All posts tagged ‘Metro’

File Under: Browsers

Mozilla Takes on Windows 8 With ‘Firefox Metro Preview’

Mozilla looks to claim a square on the Windows 8 start screen with Firefox Metro. Image: Screenshot/Scott Gilbertson.

Mozilla has released a preview version of Firefox built for Windows 8′s touch-friendly interface. Despite Microsoft recently disavowing the term Metro, Mozilla is calling its hybrid version of Firefox, “Firefox Metro Preview.”

You can grab a copy of the new preview release from Mozilla’s Nightly downloads page (.exe link). Run the installer and you’ll have a traditional desktop app named Nightly. Open that up and make Nightly your default browser. Once you do you’ll be able to open the Windows Store version of Firefox from the Windows 8 start screen.

Bear in mind that this is a very experimental release — it’s a nightly build, after all. In my testing (using a Samsung Series 7 tablet) this early form of Firefox Metro proved too rough around the edges to use for much more than exploring the new Metro interface.

The preview does however manage to offer a glimpse of what’s in store for anyone planning to pick up a Windows 8 tablet. Unlike Chrome for Windows 8, which more or less looks just like the desktop version of Chrome, Mozilla has embraced the Windows 8 design aesthetic. The Firefox Metro bookmarks page features a blocky, candy-colored list of links reminiscent of the Windows 8 start page. Other UI touches like the rounded corners and primary colored elements are all part of the Australis interface, which Firefox Product Manager Asa Dotzler calls “streamlined, modern, and beautiful.”

Firefox Metro’s Windows 8-style bookmarks list. Image: Screenshot/Scott Gilbertson.

The default user interface in Firefox Metro has almost no chrome. There’s a URL bar along the top of the window which includes a plus button for new tabs, but otherwise the interface elements are hidden away. Swipe up from the bottom and you’ll find a toolbar for adding bookmarks, pinning sites to the Windows 8 start screen or viewing recent downloads. Swipe down from the top of the screen and you’ll reveal the tab bar. (There’s also an option to always show the tab bar.) Tap the screen and both will disappear offering a fullscreen browsing mode well suited to tablets.

Firefox Metro tab bar. Image: Screenshot/Scott Gilbertson.

The integration with Windows 8 goes beyond just the visual elements with support for Metro’s touch and swipe gestures. Firefox Metro also uses the Windows 8 “charm bar” — the universal sidebar where you’ll find Firefox’s preferences, privacy settings, permissions and other administrative tools. There are quite a few tablet-specific settings as well like an option to control how text formatting is handled on zoom.

Familiar features from Firefox on the desktop have been carried over, including Firefox Sync and support for the Do Not Track privacy header. Unfortunately I couldn’t get Sync to work. Like I said earlier, this release is rough around the edges.

The rough nature of this preview release didn’t stop our friends at Ars Technica from putting Firefox Metro Preview through some benchmarks; check out Jon Brodkin’s post for details on how this nightly build stands up against the other two Metro-ready browsers, IE 10 and Chrome.

While there’s still much to be done before Firefox Metro is ready for prime time — Mozilla currently hopes to ship a final version when Firefox 18 arrives at the beginning of 2013 — this build gives curious users a look at what to expect. But at the moment both IE 10 and Chrome are stabler, more usable browsers for Metro. And keep in mind that while Firefox Metro will work on x86 tablets, nothing has changed with regard to third-party web browsers on Windows RT — tablets based using Win RT and Arm processors will still exist in an IE-only world.

Rumor: Internet Explorer 10 Metro to Run Flash After All

The consumer preview of Windows 8 with no Flash support in IE 10 Metro.

Microsoft seems to have changed its mind about Adobe Flash and will include a bundled version of Flash with its upcoming Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 web browser. Previously Microsoft announced that the Metro version of IE 10 would run without plugins like Adobe Flash or even Microsoft’s own Silverlight.

The rumor of an about-face on Flash comes from leaked Windows 8 screenshots that have turned up on rumor sites WinUnleaked and WithinWindows. Microsoft declined to answer Webmonkey’s questions for this post, noting only that “Microsoft does not comment on rumors and speculation.”

Rumors and speculation though the conclusions may be, the screenshots tell the story and the story is simple: The latest developer builds include support for Flash in Metro IE 10.

To get around the “no plugins” policy for IE 10 Metro, Microsoft appears to have included the Flash runtime in the actual browser, meaning that it’s not technically a plugin. But even with the new plugin that’s not a plugin, don’t expect Flash to work everywhere. Instead, Metro IE 10′s Flash support looks more like a last-ditch effort to make sure that big-name legacy sites with popular content will work in the Metro version of IE 10.

Flash in Metro isn’t going to work everywhere, though. In fact, Microsoft will maintain a white-list of sites that can access the Flash player in Metro. Microsoft’s previously published Internet Explorer Compatibility View lists dozens of sites including Hulu, CNN, Amazon, Adobe Labs and other popular sites with older, Flash video. (Wired is on that list as well.)

It’s unclear how much of the leaked info represents a change in Microsoft’s policy toward HTML5 video and web standards. Historically, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to maintain backward compatibility and it may be that dropping Flash entirely was simply too much for the company to stomach all at once. Also bear in mind that these leaked screenshots are of early builds and things may well change considerably before the final version of Windows 8 is released.

