Mozilla (finally) releases beta of its touch-friendly Firefox for Windows 8

It may be hard to believe, but it's been two years - almost to the day - since Mozilla announced its plans to launch a version of its Firefox browser designed for Windows 8. Development of the touch-friendly browser has evidently been somewhat slower than many had expected, with numerous delays plaguing the project

Today, though, Mozilla announced the launch of a full public beta of its new browser, along with a new name. Developed under the 'Firefox Metro' moniker, the browser is now known as Firefox for Windows 8 Touch, and Mozilla says that it has been "optimized for Microsoft's Windows 8 Modern UI". 

A key feature of the browser is the 'Firefox start screen' - the first screen you seen when launching the app - which the company first showed off back in December, and which provides an overview of 'top sites', along with bookmarks and browsing history.

As you'd expect of a browser designed for the Modern UI, touch gestures are fully supported, including pinch-to-zoom, and "one-touch swipe transitions", similar to Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 8.1. The app also supports the operating system's Snap feature, to ensure that it can comfortably sit side-by-side with other apps on screen. 

Further welcome support for Windows 8 comes in the form of integration with the Windows 'Share' Charm, which can be accessed by swiping in from the right edge of the display. Mozilla says that this will allow users to easily share web pages or extracts to social networks. 

Firefox for Windows 8 Touch Beta is available to download now directly from Mozilla. Don't forget - and we can't stress this enough - that this is a beta release, so approach it with the understanding that not everything will be perfect yet. Further release notes are available from Mozilla here.

The full, final version of the app is still scheduled for release on March 18 - but, after so many delays, don't be too surprised if that date gets pushed back. 

Images via Mozilla

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I'm using it right now on my desktop. I won't use it much (which is the same with IE) but I do like some of the design decisions. I like the tabs at the top and the arrows for back and forward are far more prominent than on IE.
I don't use many add-ons but one I use is Speed Dial and it worked to open it from the desktop Firefox into Metro, but it doesn't show on my new tabs.
The start page/new tab page works pretty well but bookmarks need full screenshots similar to the Recent Sites.
It also loads pages very fast. Pages that my desktop Chrome struggles with (haven't used Firefox desktop in quite some time regularly).
I think it will quickly become a favorite over IE for touch users.

Sekyal said,
I'm using it right now on my desktop. I won't use it much (which is the same with IE) but I do like some of the design decisions. I like the tabs at the top and the arrows for back and forward are far more prominent than on IE.
I don't use many add-ons but one I use is Speed Dial and it worked to open it from the desktop Firefox into Metro, but it doesn't show on my new tabs.
The start page/new tab page works pretty well but bookmarks need full screenshots similar to the Recent Sites.
It also loads pages very fast. Pages that my desktop Chrome struggles with (haven't used Firefox desktop in quite some time regularly).
I think it will quickly become a favorite over IE for touch users.

I keep using it on desktop only because of few extensions, which have no analogs in Chrome, like zoomFox. But honestly this piece of bloatware lags far behind of Chrome and IE in terms of performance. I have to open Chrome or IE to open heavily js loaded sites, like Google Maps, Yandex Maps, because I get hard heavy lag with Firefox, with under 5 fps and long freezes on a powerful hardware.

Whatever they say nothing will replace windows RT, it will merely become what it already is today, windows 8 touc/arm edition. RT is the full version of 8 just compiled for arm, but regular people don't know what arm is

Even after setting the new Firefox beta as default, the touch based UI doesn't work. When I click
the tile labelled Mozilla Firefox on my Start screen, it launches the desktop version instead.

DJGM said,
Even after setting the new Firefox beta as default, the touch based UI doesn't work. When I click
the tile labelled Mozilla Firefox on my Start screen, it launches the desktop version instead.

There must be some setting that you'll have to change so it defaults to the metro version when you click the tile. Right now they're the same app, but with two different UIs unlike IE which shares the rendering bits but is actually two different apps that you can run together. I don't know if you can do this with FF? Can you have both the metro and desktop versions open at the same time?

Chrome if set as default though has a different icon for the Start Screen and can launch its pitiful Metro version that way.

Sekyal said,
Chrome if set as default though has a different icon for the Start Screen and can launch its pitiful Metro version that way.
nope. hasn't been that why in quite awhile (i can say because i run chrome on windows 8) w/ both firefox & chrome you can only run 1 mode or the other at a time (aka desktop or metro) and it defaults to whichever mode was used last even if you click the icon on the start screen. the button to switch back and forth is in the settings menu for both

Brando212 said,

click the firefox menu button. there's a "go to windows 8 version"
button similar to what chrome does


Although I use the standard menus in the Menu Bar rather than the Firefox menu button, so I'd
have to frequently hide the standard menus to use it. It needs to be placed in the Options
menu as well as the under the Firefox menu button.

