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Firefox tidies up with Office 2007's Ribbon

  • Firefox revamp
  • Firefox Tabs
  • Future Firefox?

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 23 Sep 2009 at 08:31

Mozilla has announced that it plans to bring Office 2007's Ribbon interface to Firefox, as it looks to tidy up the cluttered browser.

"Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menu bar is going away," notes Mozilla in its plans for revamping the Firefox user interface. "[It will] be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon, [which is] now in Paint and WordPad, too."

The change will bring Windows' Aero Glass effects to the browser, and also free up space for the actual page window - making it more suitable for people using netbooks with smaller screens.

This direction is at the team proposal stage, to be approved by drivers and subject for constructive community feedback

"Firefox feels dated and behind on Windows. Issues include the absence of Glass, anemic purple toolbar color on Vista, tall and bulky UI footprint, element overload, inconsistent toolbar icon usage/style, lack of a tactile look and feel and perhaps too great of a divergence between the look on XP and Vista/7," the company writes in its latest development notes.

Mozilla expects the change to come into effect with Firefox 3.7, a minor update to the browser that's slated to ship in March 2010. Though it will be turned on by default for Windows 7 and Vista users, they will be able to toggle between the old and new interface by holding the Alt key.

However, it admits there's still time for the design changes to be derailed by the community. "This direction is at the team proposal stage, to be approved by drivers and subject for constructive community feedback," the company says.

UPDATE: Mozilla says it is not adopting the Ribbon interface. The development notes refer to how applications in Windows have begun dropping the menu bars in favour of interfaces such as the Ribbon - however, it is not the company's intention to bring this to Firefox. Instead, it will concentrate on hiding the menu bar behind tabs, and introducing effects such as transparency.

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User comments

A good move, IMHO. But why do developers, especially on browsers (I'm looking at you Google, and the Safari 4 beta - at least with the release version they relented and went back to do things "properly") ignore the vast swathes of user interface design documentation for Windows (Linux is worse, OS X is generally better)?

It has been freely available, is copious and has been revised with each new release of Windows, yet developers seem to ignore it totally when developing their applications.

OS X apps conform, generally, better. Of course, MS breaking their own guidelines each time they bring out a new version of Office and re-write the UI guidebook, then surprise people, doesn't really help...

By big_D on 23 Sep 2009

Gah! If they start moving the home and refresh buttons around I'm using Chrome. IE did that and made a UI nightmare.

By bubbles16 on 23 Sep 2009

Its ironic that MS are often accused of copying other people's ideas but here we have Mozilla adopting one of Microsoft's UI innovations ;-)

By rjp2000 on 23 Sep 2009

This could be the last straw that makes me switch to Opera or Safari. The Ribbon interface is AWFUL. The menu bar may be old fashioned but it works. Sure a square wheel may LOOK more "modern" but it's still not as efficient as ye olde round wheel.

Or doesn't that matter anymore?

By Lacrobat on 23 Sep 2009

Evolution please, not revolution.

The prolem is that the ribbon interfare is not easy to use, and is very difficult to customise.

That said, on my notebook the menu bar only occupies 1/4 the width of my screen; which is wasteful. Combining it with bookmarks would save space. Some reorganisation would be sensible, Or just give us an ability to unlock and move around the various bits. Something that even MS has managed since 2000.

By ANTIcarr0t on 23 Sep 2009

>>"Or just give us an ability to unlock and move around the various bits."

Firefox has had that for years. Right click, select "Customise", then drag things around to your heart's content!

I agree with bubbles though, IE7/8's interface is an absolute eyesore. I also hate the menu-less interface of the likes of Windows Explorer in Vista too. Although I have got used to the ribbon interface, so if Mozilla go for that, it shouldn't be a problem. They just have to make sure that they don't make the browser harder to use by dicking about with the interface too much.

By Trippynet on 23 Sep 2009

This is a rather round about way of saying they are copying Chrome, judging from the screenshot. This is a good idea, but there is a real need for customisation options in that app, and I hope Firefox team manage to come up with a more flexible interface. Also in Windows Explorer the menu is still available as an option, though it doesn't any important functionality.

By c6ten on 23 Sep 2009

"I also hate the menu-less interface of the likes of Windows Explorer in Vista too."

Then turn them back on... :-S

By big_D on 23 Sep 2009

Guys, give the Ribbon a chance. A few years a go when Office 2007 introduced it, I hated it, but now I wouldn't want it any other way. Things are so much easier to find and much better organized. It's a little hard to adapt to, but once u get the hang of it, u'll like it.

By jumper4000 on 23 Sep 2009

There's already an add on for shortened menus - I used it once sometime back - its good for small screens, however larger screen users will turn them back on as they have the real estate to fill up. Personal Menu 4.2.0 is pretty neat, but some users won't like clicking around too much to get to their functions. Customizing the current layout of firefox is pretty easy, however I'd like to move pretty much all the menubar into the title bar area as this is rather blank and currently reminds me of the current tab that I'm viewing, even though the tab has a title bar too!

By nicomo on 23 Sep 2009

Thanks for the helpful advice jumper4000...

'Guys, give poking your eyes out with a stick a chance. A few years a go when pointy sticks were introduced , I hated it, but now I wouldn't want it any other way. Things are so much easier to find and much better organized. It's a little hard to adapt to, but once u get the hang of it, u'll like it.'