File Under: Browsers

Microsoft Urges Developers to Embrace Touch-Friendly Web Design

Windows 8 is just around the corner and Microsoft wants web developers to get ready for it. We’ve yet to see any tablets running Microsoft’s next-gen Metro interface, but the company is already hard at work telling web developers how to optimize their websites for touchscreens.

The IEBlog recently posted some guidelines for building touch-friendly sites and wants developers to know what makes a successful touchscreen website.

Since Microsoft is late to the touchscreen party there isn’t too much here that savvy developers aren’t already doing for iOS and Android devices. Recommendations include touchscreen basics like using the proper HTML input types such as “tel” or “email” to trigger tailored keyboard layouts, and making sure that touch targets are large and easy to hit. Microsoft also suggests avoiding hover events since touchscreen users never trigger them (unfortunately, content hidden from touchscreens by hover events is still an all too common problem).

If you’re building responsive websites or at least tailoring your designs for touchscreens, most of these suggestions are probably already part of your workflow.

One thing that may be new to some developers is the non-standard -ms-touch-action CSS property. The -ms-touch-action property allows developers to override IE 10′s default touch behavior.

Like most touchscreen browsers, IE 10 assumes that touch events are related to browser actions — double-tapping to zoom for instance. Most of the time this is what you want, but occasionally developers may want to take over some actions, for example, drag events in a drawing app, while leaving others alone. If you have canvas element as part of your drawing app you could set the -ms-touch-action like this:

canvas {
    -ms-touch-action: double-tap-zoom;

As the IEBlog explains, “with this configuration the user can double-tap to zoom in to the canvas element, but sliding a finger on the canvas element will send events to it rather than pan the page.”

For more details on -ms-touch-action, head over to the Microsoft Developer Network website. As far as I’ve been able to determine, Microsoft has not yet submitted -ms-touch-action to the W3C. It looks like a very handy property, so hopefully it will be submitted at some point.

As the IEBlog notes there’s much more to developing for touchscreens than just a few quick tricks. While most sites will work just fine in tablet versions of IE 10 (or any other touch screen browser) with no modifications at all there’s a rather wide gap between “work” and “amazing.” If you’d like your sites to land toward the later end of the spectrum, be sure to check out our earlier post on building a responsive, future-friendly web for some pointers.

File Under: HTML5, Multimedia

Microsoft Wants to Put Skype in Your Web Browser

Mozilla recently showed off a demo of a video chat app built entirely from web standards. Now Microsoft’s Skype video calling service appears to be headed to the web browser as well. points out a number of new Microsoft job ads that describe “Skype for Browsers” and say the company is looking for developers with experience building HTML5-based apps.

Last summer Skype began its foray into the browser by hooking up with Facebook to handle the social network’s video chat features. But Facebook is the only place in the browser that Skype will work. The version of Skype running on Facebook also uses a plugin rather than HTML5 features like the Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) standard.

However, with Microsoft’s plugin-free Metro environment getting ready for prime time, the move away from a plugin-based Skype to a version that’s built entirely on web standards would make web-based Skype calls possible for not just desktop browsers, but any Metro-based tablets as well. Of course whether or not that will mean using WebRTC or something else entirely remains to be seen.

With the exception of the Facebook video chat client, “Skype for Browsers” is a long way from reality. But if the project does use the WebRTC standard, it just might help speed up the development of better audio and video streaming tools for the web.

File Under: Browsers

Firefox for Windows 8 Beginning to Take Shape

A mockup of Firefox in the Metro start screen (image: Mozilla)

Mozilla is making progress in its effort to bring Firefox to Windows 8′s new Metro environment. Firefox for Windows 8 was announced earlier this year and will support both the traditional desktop Windows environment and the new Metro interface designed for tablets and other touchscreen devices.

Mozilla’s Brian Bondy, a member of the team tasked with bringing Firefox to Metro, reports that the browser is up and running. “You can navigate the web, create tabs, bookmark pages, build history, retain cache, adjust preferences, and more,” writes Bondy in a blog post reporting Mozilla’s Metro progress.

There’s no packaged download of Firefox for Windows 8 yet, but you can follow the progress via the team’s Mercurial repository.

At the moment Firefox on Metro looks and feels like its Android cousin since both share a common starting point. However, Firefox for Windows 8 already supports a few Metro-specific enhancements, like the Metro “snap” feature, which allows you to “snap” another Metro app to Firefox so you can view both side by side.

Bondy also touts Firefox’s integration with Windows 8′s global search feature which allows you to search the web from any screen. Enter a URL and you’ll go to the website; enter anything else and Firefox will search the web using your default search engine. Additional Metro-specific features include a Metro file picker for opening and saving files (unlike a normal sandboxed Metro app, Firefox will have access to any file on your computer).

Mozilla has opted for the middle path through Microsoft’s guidelines for building Windows 8 apps, passing on a pure Metro app and instead making the browser a “Metro style enabled desktop browser.” That means that Firefox for Windows 8 is a hybrid app that can be run as a normal desktop application or as a Metro app.

The hybrid approach means that Firefox will work as it always has for those that choose to ignore Metro, but will also fit in with Metro for those that prefer it. Unfortunately the hybrid approach also means that Firefox can’t run in Metro mode unless the user has set it to be the default browser.

Microsoft’s rules for the Metro environment allow for only one browser in Metro mode. Given how few users change the default settings, most may never even realize that Firefox can run in Metro mode. Mozilla’s long-term dilemma isn’t just how to integrate the Firefox experience into the very new and different Metro environment, but also how to get users to switch their default browser to Firefox.