If I'm going to use the touch version of Firefox at all, I'd rather launch it from the Start screen.

Well, I loved it! Never gave too much attention to metro browsers, but today I decided to give it a go and I also tried Chrome on Modern UI. Both look very good. I'll challenge myself and see if I can use only Modern apps for a week, including all the browsers I use at home.

I just wish I could use more than a browser at the same time in the Modern UI. Don't know why only the default browser will work, but whatever.

(and I'm posting it through IE Modern)

The keyboard slides up from the bottom of the screen, and moves the address bar up with it. So what you are typing is linked to the keyboard, along with the auto-complete and the auto-correct functions.

It is about what is expected in the Metro environment, and designing to match the way the OS does it.

Torolol said,
i use actual keyboard, so no thanks

Why would you be using a browser designed for touch with a keyboard? Mozilla makes a perfectly fine version of Firefox for the desktop.

trooper11 said,

Why would you be using a browser designed for touch with a keyboard? Mozilla makes a perfectly fine version of Firefox for the desktop.

Metro/Store apps != touch-only.

Supporting touch does not mean a lack of support for keyboard or mouse. I regularly use Store/Metro/Immersive apps on my desktop which has no touch input at all (including IE!). The address bar on the bottom is perfectly natural in all of those cases. Yes it's better for tablets where your hands are near the bottom. But it makes no real difference for keyboard or mouse.

Oh, and there are lots of cases for using touch + physical keyboard. I do it all the time on my laptop.

Accessing your favorites and history can actually be much quicker with bigger elements as they are easier targets to hit with the mouse (more pixels). Your brain is also quicker to analize objects than if they were smaller.

Most classic interfaces are based on outdated ideology of tiny objects and way to small fonts, -even if multiple researches show they are to small. It's just because the conservative geeks insist it's better.

Edited by bjorndori, Feb 7 2014, 7:13am :

Brandon Live said,

Metro/Store apps != touch-only.

Supporting touch does not mean a lack of support for keyboard or mouse. I regularly use Store/Metro/Immersive apps on my desktop which has no touch input at all (including IE!). The address bar on the bottom is perfectly natural in all of those cases. Yes it's better for tablets where your hands are near the bottom. But it makes no real difference for keyboard or mouse.

Oh, and there are lots of cases for using touch + physical keyboard. I do it all the time on my laptop.


^THIS x A million!

Torolol said,
why TF must they put address bar in bottom of screen?

So many times I wish safari on my iPad would have the address bar at the bottom, along with the nav buttons. Don't know how many times I closed the first tab when I was supposed to go back.

Brandon Live said,

Metro/Store apps != touch-only.

Supporting touch does not mean a lack of support for keyboard or mouse.


I don't deny that at all, but I was pointing out that if you don't like this version of Firefox, Mozilla has a desktop style Firefox as well. You aren't stuck with something you don't like.

trooper11 said,
I don't deny that at all, but I was pointing out that if you don't like this version of Firefox, Mozilla has a desktop style Firefox as well. You aren't stuck with something you don't like.

That part is fair. What I was referring to was your first sentence:

"Why would you be using a browser designed for touch with a keyboard?"

Brandon Live said,

That part is fair. What I was referring to was your first sentence:

"Why would you be using a browser designed for touch with a keyboard?"


That's true. In this case though, Mozilla themselves refer to this as Firefox for Win 8 Touch. That sends the message that they intend it to be used for touch and not with a keyboard, even if it will work with one.

Mark said,
Does it support addons?

In metro you can't have addons, there's security that stops them from running like they can on the desktop. What they'd have to do is build something into the browser that would run as part of it and not as a side process that tries to interact with the main browser process.

It's why you don't have addons in the smartphone versions, unless that's changed while I wasn't looking?

George P said,

In metro you can't have addons, there's security that stops them from running like they can on the desktop. What they'd have to do is build something into the browser that would run as part of it and not as a side process that tries to interact with the main browser process.

It's why you don't have addons in the smartphone versions, unless that's changed while I wasn't looking?


Firefox for android has addons. Chrome metro had extension ever since its first release. You can try to go to about:addons in the metro version of Firefox, but it'll give you a page saying Mozilla is working hard on making addons for the metro version.

link6155 said,

Firefox for android has addons. Chrome metro had extension ever since its first release. You can try to go to about:addons in the metro version of Firefox, but it'll give you a page saying Mozilla is working hard on making addons for the metro version.

