Firefox's UI face-lift on track for April debut

Adds 'Australis,' Firefox's first overhaul since 2011, to beta

Mozilla is on track to debut the new "Australis" user interface (UI) for Firefox next month after promoting the UI to its beta build last week.

Australis, the first visual overhaul of Firefox since March 2011, was added to the "Beta" channel of Firefox 29 on March 20. Mozilla uses a three-stage development process that ships Aurora, Beta and Release versions of each version of Firefox, with six weeks separating Aurora and Beta, another six between Beta and Release.

If everything goes as planned, Mozilla will offer Australis to the release version -- the build most users run -- on April 29. But it's possible that the open-source developer will push Australis further into the future.

Australis is Mozilla's attempt to both streamline the browser's UI and standardize it across all platforms, ranging from the desktop -- where versions are available for Windows, OS X and Linux -- to mobile. Mozilla has a version of Firefox for Android, but recently shelved its "Metro" version for Windows 8.1.

Many of Australis' visual changes are subtle, with more rounded tabs, inactive tabs that fade deeper into the background and a revamped customization panel. Australis also dumps the orange-colored Firefox menu in Windows, an element that first popped up in Firefox 4.

Mozilla has been working on Australis for almost two years.

Although Mozilla said that "most users are very happy with the new design," citing a survey of those who used Australis on the Aurora channel, it acknowledged criticism as well.

"Of course, as with any interface change, not everyone is happy," the company noted in a March 18 blog about the survey. "With a change this significant, there are some users who didn't like Australis for a variety of reasons."

To assuage critics, Mozilla said it would make some tweaks to the UI. It has also created a visual tour of the UI that users can view when they update Firefox to a version including Australis, and published instructions for downloading and customizing an add-on that transforms Firefox's Australis UI into something approximating the classic design of 2011-2014.

The Beta build of Firefox for Windows, OS X and Linux can be downloaded from Mozilla's website.

If Australis doesn't release with Firefox 29 in April, its next shot will be Firefox 30, which is scheduled to ship June 10.

The new Australis UI (bottom) omits the Firefox menu in Windows (orange in the top image) and fades all inactive tabs into the background. Users who detest the new look can install the Classic Theme Restorer add-on to revert the UI to its previous look-and-feel.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about internet in Computerworld's Internet Topic Center.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Firefoxapplicationssoftwareinternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?