Firefox.future theme update mockup

Mozilla’s Stephen Horlander has posted several mockups of an updated Firefox theme on Windows Vista and XP (Strata). Before getting to excited about it, note that these are mere mockups for “brainstoming and exploration only”. Second, the page title suggests it won’t be available until spring next year, the targeted Firefox 3.7 release date.

In the meantime, here’s what’s new:

  • Aero Glass support, another
  • No menu bar, which is becoming a design default on Windows Vista/7. Of course it brings the challenge of how to distribute the many options and actions the menu bar holds without affecting usability or accessibility.
  • A Bookmarks button would take care of a few menu items, probably opening to the bookmarks menu and giving access to the Library.
  • A Tools menu, which would probably collect the most options: the managers (Downloads and Add-ons), Options, Error Console, Import, Private Browsing, help, updates, etc.
  • Page menu, not sure if the tab bar is the best place for it (perhaps the site button?), would collect all page related actions: most of the File menu, zoom, page info, source, style
  • New glyphs, and always visible buttons, necessary to provide enough contrast over Aero Glass.
  • No status bar? I think it’s just an omission, like the scroll  bars.


Here’s the mockup on Windows XP, similar to Windows Vista but the Page menu goes just next to Tools.


Another important change is to have theme updates mockups so early in the development cycle giving more opportunity to people to voice their concerns.

One unsolved issue is the Edit menu and tabs/windows restore options, but still I find a very nice update that modernizes Firefox while making it look much more native on Vista/7. I really hope the update can make it for Firefox 3.6 targeted for next North fall (October – December).

What do you think?

42 thoughts on “Firefox.future theme update mockup”

  1. I really hope they don’t copy Chrome’s page and tool buttons completely in the final version like they did here. If anything, I think that they should copy the tiny title bar.

  2. How difficult would it be to just make this theme work? I always thought that the user interface of Firefox was ‘just’ a webpage. Wouldn’t that mean that you could make a Firefox nightly with this new theme and just update through every iteration?

  3. Why would you make aero tabs? If you have bright or dark wallpaper or anything it will just hurt your eyes when trying to read what tabs you’ve opened

  4. This looks amazing. I hope it makes it to release.

    @ Vygantas: I’ve been using Aero tabs for months and I have no such problem.

  5. I personally believe there can be too much glass. I’ve seen it implemented to the point of madness.

    I currently use the Glasser addon to make fx more compatible with it’s fellow Windows 7 applications and it adds just enough.

    By all means ‘Aero’ the toolbars and the status bar, but lave the tabs alone.

  6. I’d be happy to see the Menu bar disappear, personally I prefer to use an addon the condenses everything into a single icon.

    One question, in the mock-up it looks as if there is just one toolbar? If one wanted to add additional icons, for various short-cuts, wouldn’t that become overcrowded very quickly?

    What about bookmarks? again I use a single iconised menu to access all my bookmark toolbar entries, but others like to have lots of individual short-cuts.

  7. @Vygantas, The bright sections of the wallpaper aren’t affecting it much but it would be good to see it against black and white to see if any slight readability issues crop up.

    I really love it and hope it stays this uncluttered.

    The breathing room around top and bottom of the buttons and tabs looks really good but it is going to eat into browser real estate. The less that bar gets in the way, the better so it’s a tough decision what to do there, pretty and spaced or more usable and cramped.

  8. Finally firefox gets the theme it deserves, the current one is far from good. This gave me some hope about firefox looks

  9. Using glasser I have already achieved a similar theme, but honestly it barely works on vista.
    Vista’s aero goes black when its maximised and changes the window title font white. Its damn difficult to read with some wallpapers!

    I found a solution for the issue with aero tabs; using the ColourfulTabs extension, or similar, you can alter the opacity of the tabs and give a base for which to be able to read the tab text on.

  10. Any ideas on this for the linux version of firefox? This is a very nice design, and linux users need some love!

  11. Also, I imagine that having both the button for bookmarking and the button for the bookmarks toolbar could be confusing. Why not just have the toggle for the bookmarks bar under the Tools menu?

  12. Okay. I love a lot of this.
    Do NOT join the tools to the window. It looks ugly, and users won’t relate it to that. Just do the chrome thing (as you did in the XP style).
    In the XP style, you cannot bookmark.
    Remove the background of the favicons.
    Take out the ‘+’ icon in the new tab icon. It’s not needed. It will just look like a small blank tab. On the hover, add a page icon. (Ie8 like).
    Take out the star icon from the URL bar in vista/7.
    Combine stop and reload.

  13. Very good 🙂

    The only criticism I have though is the removal of the menu bar. If it were to go like this, I’d like there to be some sort of option to bring it back. If I ever have to use IE, I cannot bear putting up with its system, either having to turn it on or keep pressing “Alt”. I’d also imagine that it would be hard to merge seven menus into two without such menus looking rather cluttered. Possibly there could be a “menus” button that causes them to slide in somewhere in the design (sort of non-transparent though, attached to the border like the tools menu is). If not, where the pages button is would be a good place to have a “Menu” button from which all the menus currently available as sub-menus emerge.

