With Firefox 3.5 safely out the door, the Mozilla Foundation has released mockups of its interface plans for version 3.7 of the popular browser. The changes are small but significant for users looking for a cleaner, de-cluttered interface, better desktop integration and more display real estate.
The mockups on the Mozilla Foundation website (https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/3.7_Windows_Theme_Mockups) are specifically designed with Windows XP/Vista/7 in mind but give some indication of the thinking going on at the foundation.
What’s immediately obvious is the obvious attempt to simplify the interface and hide unnecessary menus and buttons, along the lines of Google’s Chrome browser which dispenses with most menus in favour of a minimalist interface. The Firefox 3.7 mockups show that the buttons to the left of the address bar have been streamlined down to just four buttons, each of which has a distinct look to them.The home button has been removed and the back and forward buttons have been merged into one unit. The “recent pages” dropdown has also been moved to its new location in the tab bar.
But perhaps the most obvious change is the missing File/Edit/View menu bar. That whole menu system has been removed to a new position under a “view” button to the right of the address bar. And next to that is a bookmarks button. The effect of removing the top menu bar is a larger area to use for displaying websites.
Also very noticeable in the early mockups is extensive use of “glass” in the themes which means that Firefox will have translucency similar to Windows Explorer on Windows Vista and Windows 7. The XP version doesn’t have the same glass look but is otherwise largely the same as the Windows Vista version.
The obvious effect of the changes are to increase the display area on all platforms. The proposed changes to Firefox 3.7 are just the start of a much longer process, however. Initial proposals (https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/Sprints/Windows_Theme_Revamp) for Firefox 4.0 show an even further streamlined interface for the browser with the tabbed bar being moved to the top of the window much like Google’s Chrome browser. Buttons such as the Home button might also be moved to the top of the window in place of the title bar, further expanding the viewing area.
Although these are early mockups of interface plans the overall impression is that the Firefox team is looking to tightly integrate the browser into the desktop, reduce the impression that the browser is an external application to the operating system and expand the viewing area to its maximum.
Firefox 3.7 discussion