Firefox gets a new theme

Steven Garrity announced that the Mozilla Visual Identity Team has been hard at work and that Mozilla Firefox is getting a new theme. Although it’s surprising that Firefox is changing themes at this point in the release cycle—the 0.9 release is anticipated this week—I’m glad that the developers are not afraid to make bold moves like this.

The new theme is called Winstripe and is based on the Pinstripe theme for Firefox on the Mac. Kevin Gerich and Stephen Horlander are the designers of both themes. Kevin Gerich’s screen shot of the theme thrilled me, and now that I’m using it I find it quite elegant and clean. The goal is to have a similar “feel” across platforms while blending in with platform styles. It’s a terrific plan. Winstripe already looks quite good to me despite Steven Horlander’s claim that it’s a 0.1 release at best.

I’ve never been much of a fan of the previous Firefox theme called Qute. To me it seemed, well, too cute, almost cartoonish. While it was clearly well done with gradients and vibrant colors, I found it a bit overpowering. I mentioned earlier that I also hated the throbber. Apparently one of the reasons for the change of themes was that the designer of Qute wanted restricted licensing. That’s bad, especially in an open source program like Firefox.

Winstripe excites me by its simplicity and clarity. Years ago, Matthew Thomas (mpt) pointed out graphics for a similar theme. I’d wished that somebody would make it into a theme and now we have Winstripe.

Despite my pleasure with Winstripe, I don’t find it perfect just yet: Perhaps it’s just that I’m a long time user of Mozilla and before that Netscape, but I miss the tails on the arrows on the back and forward buttons. I’d also like to see the back and forward buttons have a slightly different color, which would help improve recognition. Using the checkmark-in-blue-circle symbol for both Properties (in the bookmarks manager) and General Options is a bit confusing to me. Although it isn’t used that frequently, Windows has a distinct toolbar symbol for Properties—it looks like a hand over a white page. The new throbber is slick, especially on the tabs, but I’d hoped for one that featured the Firefox logo.

In any case, I think the Firefox team made a great choice in switching themes and I’m looking forward to the refinements as Firefox moves toward a 1.0 release.