This has been a long time in the making, but after almost three months of testing in the highly experimental Firefox Nightly release channel, Firefox’s new Australis user interface has now found its way into the pre-beta Aurora channel. The new user interface, which the company has been working on for a long time, gives the browser a more Chrome-like look. As in Chrome, the settings and options are now behind the same kind of drawer menu next to the URL bar as in Google’s browser and rounded tabs at the top of the screen.
These similarities with Chrome is likely the first thing users will notice. Indeed, if you quickly switch back and forth between the two, you’ll likely get confused about which one is which.
The team also completely redesigned the menu too, and added a large number of customization options that aren’t available in most other browsers. While Firefox was always pretty customizable, this new version makes it far easier to discover these customization options and use them. Just click on ‘customize’ in the menu and drag and drop menu items around to improve your user experience.
If you always want to have the developer tools accessible in the URL bar, for example, that’s now easy to do.
As Mozilla’s VP of Firefox engineering Jonathan Nightingale told me last year, the idea behind the redesign was to give users a browser that is simpler to use, with a cleaner and more intuitive design. As you open more tabs, for example, those that aren’t in the foreground fade into the background “to make it faster for you to find and focus on the tab you want.”
Now that Australis is part of Firefox’s regular release channels, it will slowly find its way into the beta and stable channels, too. It’s unclear when exactly this will happen. Mozilla often holds back features from graduating to the next channel until it feels they are ready for a wider release, and this new user interface will surely spark some interesting discussions among Firefox’s users.
As part of today’s update, Mozilla is also launching Firefox Accounts, which will offer access to the latest update of Firefox Sync and other tools. While Mozilla has long offered users a way to sync their bookmarks, add-ons, passwords and open tabs across machines, it never offered users an easy way to just sign up and sign in to access all the integrated services across its products.
Firefox Accounts are now available in the Aurora release channel, too, so if you want to try both the new user interface and these new tools, just head over here and install the Aurora release. It won’t overwrite your existing Firefox install.