This is Firefox's new tab-based Preferences design

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 29, 2014
Updated • May 16, 2015

Australis is certainly the big upcoming change next month, but it is not the only modification that Mozilla plans to implement in future versions of the web browser.

One of the design philosophies of late seems to be to get rid of windowed controls. The download dialog for instance was changed recently, and moved from a separate window in which downloads were listed to an icon in the browser interface that display downloads when clicked on.

There are still several dialogs that spawn a window in Firefox. This includes the options menu for example but also the bookmarks manager or the browsing history.

Mozilla has been working on a tab-based preferences dialog for a long, long time. I first reviewed the new option on May 11, 2012 when it was first launched in the Nightly version of the browser.

The organization has modernized the original design, which you can already test if you are running Firefox Nightly (currently version 31).

All you need to do is type about:preferences in the browser's address bar to display the new in-tab preferences of the browser.

firefox about:preferences

Mozilla uses large fonts and buttons here, most likely to improve the usability for users who work on touch-based displays.

A major difference to the design is the static sidebar that displays all relevant menu items so that you do not have to go back to make another selection anymore.

It is interesting to note that some buttons still spawn windows here. If you click on view certificates or security_devices for instance under Advanced > Certificates. Both menus open in separate windows on the screen.

The new preferences dialog can be accessed alongside the old window-based options menu of the Firefox web browser.

The new dialog has no ok or close button anymore. All changes that you make are instantly applied and active.

Make it the default

If you like the new dialog and do not want to wait until Mozilla makes it the default option, then do the following to make it the default one when you open the options in the Firefox browser:

  1. Type about:config in the browser's address bar and hit enter.
  2. Confirm you will be careful.
  3. Search for browser.preferences.inContent and double-click it to set it to true.

The preference browser.preferences.inContent makes the new in-content options the default, which means that any click on options in Firefox will spawn them in a tab in the browser and not in a window.

You can repeat the steps to return to the old preferences window as the default options menu.

When will it be launched?

There is no date or Firefox version yet when the new tab-based preferences design will be launched. What is certain though is that it will replace the old window-based options menu.

Another thing that is not clear right now is whether Mozilla will keep the old preferences window option, or rely on add-on authors to implement it and offer it to Firefox users who prefer the window-based menu over the tab-based one.

As always, we will keep you informed so that you know well in advanced. (thanks Sören Hentzschel)


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  1. dj said on May 22, 2015 at 6:43 am

    “Classic Theme Restorer (Customize UI)” ( has an option to turn this Firefox feature on/off. This is a great addon for anyone that wants to control their UI in a user-friendly fashion.

  2. jimbo said on May 20, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    The in-page stuff is hopeless as all the keyboard shortcuts don’t work (alt-key) as well as taking up masses of screen space with their trendy big non-standard controls.

    Thankfully (for how long I don’t know) the cumbersome new preferences stuff can be switched off via:



    (set this to false).

  3. Sören Hentzschel said on May 16, 2015 at 11:26 am

    @Jody Thornton:

    “1. Type about:config in the browser’s address bar and hit enter.
    2. Confirm you will be careful.
    3. Search for browser.preferences.inContent and double-click it to set it to true.”

    Set it to false instead of true…

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 16, 2015 at 11:27 am

      Sören thank you, I have corrected the error.

      1. Sören Hentzschel said on May 16, 2015 at 11:32 am

        Martin, your article was correct. My comment was the answer to “and I’ve not been able to find the former Options window” in the previous comment. It seems that I failed to click the “reply” button. :)

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 16, 2015 at 11:36 am

        Ups you are right, corrected again ;)

  4. Jody Thornton said on May 16, 2015 at 1:14 am

    It has now been integrated into Firefox at least as of version 38. It is now default, and I’ve not been able to find the former Options window. I use Pale Moon anyway at home, so it doesn’t affect me.

  5. Puzzled in SF said on January 24, 2015 at 2:50 am

    For everyone not using a Windows 8 tablet (i.e., the vast majority of the world), what possible benefit is there?

    It’s less consistent with every other application. It’s a nonstandard window, with nonstandard controls and nonstandard font sizes. Because it’s so custom, there’s all kinds of little problems, like half of the popups not being big enough to display their selected value until you click on them. Some of the buttons open new windows which are modal, a big step down from the old preferences window. It looks neither like a webpage, nor the rest of Firefox, nor any other app on my system. It’s not easier to use. Popups appear in odd places, and are strangely clipped.

    I’m scratching my head. I can’t think of any possible way in which this is an improvement than a regular preferences window. Do people need to be able to select the text of checkboxes?

    The old preferences window wasn’t the greatest preferences window in the world, but this new layout fixes none of the problems it had. It’s just a literal translation of the old window into a web browser window.

    I hope this never ships. I’ve been a Firefox supporter since before it was called “Firefox”, but this is kind of embarrassing.

