have a predictable and consistent approach to interface customization.

While I'd agree that the customize menu needs improvements in some regards, I'm not really sure if an integrated panel is the best way to achieve the goal. Still, Mozilla seems intend to go forward and first test builds have been released for Windows and Mac that highlight how it could look like.

When you select customize you are now taken to an internal page, about:customizing that displays a panel on the right and - in the future - icons and theme options in the main window. You can use drag and drop just like before to move elements around, add them to a toolbar or remove them from one.

The current test build is not fully functional but it highlights how Mozilla envisions the new customization interface for Firefox. It is not really clear when builds will land in regular Nightly versions but it looks as if that is going to happen sooner rather than later.


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  1. Blake said on January 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    To be fair, while the button itself has the new style in Thunderbird, the Menu Panel that opens is still much more like the one in the current version of Firefox (on Windows).

    And it’s probably worth pointing out that the Australis interface in Thunderbird was implemented by a community contributor, not by the core team!


  2. Maiko said on January 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    It’s interesting to note that this Menu Button is already available in Thunderbird together with the Australia interface… I really wonder when will it be released

  3. Simon said on January 24, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    the only thing about the menu that looks the same as the menu in chrome, is the menubutton, so how on earth is this following chrome?

  4. Ken Saunders said on January 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Geesh, I sound as if I want a SeaMonkey type Firefox.

  5. Ken Saunders said on January 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, if the final change is anything like the demo at the URL below, then it will be a welcomed improvement.
    We’ll still be able to move buttons to wherever we’d like.

    I just tried the build with the feature and it is bare to say the least.
    Currently, all that’s there is a drop down panel with buttons that can be clicked on to open History, zoom, etc.
    That will change.

    I personally hate having to go through menus to submenu and sometimes another one just to perform a simple action, and I don’t like a minimalistic desktop. That’s for portable and small devices.
    But, even with the menu bar, status bar and other things being tucked away, Firefox users can still change things to their liking.
    I don’t see that ever changing.
    Even when Mozilla implements changes, add-on developers usually come through to save us.

    I just wish that the resources were available so that there could be a lightweight, minimalistic Firefox browser for casual Internet users just browsing YouTube, Facebook and others, and then a powerhouse one for those of us that actually use and now need Firefox because it’s an essential tool for work.

  6. Krishna said on January 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    In other words follow Google Chrome.

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