New theme, top performance, coming to Firefox this year

Mozilla has published the Firefox roadmap for 2012, stating what major new features and changes are to be expected this year.

It turns out the list is pretty long which hints on a very important year for Firefox development and users.

The user interface is due to some pretty enhancements under the new Australis theme revision across all officially supported platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Android). As you can see in the screenshot below, the result is a cleaner interface and very similar in all platforms.

Of course, the other huge UI change will be driven by Windows 8 new Metro user interface, expected for later this year. Firefox will adapt to the new interface, but there are no firm plans yet on what it may include. Hopefully, this time, changes will get quicker, and won’t take as much as the year it took to get features like download status on task bar icon or jumplists introduced by Windows 7.

The new user interface should also features the much announced (and needed) download panel which will allow you to monitor your downloads from the main user interface. The feature is very developed right now. I tried an experimental build, and a few bugs aside, it is pretty much working as you can see in the screenshot below.

Firefox Home Tab, a new start point including access to Mozilla’s forthcoming App Store, user’s top pages, search and even a chat panel aim to become your web hub.

Joining the Error console, Web console, Inspector, and Style Editor (coming with Firefox’s next release), a network access timeline and a JavaScript debugger are coming to a web developer menu near you.

There is also a lot of stuff coming to enhance Firefox performance:

  • New improvements to Firefox’s cycle and garbage collectors will reduce significantly some Firefox pauses at unwanted time.
  • IonMonkey, a new JIT compiler for JavaScript.
  • A Firefox service will correct some misled Windows optimizations, resulting in faster startups.
  • Users will get information on what addons are slowing them down.
  • Session restore is being rearchitected to make it faster.

Usability also gets a boost thanks to some important work in the plugins department and else:

  • Plugin click to start. With more Flash ads screaming every day this one can’t arrive soon enough.
  • Similar to Flashblock, basically you will have to click on plugins to allow them to play.
  • Seamless plugin install for popular plugins such as Flash.
  • Inline PDF view based on the pdf.js library (available as add-on) will let you kiss one plugin bye-bye.
  • Link sharing on twitter, Facebook and Gmail, as implemented by Firefox Share, a Mozilla Labs project for about a year now. This one is long overdue. Hopefully the architecture will allow for easy registration of additional services (Pinterest, Diaspora anyone?)
  • Login to Firefox, will allow users to check in to Firefox and access their web data (including passwords, forms, and Sync information).
  • A network installer will reduce download time and installation a better guided process. As Firefox installer size grows this may indeed provide a better experience for users on slow connections.
  • Reader focus, will remove sidebars, header, and other related content to focus on the main article of a web page (HTML5 will help a lot with this, so go implement it!). Similar to Readability.
  • Integrated translation. While Chrome has this, I really hope the implementation isn’t any similar to it. I have tried it on Chrome but found it too intrusive.

There are even more features and enhancements in the pipeline. To learn about them, grab a cup of coffee or a soda, and check the Firefox 2012 Roadmap.

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