Firefox personas, if you didn’t know, allow you to theme the browser without munging up the placement of buttons or other browser elements. It was originally an extension, but Mozilla baked the features of the Personas extension directly into version 3.6 of the browser. Neat, except that updates to the personas feature were then tied irrevocably to browser updates. And Mozilla has a few restrictions on how personas operate — like, you can only have 8 of them at a time, and you can only get them from the personas showcase. Brand Thunder has just released their own extension called Personas Interactive that leapfrogs Mozilla’s offering.
The benefits of Personas Interactive may not be immediately apparent to you, as they weren’t to me. I asked Brand Thunder to articulate the goods for me:
- Firefox locked users into only eight Personas, whereas users of themes often like to sample and change their themes. I suspect when you have something this visually present, there’s a degree of fatigue that occurs and users like to see something else after a while.
- Some Personas themes don’t work well with bookmark toolbars and other links because of the forced text shadows which can make the text very hard to read. We’d made text shadows an option so users can use the best method for their chosen theme.
- Users who love themes often have one installed, but they had to be in Default mode in order to use Personas. We’ve removed that restriction and Personas will now work with any Firefox theme.
- Mac users can also prevent the titlebar from changing color, which was another default setting in Personas.
- We give any site the ability to preview and install Personas. The only place to get a Persona was from the Personas Gallery. Designers had to submit their designs and users could only preview and install on the Personas Gallery site. We’ve removed that restriction. A developer/designer can now host and manage their own Personas Gallery giving them better control over managing and maintaining their community.
- Web sites can offer site specific Personas allowing the browser theme to change when a user is visiting that web site, but goes away when they leave the site.
- Designers have the full use of CSS3 backgrounds capabilities in Personas including multiple images, repeating, sizing, positioning and more. This provides much more design freedom and ensures design integrity even in very wide browser resolutions. Personas are typically a fixed size and you can exceed the theme if you have a wide monitor.
- The designer has the ability to turn off text shadows in individual Personas. This is another way to ensure design integrity.
- Another designer tweak is specifying a background color without affecting the titlebar on Mac.
There’s some more details on Mike Kaply’s blog.