  6. Ray said on March 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    This is great for those of us using Firefox on Windows 8 tablets!

    Thanks for the tip, Martin!

  7. said on March 31, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    If you don’t want to use about:preferences tabbed version there are three ways to open the popup version. Tools > Options, dropdown menu has a button and about:home has a button.

  8. Charles Robinson said on March 31, 2014 at 1:41 am

    I wonder why we (you) don’t always know what the plans are for Firefox. Why do they not have their plans & schedules in the open? Just curious.

    1. Sören Hentzschel said on March 31, 2014 at 1:48 am

      How could Mozilla be more open? oO
      Mozilla Wiki, Bugzilla, newsgroups, mailing lists, repositories, developer blogs, … – it’s all public…

      1. Sören Hentzschel said on March 31, 2014 at 6:26 pm

        Because there are no fix dates. It’s all done when it’s done. And priorities changes. Mozilla has a lot of ideas and most of the ideas are public, but the resources are limited. Some ideas will never be more than an idea and some ideas will be implemented years later. ;)

      2. Charlie said on March 31, 2014 at 6:13 pm

        So, I wonder why the “experts” like Martin frequently say they don’t know exactly when/what things are coming to the Firefox browser.

      3. Martin Brinkmann said on March 31, 2014 at 6:21 pm

        Charlie, Mozilla has not yet announced when the in-tab preferences will replace the preferences window.

  9. Noitidart said on March 30, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    I think this is beutiful. I do hope to see some stuff different then chrome, I dont like looking like chrome, but I like this. I don’t know why people are complaining it’s real pretty. The only thing I’m not a fan of is losing the addon bar at bottom :(

  10. Pierre said on March 30, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    When you type about:preferences, it open the preferences in the same tab
    When you modify about:config and you call the preferences, it opens them in a new tab
    (Nightly 31)

  11. Teiji said on March 30, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Hmm…I just followed the instruction. It now opens in a tab but the font, size, and checkboxes still have the old design. Oh well, at least it doesn’t open in a new window.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 30, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      The new design is only available in Firefox 31 or newer.

  12. fokka said on March 30, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    at long last! maybe i’m in the minority here, but i’ve always hated when programs open up extra windows for every other function, especially when talking about programs that are perfectly tab-able like firefox.

    the design, especially checkboxes etc, could be better, but whatever.

    1. Pierre said on March 30, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      So sorry but it doesn’t open a new window

  13. Pierre said on March 30, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Thks for the info

  14. MI0 said on March 30, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I hope the new tab-based Preferences design will arrive early on Firefox and its active forks as an add-on before Mozilla implements that new design.

  15. PhoneyVirus said on March 30, 2014 at 3:23 am

    Thanks for the little tip, like how good it feels Vs. the old way.

  16. henry said on March 30, 2014 at 12:23 am

    I prefer it, and have made it my default.

  17. Karl Gephart said on March 29, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Thanks, Martin. I made the change and find the options in a cleaner GUI now. :)

  18. Uhtred said on March 29, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve got used to the add on manager tab, so moving the options to tabs seems like it wouldn’t be a problem, The “new” vertical fixed sidebar is just a simple move of the current tab-like icons that run horizontally across the top of my options, so effectively a cosmetic change, although on a limited vertical screen like a netbook (1024×600) likelihood is it will actually mean scrolling a lot more when no scrolling was previously necessary.

    ( windows 7, classic, FF28.0, with nasa night launch plugin)

  19. Keith said on March 29, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks Martin. I just made the change described above and plan to keep it. I like it!

    A few months ago I was all against the new Austrailus theme, but since it’s coming anyway, I’ve been running 29 beta since it came out just to get used to the new “everything”…however, I cheated a little bit. I figured since it’s going to look like chrome no matter what, I installed the FF theme FXChrome and it looks a whole lot better than the default Austrailus theme.

  20. said on March 29, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    That has been in several past releases. But this new version in Nightly is just fancier looking. Customizable Shortcuts addon doesn’t make a tab in them. But it does in the popup version.

  21. Ficho said on March 29, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I really don’t care what Mozilla is doing anymore.
    Pale Moon is my default browser.I also use IE11,Opera 12.16 and Opera Developer.

    1. Nebulus said on March 29, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      Actually, it does matter, because at some point in time Pale Moon will have to follow the main Firefox source code. I doubt that they have the power to actually fork Firefox.

      1. Leland said on April 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm

        Appster, i recommed switching either to Maxthon or Seamonkey. If you want add-ons go the Pale Moon or Cyberfox route. But if you do THAT you have to realize that These 2 Browsers will likely give up in the near future. So… best bet is to use Seamonkey and accept the fact that there are only few themes or add-ons available or even better Switch to Maxthon.

        This browser solutions are way better as compared with Mozillas cheap as hell Chrome clone.