I want to have me some adblock =). Dont like browsing without it now.

Scabrat said,

I want to have me some adblock =). Dont like browsing without it now.


You can always edit your HOST file and block ads that way, works with every app too, not just firefox

link6155 said,

You can always edit your HOST file and block ads that way, works with every app too, not just firefox

I need to figure out how to do that then =).

George P said,

In metro you can't have addons, there's security that stops them from running like they can on the desktop. What they'd have to do is build something into the browser that would run as part of it and not as a side process that tries to interact with the main browser process.

It's why you don't have addons in the smartphone versions, unless that's changed while I wasn't looking?

That's not really true. The default browser can currently do pretty much anything it wants, and absolutely can support add-ons, if desired.

A packaged Store app could actually support add-ons too, with its own in-app gallery. But the Store policy more or less forbids doing it (whether they actually catch you and care is another matter). That clause is pretty poorly worded though and already violated by most everyone.

You can actually get small apps that automatically download new host rules for known ad hosts.

Much more nifty than doing it manually.

Does it work like Chrome and have a switch to Windows 8 button? I hope they make a RT version. Someone PLEASE make an RT browser!!! (besides IE)

ians18 said,
Does it work like Chrome and have a switch to Windows 8 button? I hope they make a RT version. Someone PLEASE make an RT browser!!! (besides IE)

It's only possible if you want a browser that has an insanely slow JS engine.

ians18 said,
Does it work like Chrome and have a switch to Windows 8 button? I hope they make a RT version. Someone PLEASE make an RT browser!!! (besides IE)

RT is a dying gimmick, few units sold and will likely have no new RT tablets being released in 1-1.5yrs from now due to low power intel and amd x86 chips.

SharpGreen said,

It's only possible if you want a browser that has an insanely slow JS engine.

Why? IE11 is a lot faster then Chrome!

torrentthief said,

RT is a dying gimmick, few units sold and will likely have no new RT tablets being released in 1-1.5yrs from now due to low power intel and amd x86 chips.

I doubt this though you're free to believe what you want. Going forward RT and Phone become one and the same, it'll run on anything from 4" smartphones up to 10" tablets like the Surface 2 which won't be the last model they make.

Also this low power x86 argument is nice but at the same time ARMs performance is only getting better as x86 tries to reduce it's power usage.

Wall-swe said,

Why? IE11 is a lot faster then Chrome!

On RT as with phone, for security reasons you can't use your own JIT engine iirc so what you'd get is something like chrome that uses IE11s JavaScript engine and not it's own.

I personally use IE 11 in metro on my tablet every day and the only things that have given me problems are websites that use menus that display on mouse hover, those are still a PITA. And also on NeoWins forum where performance drops for some reason and the on screen kb acts up when I try to write a post. I'm going to blame the forums editor for that though.

torrentthief said,

RT is a dying gimmick, few units sold and will likely have no new RT tablets being released in 1-1.5yrs from now due to low power intel and amd x86 chips.

RT is far from a dying gimmick. x86 chip makers can tout power efficiency all they want, but that's a promise we've been waiting on for years. I couldn't imagine any reason running an x86 chip on anything short of a desktop/laptop.

Prices for ARM SoC will always be lower than x86 based systems. Once WP and RT are merged it will bring many more manufacturer to release ARM based tablets. Even Windows Server is getting ARM support.

SharpGreen said,

It's only possible if you want a browser that has an insanely slow JS engine.

that's bull****.

chrome for iOS uses safari's webview control which doesn't support JIT. And yet some people perceive it as faster than the JIT-enabled Safari.

same for IE9 on WP7.
These browsers don't perform extremely well in benchmarks, but in real life, a good JS interpreter can provide a very good browsing experience.

so yes, google/mozilla can definitely port their browser on WinRT, and it won't be noticeably slower than a JIT-enabled browser.

link8506 said,

that's bull****.

chrome for iOS uses safari's webview control which doesn't support JIT. And yet some people perceive it as faster than the JIT-enabled Safari.

same for IE9 on WP7.
These browsers don't perform extremely well in benchmarks, but in real life, a good JS interpreter can provide a very good browsing experience.

so yes, google/mozilla can definitely port their browser on WinRT, and it won't be noticeably slower than a JIT-enabled browser.

We're not talking about iOS, and IE9 on Windows Phone more than likely is using a JIT-enabled JS engine, something other browser cannot do. Hence my comment.

torrentthief said,

RT is a dying gimmick, few units sold and will likely have no new RT tablets being released in 1-1.5yrs from now due to low power intel and amd x86 chips.

