back to article Mozilla plots Firefox interface overhaul

Mozilla has detailed plans to revamp and simplify the user interface of Firefox. The visual update for the Windows version of the open source browser will occur in two phases, coinciding with the release of Firefox 3.7 and 4.0, with early changes set to include hiding the menu bar and merging the "stop" and "reload" buttons. …

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Troll

We are not trying to make Firefox look like any other browser.

However we are copying how Opera shares stop/reload, how Chrome uses tabs on top (which copies Opera tabbed browser), we also kinda stole gestures from Opera too, and are in the process of copying Google stealing Operas speed dial.

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Unhappy

I'd be happier..

..if they made all their bloody menus the same! One for Windows, different one for Linux. A bit of continuity isn't too much to ask for, is it?

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whatever

I'm sorry but sometimes you just have to admit, yo Chrome looks cool lets copy it!

IE8/Chromium both use the dual button system on the right, and as Mozilla dev have rightly reasoned, without the menubar, it makes sense for the "Awesome bar" to be within a tab, not outside of it.

I do believe these designs become fleshed out shortly after Chrome burst onto the scene.

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FAIL

Overhaul ui = make it look like IE8 / chrome on windows.

Not exactly a stunning new direction. I don't agree with this hide the menu bar direction everyone seems to be following now for browsers.

Lets remove the one common UI element all applications have and force our users to hunt around in new and unexpected places to find the options.

Fail because this is eye candy above usability.

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Nice

Really like the Firefox 4.0 design. Chic.

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What about Linux fans?

I'd say most Ubuntu/Linux users use firefox as default browser, etc. what about a revamp for us?

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FAIL

New != better

This smacks of revolution for revolution's sake. Hiding the menubar seems an arbitrary decision at best... they've tried to disguise this by bunging all of the main options onto the 'Tools' menu: https://wiki.mozilla.org/File:Fx-3.7-Tools-Menu-Phase-01.png

'NEW WINDOW' IS NOT A TOOL.

'EXIT' IS NOT A TOOL.

I could go on.

Some of the stuff on that wiki is really frightening: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Menu_cleanup

They're justifying removing menu shortcuts such as Reload, Close Window, Close Tab, or Delete(!), based on the fact that they're "already in the UI". Well yeah, sure, assuming we're all a species of super-users, but there's plenty of people out there who use those menus, particularly for accessibility.

So, time to find a new lightweight browser which focuses on usability and a small footprint, rather than bunging in gimimcky new features... hang on, isn't this why I switched to Firefox in the first place?!

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@ stephen 8

Menu bars are sooo passé. I'm guessing Mozilla are going to put all your precious options in the "Tools" button on the right. Everything else is just superfluous clutter and in most cases has been bypassed by ff extensions/other browsers... It's about time that FF windows got a redesign. In fact, my vote is simply to hand all FF design decisions to Aza Raskin and let him get on with it. Granny might not be able to use it, but boy will it be swish.

Although I do agree with the eye candy sentiment. Forget the interface, priority should be with developing Jetpack and Weave. Pretty it up later.

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FAIL

Yuck

Don't like it. Current one's not perfect, but what is the addiction to hiding menus, adding transparency etc? It's a browser people, it doesn't need to look good, just needs to render quickly and properly.

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FAIL

ui might look old but it is functionally sound imo

gotta disagree strongly on one point - firefox has a "tall and bulky UI footprint" - what a load of crap.

firefoxes ui is fantastically customisable - it knocks spots off everything else in terms of flexibility imo. just look at internot exploders foolbar - you cant change the size of the buttons or where theyre placed on the toolbar - you cant have the address bar or the menu bar share their 'bands' with anything else, resulting in needlessly wasted screen space (which is made worse the wider your monitor is). and what the hell is with not being able to put the menu bar (file, edit etc) _above_ the navigation bar? utter rubbish.

i only mention this because in windows7 they have only gone and put this hideous unconfigurable toolbar interface thing into the bloody windows file explorer. and you cant get rid of it.

ill take firefoxes ui over anything else any day TBQFH.