      2. Appster said on March 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm

        Sören, are you kidding us? Firefox with Australis is more Chrome-like than ever before.
        For example the menu button, its position and look is exactly that of Chrome. Okay, they managed to put some customization-options in there, but the general look (if not used) and position is that of Chrome.
        Another example are the new tabs! What was actually wrong with the old tabs? It doesn’t matter, change has to be done. Chromish change. The tabs are more rounded compared to those of Chrome, but their general form and position was also aligned to the Chrome-model.
        The Downloads-Panel is a copy of the Safari-Panel, which works exactly the same. And don’t tell me something about early mockups of Mozilla, Apple planned that version of Safari a long time ago, too. And if Firefox is getting that feature later, I’d like to say: Bad luck! It’s a mere copy now.
        The list ist completed by the new Preferences-Tab, which is also a mere copy of a Chrome-feature. I know, the mockups… it seems to me as if Mozilla is having a good idea, but being far to stupid in the purpose of its implementation. Just as Chrome got it, Mozilla took it out of the drawer again. Very suspicious…
        Finally they took my Add-on-bar and my “Tabs-on-bottom”-option away, which really drives me crazy! What the hell were they thinking? I don’t know, but I’m done with Firefox. The obligation of installing an Add-on everytime Mozilla removes a feature seems far too tiring to me.
        PS: I know (as published on your site) that you are a Mozilla-representative, so I can clearly understand your subjective opinion. But do me a favor and don’t make me laugh again, your bias is really becoming farcical.

      3. Vsek said on March 30, 2014 at 7:27 pm

        Uh Sören i think that guy was not only commenting the details in that article. “Countless” – This very much does sound like he was referring to all the other changes like Australis.

        And i have to agree very much with something like that. Because of what is going on with Mozilla i have decided to switch to Opera. At least this guys to push new customization features in the browser like Stash and Discover, while Mozilla is creating a very Chrome like UI and killing customizations and pushing that in the hands of add-on devs with the opinion “We do not care any longer for customization, if YOU want to bring it back, do it, we personally do NOT care”.

        Opera may have switched from Presto to Chromium, but they show that they are more willing to push customization options into Opera with Chromium as Mozilla does into Firefox with Australis.

        Opera=switched to Chromium, but is willing to add basic customization back over time

        Mozilla=steps back from customization developement, removes that things and gives it into the hands of add-on devs.

        Seen from that 2 points, my vote goes for Opera.

      4. anonymous said on March 30, 2014 at 11:56 am

        @ Sören Hentzschel: If it was around for that long, what is the reason of this several year long delay? Same goes for the DPanel…

      5. Sören Hentzschel said on March 30, 2014 at 3:39 am

        “by their countless changes for the sake of being in a very close parity with Chrome.”

        Has NOTHING to do with Chrome. In-content preferences was already planned for Firefox 4. I published first mockups of in-content preferences for Firefox on my blog 4 years (!) ago. At that time Chrome 5 was the latest version of Google’s browser. Chrome 10 was the first version of Chrome with in-content preferences…

      6. Sheldon said on March 29, 2014 at 7:54 pm

        Pale Moon, Cyberfox and Seamonkey will never have Australis. As long as these kind of devs are willing to use the amount of extra time it is necessary to backport the old UI or as long as they can backport security fixes, as long these browsers will be able to maintain the classic UI – also with an Australis codebase.

        The only point one have to fear is that that Devs got tired of Mozilla’s Chrome madness and move over to another browser. In other words.. the big fear one have to keep in mind with Pale Moon and Cyberbox is – while they stay Australis free – you already can count on the fact that you have to keep searching for another browser in the near future.

        Mozilla does everything to make these kind of guys more and more demotivated by their countless changes for the sake of being in a very close parity with Chrome.

        Better choose Qupzilla, Otter-Browser or something like Maxthon. IF it has to be Gecko, choose Seamonkey after that moment has arrived.

        But in the meantime.. i see no reason why people should not use Cyberfox or Pale Moon. I am quite sure these guys will still continue 1-2 years. So no reason to worry for now :)

  22. Nebulus said on March 29, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    It is clear to me for some time now that Mozilla no longer cares about anything except their twisted vision about how an UI should look like. Fortunately for now their browser keeps working fine and a lot of people keep using it (including myself). But the day they will make a serious mistake that will drive a lot of users away in the name of their “vision” seems to be closing fast…

  23. Jaroslav Matura said on March 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    I think it’s pretty clear the old window will be removed once inContent Preferences lands. They’ve proved this several times already – remember old Downloads window, old Add-on manager, tabs on bottom, findbar, and more.

    I just hope they aren’t serious with those custom checkboxes. If they are trying to pull off something like Chrome’s Aura (which is by the way ugly as hell), they are doing a darn bad job. The styling looks like a 13 years old’s work.

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