By wiseguy on 23 Sep 2009

Thanks for the helpful advice jumper4000...

'Guys, give poking your eyes out with a stick a chance. A few years a go when pointy sticks were introduced , I hated it, but now I wouldn't want it any other way. Things are so much easier to find and much better organized. It's a little hard to adapt to, but once u get the hang of it, u'll like it.'

By wiseguy on 23 Sep 2009

Reading Comprehension Please

Wow. The poor quality of quotations in this article are surprising. Do yourselves a favour and read the actual wiki notes.

The paragraph that starts the "Hiding of the Menubar" that you have massacred here reads, on the wiki, as follows:

Starting with Vista, and continuing with Windows 7, the menubar is going away. To be replaced with things like the Windows Explorer contextual strip, or the Office Ribbon(now in Paint and Wordpad too). Many apps still retain the menubar as an option to be pinned or to be shown briefly by holding the Alt key.

This is called "setting context". It's saying that "An always-on Menubar is no longer the norm." It's not until the next paragraph that we start to see ideas of which method should be used - and there's a handy closing paragraph (in italics) that recaps the suggested implementation:

Hiding of the menubar by default would only occur on Vista and Windows 7. Windows XP would retain the menubar by default as would Linux and of course Mac. Holding Alt on Vista/7 would show the menu (which can also be toggle on).

By mrbene on 23 Sep 2009

MS Ribbon is horrible! Don't do it!

The MS ribbon is horrible! Please reference this post for an opinion on the ribbon and various comments from readers: http://www.dexodesign.com/2007/08/24/why-microsoft
s-ribbon-sucks/

By russwilson on 24 Sep 2009

Aaargh not the ribbon

NOOOOO!!! Firefox will be ruined by the ribbon. I know where my home, refresh and back and forward buttons are at the moment. Internet Explorer moved them all and hid them all so you can't find them and now Firefox is doing the same, very bad move.

Hopefully though they don't do the same as Microsoft and force people to use it.

I now try and use OpenOffice more than Microsoft Office since they introduced the ribbon interface, because at least in OpenOffice I know where all my buttons are.

Did no-one ever do Human-Computer Interaction? I did it at University and one main thing is to keep the interface uniform with other existing interfaces and to not introduce too many changes at once. The ribbon interface is way to many changes all in one go. Many things have this type of design e.g. the Save button on most things is always on the left and cancel on the right, and what happens in some applications that have this the wrong way around? People get fustrated 'cos they click the Save button when they wanted to click the Cancel button, or vice versa (I have seen software with the Save and Cancel buttons the wrong way round), but to modify the UI as drastically as Microsoft have done with Office and to not think about existing users is really bad design.

By TheKLF99 on 24 Sep 2009

I certainly don't mind better integration with the Windows look and feel being their for those who want them. But please Mozilla, make it an extension - or some other sort of optional module - so that those of us who don't want those features don't have to have them. Please don't ruin the basic beautiful simplicity of Firefox.

By Sergerichard on 24 Sep 2009

(*there!)

By Sergerichard on 24 Sep 2009

Right, it's too many changes

Less usability and more confusion will be the result if this plan is implemented.

They talk about saving space, but in the mock-ups it looks like they're just creating a lot of empty space. I save more space by using a compact theme that has less padding and turning off the Bookmarks Toolbar.

If I wanted to save more space, I'd use the Autohide extension. This does just what it sounds like; the toolbars are hidden, if you move the cursor to the top of the page they appear. Why not just add this functionality as an option, and leave the buttons as they are?

By greenknight32 on 24 Sep 2009

Don't panic, Mozilla is NOT using the MS Office ribbon

Mozilla are NOT implementing the Office style ribbon onto the browser people should NOT panic. What Mozilla ARE planning is a dramatic overhaul of the browser interface to bring it in line with other modern browsers.

No doubt you'd have noticed that currently under Windows Vista and 7 that the browser looks like a dogs breakfast. With a large and almost purple coloured toolbar, dated looking theme (that's an opinion, not a fact) and lots of inconsistencies between dialogue boxes concerning layout, etc.

Mozilla are looking to solve this problem, whether or not they do a good job of it remains to be seen.

I suggest that if you feel passionately about a feature or change, you should take the time to make a feature request or bug report. This is strength of an open source project is that they're more open to external input.

For more "accurate" information on the design changes you should visit the following link:
https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firefox/Sprints/Windows_T
heme_Revamp/Direction_and_Feedback

This is a very poorly researched article, I don't know if it is deliberately intended to be misleading or its just the result of some poorly researched writing but it would do PC World good to change the title of the article to delete it altogether because it does no favours to the credibility of this publication.

(PS. Putting an update under the article does not fix anything, by the time anyone gets to reading the 'Update' they've already drawn conclusions on the BS written above. Plus it's not an 'Update' anyway, it's an 'Error Correction')

By NicFromNewy on 28 Sep 2009

How is this new???

How exactly is this new? Element Browser has featured the office 07 interface since 2008. It does a better job of it as well.
I hate how firefox gets all the features and tells people its revolutionary, when it is not, many companies thought of the ideas first. This is basically saying, mozilla is now slow and bloated, and we want to trim the fat.

Take my advice, get Element browser, IE8, chrome or opera. Firefox is starting to show age.

By smn2go on 30 Sep 2009

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