(p.s. sorry this turned into an internot exploder bash :))

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Oh noes, my browser is ugly

Give me a break. When was the last time your browser's appearance had any impact on:

a) Your browsing experience?

b) Whether or not you used said browser?

c) Anything, on any planet, ever?

I like having menus available, not hunting for them. At the top of my screen I have the menu, then the address bar, then the link bar, and then my tabs. Total screen usage? Not a lot, actually...

Sure, it's ugly as sin. Pity it works.

And for those people claiming this is a rip off of IE, well, you're right. But let's be honest here, IE7 was a complete and utter Firefox rip off. It's six and two threes.

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Joke

Form over function

mmmph... It's a tool for browsing the Internet. If I bought an electric hammer I wouldn't expect it to be pretty, and I certainly wouldn't expect to have to search for the on switch.

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FAIL

Not copying other browsers ?

So Mozilla are not copying other browser are they ?

<quote>

early changes set to include hiding the menu bar and merging the "stop" and "reload" buttons

<\quote>

Opera already has the option to hide the menu bar in v10, with it accessible through a start like button instead. As has been said the stop and reload have been merged since at least v5 if not before. Question is will they revert to having the Go button available all the time without resorting to hacks ?

<quote>

The proposed spruce-up also includes combining the browser's address and search bars

<\quote>

Again you have been able to search directly from the address bar in Opera from about v7 or v8

As for moving the tabs above the rest of the window, that, to me at least just looks wrong. I prefer them at the bottom of the screen, but of course others will like them at the top, or even one side or other. I know currently with Firefox I have to find and install an addon to move the tab bar. In Opera you can move it where you like, from a default install. Will Firefox have them stuck at the top again and no way to move them like Chrome ?

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FAIL

Ugh

I realise i'm probably in a minority on this one, but I really hope that these changes aren't so hard wired into Firefox that they can't be switched off or reversed with extensions to restore the old interface design. I find the Chrome interface design to be ugly and inefficient. As a developer I need to get at menu options easily, this hide the menu bar things just makes my life more difficult. I also prefer to have separate windows rather than tabs, because I can easily move them about on my muitl-monitor desktop. One of the things I like about the current design is that if you don't want tabs you can easily hide the tab bar and change the default so that stuff opens in new windows. This new design looks to have made the tab bar a more permanent feature.

I've not got a problem with a new interface design being the default, I just want to be able to switch it off if it doesn't work for me.

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curious

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It's a browser people, it doesn't need to look good, just needs to render quickly and properly.

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A similar thing could be said for almost every application and OS for that matter - it doesn't need to look good it just needs to work quickly and properly... hell, I still use command line prompts and .bat files on XP.

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Silver badge

Gratuitous oversimplification

There is usability and then there is dumbing down the entire experience for the lowest common denominator. IE, Chrome and now Firefox are going all the same way and I really don't see what the point is for some of these changes.

Browsers are not a world unto themselves and should not just reinvent the conventions of the host OS as they see fit. Simplify yes, but do so within the conventions of the OS. A button / menu on the right hand side with a subset of actions is no substitute for a proper menu. At the very least menus should be toggleable and if they are shown, they should appear at the TOP of the frame, not sandwiched between the nav bar and other toolbars as they do in IE. Browsers should also avoid skinning the UI for no reason whatsoever, changing the look / feel of buttons, frames etc. for completely arbitrary non-functional reasons. Google Chrome does this for no clear reason.

The most grotesque browser example is Safari which is close to unusable unless you are some kind of masochist.

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Don't hide menus!

Menu removal is an awful Microsoft-led piece of unnecessary UI fiddling which makes things worse rather than better. There is no good reason for open source software to follow this trend, so... don't!

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Alert

Familiar

I use Firefox with the Vista-aero theme, and the Personal Menus addon to hide the menu bar. Guess what, that first screenshot looks almost exactly like my browser right now, except for the tools and other utility buttons are at the right of the tab bar IE style, rather than at the right of the nav bar.

Still, it would be nice if the default theme wasn't so fugly, for the benefit of first-time users who might be put off by the current appearance. I personally hate the tabs-on-top scheme, and I hope that doesn't get adopted, but no doubt it will be possible to change that anyhow.

