Firefox 2 theme updated
Tuesday, 12 September 2006
I was in the process of finishing the second installment of “More theme problems for Firefox 2” when I read that the new Firefox theme received a big update. Time to investigate…
The first thing I noticed after downloading the latest nightly was that the theme definitely looks better. It’s still not as beautiful as it could be, but it is definitely an improvement over the first attempts.
Native user-interface widgets
Let’s revisit some of my earlier criticism: the usage of non-native user-interface widget. Firefox 2 still uses some non-native widgets for the tab bar. This means that the usual yellow line on top of the tab is still missing. Fortunately the distinction between the active tab and the other tabs is much better than it used to be. However, I think there is still some room for improvement. Take for example Internet Explorer 7 – it too uses non-native widgets for the tab bar, but somehow they managed to make the distinction between the tabs much more clearer than the current Firefox 2 theme. Perhaps the usage of non-native tabs is unavoidable, but in that case the theme designers should work towards making their custom tabs as usable and recognisable as possible.
Another improvement is that the tabs are now drawn using native colours. This means that the tabs will look good, even if you are using a non-standard Windows visual style. Essentially solving all of my previous criticism about the non-native look of Firefox 2. Well, almost. The updated theme introduces a new problem: the location bar dropdown button. Previously it looked like a native widget, but currently it uses a simple static image. The result: it stands out if you use a non-standard visual style.
One area that could use a lot of improvement was the toolbar. The thing that I noticed immediately when I started using Firefox 2 beta 2 was the margin around the icons. It was way too small. I figured it something that the guys responsible for the new theme simply did not yet get around to. A simple bug that would be fixed before the release of Firefox 2, so I did not write anything about it. It turned out to be correct. The updated theme immediately looks much clearer.
My main gripe with the icons is still present in the updated theme. Some icons were cleaned up a bit, but I can hardly call it an improvement. There is one notable exception: the refresh icon is much better than it used to be. The new blue ‘Folder’ icon is horrible and I still don’t like the ‘Home’ button and the rest of the buttons are simply too sombre or – even worse – hardly visible.
The search button is almost invisible. It’s even lighter than disabled toolbar icons…
One thing puzzles me: if you use small icons instead of the default large icons the icons seem much better. They are no longer faded into the toolbar, but stand out, like they used to do in Firefox 1. Let’s hope they will also do this for the larger icons. Another weird detail: the glassy glow in the ‘Back’ and ‘Forward’ buttons move from the right side of the icon to the left side.
Hovering over the icons is also improved. Previously the effect was that the icon became a bit darker. This still happens, but the icon is also raised above the toolbar. It is the same effect that Firefox 1 uses and makes the application look more native.