    I’m also slightly concerned about the missing bookmarks bar. Maybe hidden by default, but certainly being an option – I don’t use the menu, just the bar (although I now do search bookmarks through the bar as opposed to using the menu).

    Other than that though very stylish and modern looking.

    One idea that just came to me was that the bookmarks button in the menu could sort of transform into a bookmarks only search box. A menu sort of comes down, a search box in it, below that space for the results and then below that the other bookmarking options/menus.

    1. I think the menu bar can safely go away, it’s just a space hogger. You really have to ask yourself how many of the options in those menus do you really need two click access to. I think much of it could live in one menu and applaud trying to simplify things this way rather than keep on building menu item after menu item.

      Bookmarks bar should stay gone by default. Already there is too much space taken up by the tabs and buttons. Add to that the taskbar in Windows and the browsing height is rapidly decreasing.

      I’ve tweaked my Firefox to use as little vertical space as possible and while it requires a change in how you use the browser, once you get into it, it’s so much better having more vertical space in the area where you’re really concentrating most of your attention, the actual websites.

    2. According to Horlander’s page (the first link in the post), the Bookmarks button next to the Tools button opens the Bookmarks bar. So it’d be only a click away with this theme. Perhaps double-clicking would open the sidebar or the Library or such.

  14. And linux? Ubuntu? what happens? we’re always the forgotten us? To be an open source project deals very badly the Linux platform. I am surprised the big misunderstanding and laziness of the developers.

    1. But you are statistically negligible 🙂

      Open Source is a river that people come to drink from, not put water back into. Only hippies do that and they are also statistically negligible 🙂 (read as a joke but with a lining of truth)

      Not that I don’t have any love for the Linux. I do, really I do. It’s just easy to forget about it sometimes in all the hub and bub of an average windows powered computing day.

      Feel free to throw cabbages at me or something.

    2. Mac OSX wasn’t mentioned here either. This is simply initial brainstorming for the most popular platform, which is naturally where attention will be focused first. The others won’t be left out.

  15. @techpops: I will not throw cabbages anyone. Everyone has their opinion.

    One thing if you recognize it. We are statistically insignificant, but because these things happen, like saying that we are insignificant and therefore does not develop software for us.

    If the developers work more on our platform, I am sure we would not be an issue as insignificant.

  16. Please don’t remove the menu bar!!! What is this crazy fashion for doing this? I really don’t care much for the ‘glass’ effect either.

  17. Wow. Really great. I want this, especially when the Windows theme turned out so… out of context with FF 3. Of course, it doesn’t really apply to me, a Mac/Linux user, that much, but it’s still great, and there’ll probably be theme ports for me.
    As for getting rid of the menu bar, I prefer the Chrome/Safari-esque “Tools” and “Page” buttons next to each other, without labels, and nothing in the tab bar. But always have the menu bar optional.

  18. *sigh* When I saw the light and switched to Firefox 2, I liked how it kept the simple, sensible IE 6 layout (everything in a row), while throwing out everything that made IE horrible. Firefox 3 continued this, while IE 7 threw all its buttons into the air so that they fell back on the toolbar every which way. This new theme isn’t as bad as that, but with the removal of the menu bar (and bookmarks bar, although as I mentioned above it’s only a click away), it seems to be a step in that direction.

    Oh well. This is far from final, and even if it were, I’d get used to it as I have to all the other changes. I do like the extensive glass integration and the back-forward buttons.

  19. They look nice but I’d have to say the loss of menu bar is a concern. It’s all well and good if you can reduce all the official options to fit under 2 buttons but that leaves plugins and extensions with no logical place to add extra functionality. I wouldn’t want to see every extension start adding a toolbar just to prevent options being buried 3 or 4 layers deep under the ‘one button to rule them all’. Menus are a consistent and familar UI feature and I don’t see a need to reinvent them for the sake of 20 pixels of vertical real estate.

    I’d also say be careful with the shadows, they have a habit of seriously complicating layouts and the ones you have are also inconsistent in terms of the light source. It looks from the buttons that the light source is positioned above and slightly towards the top of the screen but if so the content area should not have a shadow on its top edge (that would imply the light is actually coming from below). You should really pay attention to the properties of the light source and document them so they can be reproduced accurately and consistently by 3rd-party developers.

    1. @spiff I understand where you’re coming from. It’s an interesting point about reducing the area third party developers have to play with, but I think ultimately that extra area, namely the menu space, has been abused. If you start installing a lot of extensions, the menu area can break up into a real mess. I know mine is, and while developers do need to be able to affect the interface, currently I don’t see a smooth way of doing it.

