Firefox 3 to build on heavy visual integration

Posted by Mark Raby

Mountain View (CA) - The next generation Mozille Web browser will appear differently depending on which operating system is being used, as developers try to blend in multiple components seamlessly with Windows, Mac OS X, and even Linux.

This means Mozilla is actually making multiple versions of Firefox 3 and is working strenuously to make it appear like a native application on all major operating systems.

For example, the "placed organizer" feature will look like Windows Explorer in Vista or XP, and toolbar organization will appear in a Mac OS style when viewed on an Apple computer.

In his official Firefox blog, Mozille designer Alex Faaborg writes, "Visual integration with Windows and OS X is our primary objective for the Firefox 3 refresh."  There are even two separate icons of the application to differentiate between Windows XP and Windows Vista.

"RealPlayer uses a custom appearance across operating systems ... Personally I think a unified cross platform UI results in applications that at best feel foreign everywhere," continues Faaborg.

The customization for operating system is deep.  Integration with XP will ensure use of the XP-specific color palette, and Vista-tailored visuals will be shinier.  The Mac OS X version will use the same specifications that are common among Leopard-based applications, mirroring designs from iTunes and iLife.

Faaborg also said Mozilla is working on a similar integration platform for Linux users but that piece is the least clear.  "We still aren’t sure what the best way to visually integrate with Linux is, given the number of different distributions," he said.

There are even more layers to the visual integration, which will become more apparent as Firefox 3 continues through development.  Faaborg summed up the company's goal by saying, "Mozilla’s user experience team literally wants to do a better job of visually integrating with Windows than IE, and a better job of visually integrating with OS X than Safari."