Mozilla moves Windows 8 version of Firefox to Aurora channel

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 21, 2013

Microsoft introduced the start screen interface in Windows 8, and with it came significant changes. It meant for example that Windows 8 users could not use their desktop browsers on the start screen interface. Probably even worse than that is the fact that only browsers supporting the start screen interface can be set to the default system browser.

That's likely the core reason why Google and Mozilla decided to create a special version for Windows 8. Mozilla, unlike Google, decided to create a completely new version of the browser for Windows 8's start screen. That explains why it took the organization nearly a year in development time until now.

It is this version of Firefox that has just moved from the cutting edge Nightly channel to the Aurora channel. This not only means that development is progressing, but also that it will hit the beta and stable versions of Firefox in the coming three months.

Firefox for Windows 8

firefox windows 8

To install the latest version of Firefox for Windows 8's start screen interface, download and install either the Aurora version of the browser or the Nightly version.

Once you have done that you need to make sure that Firefox is the default system browser on Windows 8. You can do that in the following way:

  1. Open Firefox on the desktop. It does not matter if you have installed the Aurora or Nightly version of the browser.
  2. Tap on the Alt-key and select Tools > Options from the menu bar.
  3. Switch to Advanced > General and make sure the "Always check to see if Firefox is the default browser on startup" is selected. Here you should also see if Firefox is currently the default system browser.

When you start Firefox on the start page environment, you will notice that it looks different from the main browser. When it starts, it displays a mix of top sites, bookmarks and the recent browsing history, but no user interface elements at all except for the bottom toolbar that provides you with options to key in a web address that you want to open in the browser.

firefox windows 8 home

To switch tabs, you need to right-click anywhere in the browser first. This displays the tabs that are currently open as thumbnails on top of the browser.

What you may notice is that Firefox on the desktop and Firefox for Windows 8 do not share a single set of bookmarks, the browsing history or passwords. They act as independent browsers in this regard, and the best option to sync these information is to use Firefox Sync in both browsers.

You are probably wondering why you'd want to start the start screen version of Firefox at all if you can use the desktop version instead.

The only reason that I can come up with that answers the question is to make use of touch support that Mozilla has built into this version of the browser. If you do not use a touch screen, there is little that Firefox for Windows 8 offers that the desktop version does not.

You benefit from Windows Share integration, so that you can share web pages and other information directly using installed apps or services, but that is about it.

Closing Words

Mozilla has postponed the final version of Firefox for Windows 8 until January. This should give the organization ample time to sort out some issues of the version. It feels a lot slower for example than the desktop version of Firefox.


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