Sneak peek: Firefox's fresh new look

Firefox's revamped Australis UI ditches the squared-off edges and goes for a look more akin to that of Google Chrome

Get ready for Australis, Firefox's new face
Get ready for Australis, Firefox's new face

Firefox has already undergone a major UI revamp in its time, one divisive enough to even inspire an add-on that reverted Firefox back to its old-school, pre-10.0 look. Now it's about to undergo yet another revision, one that pushes it all the more toward looking like -- surprise! --Google Chrome.

Right now, the new UI, dubbed "Australis," is only available in Firefox's nightly builds, so we downloaded the most recent nightly and fired it up to take a tour of Firefox's glossy new look. There's no word yet on when it'll show up in the mainline builds, but it's always possible to download a separate copy of the nightly channel build and run it apart from your regular Firefox installation.

Firefox gets a UI makeover
Firefox gets a UI makeover

A newly launched instance of Firefox with the new Australis UI looks strikingly like its competitor, Google Chrome, thanks to the revised design of the bar and the Three Bars menu button at top right. The big Back button, the reload icon, and the separate search box are all still in their familiar locations.

Menu
Menu

The new menu box moves the most commonly used items front and center and provides them as touch-friendly icons. Chrome's approach is to use a widely spaced text menu; this approach is a touch more compact.

Customization
Customization

Click on the Customize button for the menu, and you're taken to a full-tab view where you can add new commands to the menu and toolbar. Maybe the option menus and other controls are being redesigned to look something like this as well?

Add-ons
Add-ons

Despite the new UI, add-ons for Firefox should all still work the same. The dialogs that pop up when you install a new add-on haven't changed, either.

Options menu
Options menu

Also unchanged is the Options menu, still laid out the same way -- and still opening over the browser itself in a modal window. There's no word if the menu will be moved into a browser tab À la Chrome, although any other Firefox windows open besides the one that invoked the menu are still accessible.

Downloading
Downloading

The download progress bar has been moved into a small meter at the top. Click it for full details about what's downloading or to go to the full list of downloaded files. That list, by the way, still has the same format as in previous builds of Firefox.

Themes
Themes

Themes also still work in Firefox as-is, although the changes in the layout may require some themes to be reworked to look good. The Glowbug theme was one that Mozilla itself demonstrated on its blog.

Bookmarks
Bookmarks

The bookmark bar is now off by default (again, another nod in Chrome's direction), but it can be toggled back on through the bookmark menu. Those on widescreen monitors ought to be heartened that the bookmark sidebar is still here and still works the same as its pre-redesign predecessor.

Private browsing
Private browsing

Fire up a private browsing window, and it's set aside from its nonprivate cousins by the presence of the mask in the top bar. Note that unlike in Chrome, add-ons and extensions are still available by default in a private browsing session, which may leak private information depending on how they're written.