It's happening: Firefox interface redesign landing in Nightly channel
Mozilla has been working on an interface redesign of its Firefox web browser for a very long time. The idea was to improve the interface in many regards, make it modern and comfortable to use at the same time.
The Firefox engineers responsible for the new interface -- named Australis -- did not only change the look of the browser chrome, but also tried to declutter the interface, by removing parts of the interface or moving them to another location in the browser window.
Today's blog post over at the official Mozilla blog highlights how Australis is improving the interface of the browser, and how users of Firefox will benefit from it.
As far as details are concerned, there are a couple of elements that stick out. Tabs are now curved, and background tabs are de-emphasized more than they were previously. A side-effect of this according to Mozilla is that lightweight browser themes look better than in the previous interface.
Note: The new interface will launch later today or at the latest tomorrow as things stand right now.
Update: Australis is now available in the Nightly.
The browser controls that are displayed in the browser's main address bar have been modified and streamlined according to Mozilla. There is the new bookmarks button that combines the option to bookmark web pages and to display all existing bookmarks, the new download panel which is already integrated in Firefox, and a new look and feel for all the buttons displayed here.
You may also notice that tabs are on top now which, according to Mozilla's blog post leaves more screen space for web pages.
Customizations are made easier in Australis, as they are now integrated into the new "three bar" menu button that has replaced the Firefox menu button.
Here you can click on customize to add or remove icons to the menu, and the main browser toolbar.
Changes in Firefox's new interface
I suggest you read Mozilla's blog post prior to this part of the article to understand Mozilla's point of view first.
Note: Much of what is being discussed refers to the default Firefox browser without the installation of extensions. A browser extension will be released shortly that enables you to undo many of the changes that Mozilla made to Firefox.
- Tabs can only be placed on top. The old Firefox about:config preference browser.tabs.onTop does not work anymore.
- There is no add-on bar anymore, which means that add-on icons can only be placed in the main Firefox toolbar or the tab bar. If you have a lot of those, it may get quite crowded there.
- The new Customize menu does not display nearly as many options as the Firefox button did. It is possible to remove all icons displayed here, so that users end up with an empty menu.
- The new Bookmarks icon cannot be separated anymore. You can either display the bookmarking star and menu, or none of the two. [Fixed by installing Classic Bookmarks Button add-on]
- While I have not measured it, it does not really look as if the new curved tabs save more space than the previous squared tabs layout. In fact, the width is slightly wider which means that you can fit less tabs in the browser window at the same time.
- There is only one icon size for all icons. The option to use small icons, to display icons, text or icons with text has been removed as well. As has the option to add custom toolbars.
- The reload button is now displayed on the right of the address.
- The menu bar, while still there, cannot be home anymore to custom entries.
- Some interface elements can only be moved or removed together. The forward and backward buttons are now tied to the address form, as it the previously mentioned bookmarks star and menu. What this means is that you cannot move the forward button anymore, or the bookmarks menu icon (without moving the bookmarks star as well).
It needs to be stressed that all -- or at least the majority -- of features that were removed in the new Firefox interface can be restored by installing add-ons. While someone needs to create an add-on for that first obviously, it still means that Firefox users who do not want to have anything to do with Australis can keep on using the browser, at least for as long as the add-on is maintained and that the functionality that it uses is not removed by Mozilla from Firefox.
There will also be a -- temporary -- branch of Firefox codenamed Holly that won't have the Australis changes included.
So when will it land in the stable channel? If things go as planned, Australis will be launched in Firefox 29, and that version of the browser will get released in April 2014 as things stand right now.
Expect a guide on how to restore the old Firefox interface later this week.
Is it possible to live with those changes? Sure that is possible. It requires some re-thinking of how the browser is used though, especially if Firefox is heavily customized.
It is on the other hand almost certain that extensions will be made available to restore features that have been removed in the new Australis interface.
I think that the resources used to create the interface would have better been spend elsewhere, but that is just my humble opinion.Advertisement