Maybe they should consider having more than one default theme configuration though. I use very different setups on my 1900x1200 17" laptop from on my 1280x600 netbook where minimizing UI space and maximising content area are far more important. Perhaps rather than trying to find a one-size-fits-all default, they should look at providing a range of defaults to suit the target machine and user.

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Unhappy

Why Tabs on Top?

Can they not integrate an option to have tab under as well as tab over?

I like minimal distance between viewport and tabs

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WTF?

This constitues a title.

What the hell is the obsession of hiding the sodding menu bar? Will there be an option to bring it back, if you don't happen to swallow the cool-aid?

At least they can't hide the damn thing in OS X.

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FAIL

Screen readers?

As soon as you dump the Windows standard UI resources, screen readers can't see the menus, making the program inaccessable for blind users, or users that have to use something else but a mounse and keyboard to interact with the app. It's just the usual arrogant eye-candy, in other words.

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Stop

do what you like

Mozilla can do what they like with the default theme, as long as it's still flexible enough for a 3rd party theme to fix it.

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@What about Linux fans?

I think the problem there isn't just limited to Firefox. With compiz, clutter and pretty reasonable graphics card drivers, Linux has loads of potential for implementing really flashy, modern UIs/desktops these days. Yet the default themes used by most distros still look very plasticy and dated. Given the average non-techie user thinks of an operating system as just the pretty bits you see on the screen, the current ugliness of Linux isn't really helping its uptake amongst general consumers.

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Silver badge
WTF?

Hey-ho, when you can't think of anything else...

Hide the bloody UI.

It's not broken. Don't fix it. Put the menu bar back where it belongs and stop cluttering the real estate up with garbage.

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Flame

Microcrap

One man's "dated and behind" is another's "clean and functional". What's so kool about copying Microsoft every time they create some even more unusable shit.

FF ain't broke, stop trying to fix it.

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Coat

Why stop there....

<sarcasm>

Let's have a ribbon.

</sarcasm>

Mines the coat that looks old and unfashionable but does a great job of keeping me warm.

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MJI
Silver badge
FAIL

Bring back the menu

No menu bar?

How can you use it?

Removing it is a stupid idea, and those top tabs look weird

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Unhappy

@Doogie Howser MD

I agree, but it's not entirely Mozilla's fault - they're just trying to follow each individual OS's style guidelines. (Edit -> Preferences, in particular, bugs me every time I have to visit it on linux. One of these things is not like the other indeed!)

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Menu removal

Netbooks, it's almost "killer app" on a netbook browser. Using a combination of Tiny Menu and Stratini on Firefox 3.5, I've got everything I use regularly (URL, search, menu, basic controls) on one row, previously wasted space with just the menu. That's allowed me to drop the Bookmarks and Navigation toolbars and the status bar - freeing up some quite valuable screen space on my netbook screen. Not a huge difference but I find that there's a massive number of articles etc that I no longer need to scroll to read.

I'm not a fan of it, but it helps useability in that environment. I suspect it would look silly on my 21" screen though. Horses for courses, is what it comes down to - so I'm hoping like others that these new changes can be opted out of - without having to wait for a stable extension to do Mozilla's job for them.

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Grim

That is godawful.

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FAIL

my god

are they getting the same peer group for ideas that MS used for windows7?

Seriously it looks god awful. If they want to copy a UI go copy netscape 4 at least it was functional and easy to use. And while there at it add a option to completely disable the damn awful bar and make it act like it used to. the damn bar even after hacks to disable it still occasionally will completely freeze my system when I type in a addy in the bar. Still can't figure out why when I type ebay google.com pops up as the url auto completed...

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Anonymous Coward

Browser Wars

Now that they all render so very well, what did you all expect would become the focus in the new browser wars?

They no they can no longer get away creating proprietary tags, DOMs and CSS properties (although I'd still like to see the W3C finally introduce <peek> and <poke> for HTML5), but what they can do from now on is mess around with the UI, and compete on that - and that includes coming up with proprietary features to cause lock-in for the user.