Wrong on two counts. For one, RT isn't going anywhere. Second, even if Intel was going to kill off ARM (they aren't), the RT concept is just as applicable to Intel/x86 chips. In fact, I fully expect to see a version without the desktop going forward.

(whether they change the name or not is another matter)

link8506 said,

that's bull****.

chrome for iOS uses safari's webview control which doesn't support JIT. And yet some people perceive it as faster than the JIT-enabled Safari.

same for IE9 on WP7.
These browsers don't perform extremely well in benchmarks, but in real life, a good JS interpreter can provide a very good browsing experience.

so yes, google/mozilla can definitely port their browser on WinRT, and it won't be noticeably slower than a JIT-enabled browser.

It depends what you're doing. The impact of JIT on JS execution is about 10X on average, though it can vary from a bit less to a lot more. More and more pages are relying on heavier JS usage. While many basic sites won't feel all that different, things like GMail and Google Docs, or Outlook.com and the Office Web Apps, will feel way slower. You'll also have a harder time with sites which just have really poorly written JS (HuffPost comes to mind).

I hope in the future the Mozilla team will be able to port this UI and browser code to run on Windows Phone and/or whatever replaces Windows RT.

mdtaUK said,
I hope in the future the Mozilla team will be able to port this UI and browser code to run on Windows Phone and/or whatever replaces Windows RT.

Microsoft doesn't allow alternative browsers on RT or Windows Phone.

Alternate browsers are allowed. Chrome and Firefox chose to create their Metro modes as extensions of their desktop browsers, and so needed to make them interoperable, and sharing Win32 legacy code.

Internet Explorer has the advantage of using the same rendering system as is built into Windows, so does not have to leverage their code separately from the OS.

Firefox and Chrome could have developed reduced feature versions that would be built for Metro/WinRT/Touch, using C++ code, and even bypassing the XAML UI framework and drawing their own.

These could have been coded to work on RT and X86. It would have been more work I guess, and would not have the same featureset as the existing browsers. But browsers designed for mobile devices usually are more limited.

ians18 said,

Says who? http://www.winrtsource.com/201...arty-browsers-are-possible/

It just Mozilla and lazy Google won't get their butts over to RT and start making one!

Yes and no. You can absolutely create a browser for RT and ship it via the Store. However, just as on iOS, you can't write your own JIT compiler due to security restrictions (specifically, the inability to mark memory as executable). Unlike iOS, you can write a browser that uses the IE/Windows JavaScript engine and it will run at full speed (i.e. with JIT enabled). You also might be able to do something using the CLR's JIT capabilities if you wanted to build a JS engine on that, though what's need may or may not be exposed, I haven't looked. Also unlike iOS, you can set it as the default browser.

So... RT is less restrictive and limiting than iOS for third-party browsers, but not as open as x86/x64 Windows.

ians18 said,

Says who? http://www.winrtsource.com/201...arty-browsers-are-possible/

It just Mozilla and lazy Google won't get their butts over to RT and start making one!


Says browser developers who actually want to use their own rendering engine that they are known for. It's not laziness, but them not wanting to develop an IE shell. This is the Windows RT restriction. (Well, technically it's because they can't use their own JIT compiler.)

Edited by Northgrove, Feb 7 2014, 10:42am :

mdtaUK said,
I hope in the future the Mozilla team will be able to port this UI and browser code to run on Windows Phone and/or whatever replaces Windows RT.

Who says Windows RT is going away?

Northgrove said,

Says browser developers who actually want to use their own rendering engine that they are known for. It's not laziness, but them not wanting to an IE shell.


Google and Mozilla CAN use their rendering engine and JavaScript interpreters if they want so.

on WinRT they can, on iOS they can't.

of course, JIT is forbidden for security reasons, but even on iOS where Chrome is forced to use a Safari WebView without JIT support, google is happy enough to promote its slower browser as a replacement to the JIT-enabled Safari.
and there are even users who manage to think that Chrome for iOS is faster than Safari (which is wrong).

however, while the difference between JIT-enabled browsers and interpreter-based browser is important in benchmarks and complex multimedia web apps, in real life, on most web sites you won't see any visible difference.

those who say you can't build a decent web browser without JIT are wrong:
-chrome for ios
-IE8 (the most used browser on earth)
-IE9 64BIT
-IE9 for WP7
-Firefox 64bit for windows (for a long time)

none of these browser support JIT, and yet there are people who use them in their day to day tasks without complaining of their "slowness" and actually find them fast.

so, google/mozilla can definitely port their browsers to WinRT and still have a decent real life performance. They just won't be able to brag about being the best in their own JS intensive benchmarks (octane, kraken). But who cares?

and I guess that if they do an effort to port their browser, MS will offer them special privilege to mark memory as executable, enabling them to support JIT compilers.

mdtaUK said,
I hope in the future the Mozilla team will be able to port this UI and browser code to run on Windows Phone and/or whatever replaces Windows RT.

