Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Firefox.next UI Mockups Revealed

Firefox.next Firefox 3.5 is barely out the door but development hasn't slowed down at Mozilla, with a bug fixing version, 3.5.1, having just come out and others soon to follow. Meanwhile, work has already started on the upcoming major release, dubbed Firefox.next to avoid the issues that affected 3.1 which became 3.5 after a beta version was already released, leading to some confusion. The version number was modified to underline the significant changes between the two releases. Firefox.next isn't expected to come out until the first half of next year but a feature list is already being put in place and design and interface changes proposed.

On the UI front some mockup designs have been posted on the Mozilla wiki to undergo public scrutiny. Just the Windows versions of Firefox are represented for now but the proposed design already looks better and seems to offer improved functionality. The designs are by no means final but they can offer an insight on things to come.

For Windows 7/Vista better integration with the native UI is proposed with the use of a “glass” effect on the tabs, buttons and address bar complete with “real” transparency. While the idea looks very good in drawing, actually making it happen may prove more difficult as Firefox uses its own XUL-based interface for those components and not the native Windows API, which allows it to have a common code base for all platforms but makes it harder to have customized designs. Other changes should be easier to achieve though, like the cleaner-looking buttons and emphasized controls for the tools options and toggling the bookmarks tool bar on, off. A revised version is also available for Windows XP with similar tweaks to the design.

Under the hood the main focus for the new version will be on better performance overall, not just for the JavaScript engine, especially with increased pressure from Chrome, which boasts impressive responsiveness. Personalization and customization options are also getting increased attention, something we're seeing with 3.5 already, with the new lightweight theming engine Personas and the new extension platform Jetpack. More details are bound to pop up as we are getting close to the release date of Firefox.next.

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