We're still in the phase where they're all stealing each others ideas (Well... mainly Opera's, including tabs on top, bookmark nicknames and searching from the address bar in version 4-5) but once all the 'standard' features are in all browsers, then you'll start to see radical changes to the browser user interface, including the removal of the back button. At least one browser maker will remove it, saying that Web 2.0 has made the concept redundant, and replace it with some new fangled mechanism, leading to its users becoming 'locked in' to their new philosophy. Then the others will all change other fundamental parts of what we see in browsers today.

Add to that all the peripheral services such as Opera Sync, Opera Unite, Widgets, Web slices, Firefox extensions, etc, and there will be much more lock-in than ever there was with Web 1.0 browsers. At least then all you had to do was switch browsers and worry about transferring your bookmarks, or change your website and pay the bill. In the future, users will be buying into a whole system, and it's not going to be so easy to change.

Makes you wonder why everyone (including MS) is so supportive of web standards these days. could it all be a diversion from what they're really up to? All these advocates thought web standards would bring us an open web, it may just be that it does the complete opposite - and browser makers are only standardising their rendering engines because it's all been done now, and there's nothing more to gain from competing with proprietary code. A bit like how cutting edge programming languages can sometimes be fractured as people compete on how to use the language until it all becomes rather passé. At which point, an ISO version is agreed upon by all and everyone sticks to that whilst getting on with the real business of competing with the programs they make using with that language.

We've passed the point where normal home PCs have adequate CPU and RAM. Making them faster and bigger is of no use to people anymore. However, it is providing a perfect opportunity to squander all those surplus CPU cycles by turning web browsers (dynamic document viewers) into pseudo operating systems (look how Opera now adds Widgets - through Add/Remove in the Control Panel!). The browser makers are happy because it makes them more important, their users end up locked in to a system and they make more money. And the OS vendors are happy because although they no longer get all the limelight, browsers aren't real operating systems yet, so you still need their product lurking silently underneath to make it all work. And the hardware makers love it all because it means they get to continue making faster chips and FSBs and bigger RAM sticks etc.

Seriously, what's the advantage to me of a Widget running on a widget runtime running on a browser running on an operating system? Why not save all those CPU cycles, not to mention watts, by standardising operating system APIs (a bit like POSIX but for all systems) and then having programs written in C++ or PHP or whatever language each developer finds convenient to them which can then be installed on a Mac, PC, Symbian or Linux, with the only 'system requirements' being the appropriate CPU architecture (Java has the same problem as the browser-OS model - it's too slow).

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Stop

Excellent!

I see the that El Reg attracts UX and UI experts as well as legal geniuses and product design gurus. You lot are all saying not much, and saying it too loudly. Don't like the changes? Don't use it! As the EU have reminded us, there are other options...

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I already have Tabs on Top

and I use space to the right of the menu for Weather and I use the menus a lot. I take off the Bookmarks.

While the glass on later Windows is quite nice, great big thick window frames are not.

I also use mouse gestures to navigate.

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Silver badge

Fail

It doesn't look dated on my Windows machine, given that I set the display to "Windows Classic" pretty early on in setting it up.

I'm slightly more advanced than a Luddite, given that I use computers, but I don't need all this fancy crap and menus designed by someone who wants it to look pretty at the expense of making it harder to use.

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Here we go again

We could spend some time making it load faster (the first time), stopping a stupidly complex page in one tab causing all the others to stop responding while it renders, or reducing its memory hog usage without resorting to tweaks and plug-ins...

...or we could pretty it up by changing the colours of the buttons.

Guess which one gets the most votes?

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Rubbish

If they go this way I shall definitely jump ship to chrome under windows. Not sure what I'll do for linux though. Maybe I'll resort to IE8 under wine!

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Stop

Do not remove menus

I absolutely hate Word 2007 once they removed the menus! I am struggling to use it and have decided to go to LateX instead!

Please I beg Mozilla not to remove the menu bar

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For god's sake

would everyone and their mum stop hiding the pissing menu bar by default.

It really is a terrible, terrible idea - most apps I've seen that hide the menu bar also hide a fair chunk of their functionality, as it's the only way of accessing it.

