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Firefox 2.0 Beta Tweaking Its Look

Past and current versions of Mozilla's Firefox 2.0 browser tend to look the same as their predecessors in the 1.5.x series.

Starting with Firefox 2.0 Beta 2, that look changes a bit.

Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 introduces a visual refresh for the Firefox browser. The refresh is hardly as dramatic as the change between Microsoft's in-development Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 6.x, but it is something the Firefox faithful will notice.

The visual refresh in Firefox 2. Beta 2 (FF 2 b2) changes the default theme and provides "polished" icons that unify the color palette and update the edges, detail, styling and gloss, according to Mozilla developers. This is designed to help it match better on Microsoft's Vista, with modern XP apps, and OS Xupdate colors, edges, detail styling and gloss.

Beyond just prettying up the theme, the visual refresh is also intended to help usability as well, particularly when it comes to tabs. In the new theme, tabs are more clearly differentiated through color gradients than they were in previous versions of Firefox. It should now be easier for users to differentiate which tab is the current selected tab, as opposed to other background tabs.

Tab overflow, which has been a usability concern for at least the past three years, is addressed in the FF b2 release as well.

Tab overflow relates to how the browser provides access to tabs that have "overflowed" beyond the width of the browser window so a user may still access them. FF b1, which was released  in July, provided a preliminary solution with a scroller function.

The upcoming Beta 2 improves the scroller and adds a pulldown to provide access to overflow tabs.

The search box inside of Firefox also gets a small visual tweak. When a user visits a site in FF 2 b2 that has Firefox friendly search engine capability, (such as Internetnews.com, shown in the screenshot below) the search box will glow to indicate that a site search engine is available.

The full Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 release is set for release later this week, after having been pushed back several times due to a variety of development delays. The first official release candidate, RC 1 for Firefox 2.0, is now set for a September 19th release.

The Mozilla Firefox 2.0 publicly accessible development process began with an Alpha 1 in March.

Firefox Beta
Firefox 2.0 Beta 2 (RC2) with Tab Overflow pulldown selected.