Firefox to talk pretty to tablets, one day

As Mozilla's rapid-release cycle begins to take hold, one of its first impacts on the mobile version of Firefox will be a design specifically for tablets.

While the desktop version of Firefox seems to have settled into an interface design, going largely unchanged since version 4 debuted in March, Firefox for Android (download) apparently has some alterations coming its way as part of a heightened focus on mobile development. A blog post by Ian Barlow, a visual designer for Firefox Mobile's User Experience team, revealed three coming changes for Firefox on tablets. The upshot of these changes is that the browser will feel like more of a native fit for Honeycomb.

Firefox for Android tablets will be getting some interface changes, designed to make it easier to use. This mock-up shows how tabs will change in landscape and portrait modes. (Credit: Mozilla)

The first will revise how tabs are implemented in the browser. Currently, tabs appear hidden for the most part. The new design keeps the tabs on the left in landscape mode, but will force them to be persistently visible. It's not clear yet if there will be an option to toggle that. In portrait mode, only one tab will appear visible, with a number inside the elegantly minimalist icon to indicate how many tabs are open. It appears that when you tap it, a drop-down menu lets you switch tabs.

Another change will migrate Firefox's familiar oversized back button to the tablet. While impractical on phones with their smaller screens, the larger button ought to help people navigate while taking advantage of the tablet's comparatively luxurious screen space.

One improvement has already been implemented, Barlow noted. The menus that provide you with access to your browser history, bookmarks, and synchronized activity have already been shifted to the left to make it easier to access them. It also allows more activity results to appear on screen.