Media Play 12 is a good example - by default every time you play a song, it re-writes the date modified stamp on your music, as it adds the start rating in. You have to turn on the sidebar, then right click that, then go to options to even see the tab to stop it doing this.

Likewise, in Vista, there's no way to setup an incoming connection via the GUI, because of the hidden menu.

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Stop

My god, what a bunch of whiners

I'm always baffled by the amount of whining in these comments. The menu bar is gone! OH NO, THE SKY IS FALLING!

Seriously, how often do you actually use the menu bar? What on earth do you use it FOR? Should you choose to answer this, bear in mind what kind of user you are. If you're a developer or anyone else heavily involved in IT, YOU ARE NOT NORMAL. You are in a tiny minority compared to the regular users who just browse the web.

I've been using Chrome for months and the number of times I've needed to use a menu (at least one that isn't the right-click menu) I can count on the fingers of one hand. For those rare situations, the Page and Spanner menus suffice.

As for the tabs-on-top thing: it makes more sense that way. The contents of a tab are the page and the address of that page combined, thus it's logical to have the tab visually contain these elements. There is perhaps an inconsistency here with the bookmarks toolbar, however.

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Bugger the interface

Fix the bloody memory usage!

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FAIL

FIREFOX 4.0

having used firefox for a few years from 2.0 i think if i remember it was utter disaster from day one constant bugs all over including the annoying memory issue which still exsists in todays firefox what basically happens is surfing the web the memory it uses for it goes up and up and up till it gets to a point where it crashes the browser all together i then tried google chrome yes it looked nice but it just didnt look finished. then i tried opera browser and safari all didnt work out at all. then i went back to ie8 now i will admit i am not a fan of ie internet explorer but was willing to try it as il try any browser now although im not happy about it it does have the features i want simple and it is more secure i will admit its not perfect but no browser is perfect. the only problem i have is windows media player and ie for shown videos up that use wmp.

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Anonymous Coward

Who goes to an art gallery to look at the frames?

I care about what's inside the browser window, myself.

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Allow the old version

I'd admit I'm not a fan of tab-on-top but there's no progress without a bit of experimentation. This fails when it becomes change for change's sake and fails totally if you don't have a 'look like previous version' option. Some people take time to get used to stuff. What pisses me off is when I get used to some UI/menu layout/whatever, the new version comes along looking different and the only way to keep the older look is to keep the older version!

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Upgrades stop here...

as far as I'm concerned. I use the stop button a lot, anyone with limited download speed or bandwidth limits probably does, and we don't want the page to go blank and start loading again. I don't want to relearn the flipping browser every month or so either. Short term memory full, stop the data.

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Badgers

re:Oh noes, my browser is ugly

>> Give me a break. When was the last time your browser's appearance had any impact on:

>> a) Your browsing experience?

>> b) Whether or not you used said browser?

>> c) Anything, on any planet, ever?

This is the perfect demonstration of the diference between developers and end users, if you are aiming for the masses (as firefox and other big open source projects are) then looking modern and pretty are essential.

If it looks old and crap people will assume its old and crap, and will avoid it like the plague. I'm not saying usability isn't important, it is. But how it looks is what defines initial impression, and is very important.

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Flame

FFS

Why are Mozilla turning the clock back?

The reason I gave up on Netscape 4 was because I could no longer access the bookmarks menu using keyboard shortcuts. I kicked about on Netscape 3 for a while then went to IE5/6 and stayed with that until Firefox was launched which returned to offering a proper bookmarks menu.

Why remove it??? Why, oh, why, oh, why?!?!

Flames because I'm really angry, I don't want to be forced back to IE. Step away from the bookmarks menu!

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Bronze badge
Badgers

Classic Style Theme

Will it switch to match my utilitarian but functional Windows Classic Style Theme or will it stubbornly remain looking like pointless eye candy ?

I've no shame in using a Theme which isn't far removed from Windows 95. I wonder if all this fancy tarting-up isn't driven by people who think furry A4 pads are cool, own vibrating pens, write in fluorescent pink ink and wear Hello Kitty slippers.

I know it's early but; bah humbug !

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