Whatever they say nothing will replace windows RT, it will merely become what it already is today, windows 8 touc/arm edition. RT is the full version of 8 just compiled for arm, but regular people don't know what arm is.

Smaller tablets may or may not run windows phone as opposed to Windows 8 for tablets(RT), I suspect MS will differentiate this by license costs. And by the time 10 rolls around they can all probably run the same apps except for desktop apps anyway, most of that will happen with 9.

SharpGreen said,

IE shells don't count.

Also Chrome and Firefox are not doing anything different then IE is. IE's metro mode is also nothing more than an extension of it's desktop mode.


You don't know what IE is then.

IE is just a front end of Trident.... Which has been a part of Windows since 95, and is a part of WinRT. It's just using build-in features of the OS, same like Google and Mozilla could do.

Microsoft never wanted to join the browser market, but hey. Noone likes standards.

mdtaUK said,
I hope in the future the Mozilla team will be able to port this UI and browser code to run on Windows Phone and/or whatever replaces Windows RT.

I don't. Not if it's anything like this Win 8 attempt. Compared to IE11 Metro it don't run anywhere near as smooth.

IE takes advantage of modern Windows features that use the GPU to accelerate page rendering. So you get a super smooth experience when pages are loading, and when you scroll. Firefox don't do this, so it lags even on a i7 laptop, and when i use touch input it makes the problem stand out even more. I've use Android phones that don't lag this much.

Shadowzz said,

You don't know what IE is then.

IE is just a front end of Trident.... Which has been a part of Windows since 95, and is a part of WinRT. It's just using build-in features of the OS, same like Google and Mozilla could do.

Microsoft never wanted to join the browser market, but hey. Noone likes standards.


Yea I did know that actually, and what I said still stands.

link8506 said,
however, while the difference between JIT-enabled browsers and interpreter-based browser is important in benchmarks and complex multimedia web apps, in real life, on most web sites you won't see any visible difference.

those who say you can't build a decent web browser without JIT are wrong:
-chrome for ios
-IE8 (the most used browser on earth)
-IE9 64BIT
-IE9 for WP7
-Firefox 64bit for windows (for a long time)


JavaScript interpretation is incredibly slow, and those ARE all using JIT (except for IE8 lol). Here's a speed test of these older versions, where you can clearly see the difference between IE8 and the other JIT enabled browsers... http://farm3.static.flickr.com...4116927339_b08c10443b_o.jpg

And by the way, IE9 64-bit runs its JScript engine in 32-bit. They didn't introduce a 64-bit version of their JIT engine until IE10.

Brandon Live said,

Yes and no. You can absolutely create a browser for RT and ship it via the Store. However, just as on iOS, you can't write your own JIT compiler due to security restrictions (specifically, the inability to mark memory as executable). Unlike iOS, you can write a browser that uses the IE/Windows JavaScript engine and it will run at full speed (i.e. with JIT enabled). You also might be able to do something using the CLR's JIT capabilities if you wanted to build a JS engine on that, though what's need may or may not be exposed, I haven't looked. Also unlike iOS, you can set it as the default browser.

So... RT is less restrictive and limiting than iOS for third-party browsers, but not as open as x86/x64 Windows.


Great description but that could change with .NET 5.0

So IE "Modern UI" has access to a little bit of Win32 code that other browsers won't? But current 8.1 browsers "ModernUI-style enabled desktop browsers (MEDB)" do have access because they are not on RT. The least they could do is try to make a browser than force Microsoft to change their rules.

ians18 said,
So IE "Modern UI" has access to a little bit of Win32 code that other browsers won't? But current 8.1 browsers "ModernUI-style enabled desktop browsers (MEDB)" do have access because they are not on RT. The least they could do is try to make a browser than force Microsoft to change their rules.

"MEDB" or hybrid browsers can, while set as the default browser, run outside of the normal packaged app sandbox (AppContainer). They're also distributed and deployed without using the normal AppX model, and thus can't be installed via the Store.

Because they're run outside of an AppContainer, they can do things normal apps can't. They can also call APIs outside of the Modern SDK. Being able to access more Win32 APIs is sort of a side effect, though it does make it easier for existing browser codebases to build their modern experiences.

MEDBs other than IE are supported on Windows 8, but not Windows RT.