What you see above is the splash screen for Mozilla’s Firefox browser for Windows 8. After months of discussion, planning, and mockups, the Foundation finally began pushing nightly builds to the browser’s Elm branch on its FTP servers. Nightly builds are now available, and enthusiastic testers are already rushing out to install it and take it for a spin on their Windows 8 testbeds.
So far, the experience is a very close match to what you’ve seen in Mozilla‘s conceptual screens — and it’s quite similar to the look of Firefox for Android. The tab bar sits at the top, and it’s really the only browser chrome you see when you launch the app or create a new tab. It’s thicker than its desktop counterpart and elements like the refresh, back, and forward buttons are generously sized — an indication that this is a touch-first version of Firefox.
Right-clicking near the top of the window brings up the tab strip, where (like IE10) Firefox displays thumbnailed images of your currently open tabs. They’re dynamic, too: the scaled-down image of your active tab will update in real time if you scroll or pan around the page. Right-click near the bottom of the window, and you’ll see an orange actions bar appear.
From here, you can zoom in and out, bookmark pages, and pin them to your Windows 8 Start Screen. On the left is the downloads button, which takes you to a screen that’s still a very rough draft. Filenames didn’t appear for me, instead everything was listed with a default icon and called “0″ — but it’s not cause for concern. This is a Firefox Nightly build, and exactly the kind of thing you expect to find when you’re experimenting with an unstable app. Downloads still complete as they should and are accessible through Windows Explorer.
Probably the biggest omission right now is the lack of Firefox Sync functionality. Though the desktop version allowed me to log in to my account, my bookmarks never appeared and selecting “sync now” from the menu didn’t appear to do anything. Firefox for Windows 8 also doesn’t seem to be sharing profile data with the desktop app. Pages that I browsed in one version didn’t appear as suggestions in the Awesome Bar in the other. Other niggles include a lack of scroll wheel and Adobe Flash support (though at this point the latter is considered a good thing by many).
Things will improve, of course, and likely very rapidly. And you won’t have to keep re-downloading from the FTP servers either: Mozilla has enabled automatic updating for the Windows 8 preview build.
Windows 8 will be released in around three weeks, and there’s no doubt Mozilla would love to have its updated Firefox app ready to go as soon as possible. Mozillan Brian Bondy says they’re still mid-way through beta development, however, so it could be a few more months before Firefox for Windows 8 goes stable.