      If you take the bookmarks bar as an example, here any kind of site, no matter how different, will be arranged in a consistent row if favicons and names you can easily change yourself. If developers had access to some kind of bar that had a simple rule set like this, that would help smooth things out when it came to expanding extensions beyond just a few. But again, that’s going to eat into browsing space and it can’t really be a default option, so were back to square one.

      Menus used to be a consistent feature of every program, but that’s changing. The menu was always a cheap design trick to fit in extra functionality into the UI without actually doing any hard work. Office is a good example of a program that abused its menu, which has been addressed nicely in the form of the context sensitive ribbon bar which pulls out menu items and gives you graphical access to them.

      Finally I’d say the few pixels gained by removing the menu bar was important. From a usability standpoint, the area which gets 99% of your attention are the sites the browser displays, anything that eats into that has to have a special reason to do so. This is acutely so on limited height resolution Netbooks and new screens coming out which are portable and so small be necessity.

  20. Looks the same as IE or Google Chrome, maybe neat it a way (especially if you use the plain Fox) but not handy. I wonder where I should keep my bookmarks bar. And the other stuff that I also put on that bar. And all my (extension) icons on the navigation bar. I will try to change it and when everything is where it belongs it will look horrible.
    Cool isn’t everything! Usability first. A browser is a tool.

  21. Looks like total Chrome ripoff… instead of trying “to be like some other browsers”, just improve the quality of the product. for example, the linux version is not something you could use… memory leaks, heavy GUI and what not.

  22. I’d rather see a refinement/evolution of the classic Netscape-Mozilla-Firefox-etc. layout rather than a mashup of Chrome and IE. For example, the GUI for the Places bookmark system in Firefox 3 felt like a natural extension of the traditional bookmarking system: it added some wonderfully quick and easy GUI elements for adding/editing bookmarks plus some completely new features, yet it doesn’t completely throw out the general design for the old bookmark manager or folder-based bookmark organization.

    Likewise, please keep a standard menu bar. They are a standard GUI element in the vast majority of Windows applications and work in a consistent way, except when developers do weird things to skinned apps. Microsoft is the main one that’s been pushing for menu bar-less designs, and they can’t even settle on a consistent style: look at MS Office vs. Vista’s Explorer, for instance! Also, before they tried eliminating them completely they used to push for abbreviated menus in Office and the Start menu, and I have yet to meet anyone who actually liked them-actually, a lot of novice users seem to just get frustrated and confused because their regular menu commands were “gone”!

  23. Seems so organic. Completed by conception of vertical tabs alignment it will perfectly fit into modern 16:9 displays.

  24. Thanks for dropping stupid and useless “home” button !
    And I hope they will put bookmarks toolbar ABOVE navigation and not under.

  25. Why does everything have to look, smell, taste and feel like Windows? The fact that W7/Vista doesnt have the toobar choices shouldnt mean that it no longer serves a purpose. You cannot lead if you only follow.

    Unless the developers find a way to keep the functionality (they do serve a purpose), I hope they are not removed. I believe Firefox 3.5.3 is the best it has ever been and they are on the right track.

    Id rather see those building websites go back to school and re-learn how a browser was designed to work. If you resize a window, you dont lose part of what you are viewing. And thinking everyone will have a 16:9 screen when FF 3.7 is available is a joke.

    If you dont think there is a desire for customization and extended functionality, why are there 10,000 addons for FF?

    It seems we are heading to a browser in the form of a dialog box with a pinhole in the middle.

  26. It’s Fun. But real profi internet users not need any silly style, glass buttons, and 3d effects.
    Stability, Speed, and security it is important for me, and I like FF for this

  27. Although in practice I mostly use a combination of keyboard shortcuts and toolbar I still like the idea of having a menu available. I think a reasonable solution would be either to copy Opera 10’s “hide menu” implementation or to have a keyboard shortcut that toggles display of the menu bar (similar to how Chrome toggles display of its bookmarks bar). I don’t see how cramming menu options over to the right as in Chrome improves usability. Plus how do we then accommodate menu entries from extensions?

    Re: getting more screen real estate I just switch to full screen mode when necessary. Chrome does have some nice touches but I see no reason to copy it wholesale.

  28. oh noes! just why?..
    Really hope they won’t really go for killing menu
    Or at least some “classic ui” mode would be available or somethin
    Wth? It just seems modern software is being designed for housewifes or retarded ppl use only or lil kids..
    Well they’re afraid of menu bar and want it all buttons like on some damn vacuum cleaner, what does that have to do with default theme? Make that newIE/chrome piece of ripoff some “bundled for toddlers” edition

  29. If I preferred IE or Google Chrome then I would use them. I do not like the path Firefox is heading down: moving tabs to the top, eliminating the toolbars and bookmarks menus. It isn’t clear how this is an improvement of Firefox. It reminds me how Quattro Pro was ruined when it became like Excel – I stopped using QPW and just switched to Excel.

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