Firefox versions on Windows 8 to share profiles after all

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 6, 2013

One of the new features of the Windows 8 operating system is its dual-interface. You got the start screen area where you can run apps in fullscreen, and then the regular desktop where you can run legacy software just like before.

One of the limitations here is that you cannot run a desktop browser on the start screen interface. While that is not a problem for users who ignore the interface altogether, it is for users who do use it.

Companies like Google, Opera Software or Mozilla need to create special builds of their browser to make it compatible with the start screen interface.

Google was one of the first to introduce a Chrome version for that interface. Mozilla on the other hand has been working on an implementation for quite some time but has not released a stable version yet.

First Nightly builds were published in February of 2013 but it took Mozilla half a year to move the build to the browser's Aurora channel.

One of the limitations of the Firefox build was that it used a profile that was different from the desktop profile. This caused all kinds of issues, as users could not easily access their bookmarks, browsing history or passwords in the Firefox application.

Mozilla announced today that shared profiles are coming to Firefox on Windows 8. What this means is that users will be able to use one browser profile regardless of version of Firefox they run on Windows 8.

This removes the need to get the data over to the other profile so that it is shared between the two different browser versions. While synchronization is an option, it would have to be nearly instantaneous considering that you can switch between Firefox on the desktop and on the start screen in a matter of seconds.

Another feature that will come to Firefox for Windows 8 is an option to relaunch in the other interface.

As far as restrictions go: it is no longer possible to run the Metro Firefox and the desktop Firefox at the same time, due to the shared profile. Mozilla will take care of that so that you do not run into any issues in this regard. It is however possible to run a different profile on the desktop using the profile manager if they so desire.

Progress is currently tracked here. Note that a release date has not been set yet, and that the shared profile feature will be added to the Nightly builds of Firefox first once they are ready for that.

Additional details about the implementation have been released. Regarding links that you click on: they are opened in the version of the browser that is already open at that time, and if no browser version is, in the browser instance in the environment you are currently in.

It is interesting to note that the browser chrome cache won't be shared between versions (not the content cache), and that Mozilla intents to use the browser's session restore feature to accomplish the switching.


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  1. hum said on November 7, 2013 at 9:54 am

    So many wasted resources for a UI which won’t be used by more than 0.x% of the Windows-users, while proper and long-standing bugs get zero attention.
    Quo vadis, Mozilla?

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