All posts tagged ‘Windows 8’

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.

File Under: Browsers

Microsoft, Adobe Working to Secure Flash in IE 10

If you’ve been testing the built-in version of Internet Explorer in Microsoft’s coming Windows 8, you may be vulnerable to security flaws in Adobe’s Flash plugin.

Like Google Chrome, IE 10 on Windows 8 bundles the Flash Player directly into the browser. Unlike Google Chrome, IE 10 isn’t yet getting Flash updates on time. Because the plugin is bundled Adobe’s auto-update tools don’t work, nor can users manually download and install updates.

The only way to update Flash in Windows 8 is through Windows Update. That means the job of making sure those updates get to users falls to Microsoft, which so far has not delivered.

A Microsoft spokesperson tells Webmonkey that the company is “working closely with Adobe to release an update for Adobe Flash in IE 10 to protect our mutual customers.” However, Adobe’s latest round of patches was released August 21 and there’s still been no update for IE 10 users. Microsoft says that the update will be available “shortly.”

The company also assures Webmonkey that this issue will be worked out before Windows 8 actually ships.

Part of the problem appears to simply be scheduling. Microsoft’s updates are generally released on the second Tuesday of each month, while Adobe typically patches Flash a week or two later. That window between updates is what currently leaves those testing Windows 8 vulnerable.

Microsoft tells Webmonkey that a plan is in the works to address the scheduling conflict and ensure that Windows 8 users don’t have a vulnerable version of Flash for two weeks every patch cycle. Microsoft didn’t offered any details beyond saying the company plans to “align our release schedule as closely to Adobe’s as possible.”

File Under: Software, Web Services

Microsoft Puts ‘Windows Live’ Brand Out to Pasture [Updated]

Microsoft is getting ready to ditch the “Windows Live” moniker for the company’s suite of online services like mail, messaging, syncing and account management. The changes to Microsoft’s cloud offerings will be more than skin deep though; the revamped Windows Live services will be tightly integrated into the coming Windows 8 operating system.

When Windows 8 arrives it will be “cloud-powered”, as the Building Windows 8 blog puts it. That means the Windows Live Essentials app suite (a separate download for Windows 7) will no longer be around. Instead Metro-style apps that handle mail, photos, calendars and sharing are a default part of Windows 8 and come already connected to the cloud.

When you sign into a Windows 8 PC or tablet with your Microsoft account — that would be the account formerly known as Windows Live ID — your e-mail, calendar, contacts, messages, and shared photo albums are synced to that machine.

What’s slightly confusing about the changes is that they represent an about face not only in branding, but in goals. When Microsoft introduced the Windows Live Essentials suite of apps for Windows 7, it touted the fact that they were separate applications that could be updated more frequently than Windows itself. Now Microsoft is once again integrating the apps and their syncing components into the OS and this time around it’s touting the integration rather than the separation.

Microsoft's chart of software and services in the coming world of Windows 8.

There’s one exception to the Windows-Live-to-Metro-app migration — Microsoft’s blogging software, Windows Live Writer, which is not mentioned at all in Microsoft’s announcement. While far from the most popular of the Windows Live Essentials apps, Live Writer has a vocal and enthusiastic user base as is evidenced by the numerous comments on the Building Windows 8 blog. Microsoft did not respond to our inquiries regarding Live Writer in time for this post. [Update: Microsoft tells Wired that it will have “more info soon,” but in the mean time points out that “all desktop apps work great and are supported on Windows 8, including Windows Live Writer.” In other words, even if Live Writer doesn’t get a Metro makeover, the standard desktop app will work just fine in Windows 8.]

To learn more about the changes and see the new Windows 8 syncing features in action, be sure to watch the video on the Windows 8 blog.

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.

File Under: Browsers

Firefox to Get a ‘Metro’ Makeover for Windows 8

Mozilla is breaking ground on a new effort to update the Firefox web browser for Microsoft’s coming Windows 8.

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.

While Apple’s App Store rules don’t allow Firefox to run on iOS devices, Mozilla has already created a tablet-friendly version of Firefox for Android and is now hoping to do the same for Windows 8.

According to the team already at work on Firefox for Windows 8, Firefox will take a hybrid approach to Windows 8′s dual desktop and Metro modes. The desktop and Metro options aren’t the only way to develop for Windows 8; there is in fact a third path — “Metro style enabled desktop browsers.” These hybrid apps can be run as desktop applications or as Metro apps. 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.

There’s another reason for choosing the hybrid route — Metro style enabled desktop browsers have the ability to run outside of the Metro sandbox. Metro style enabled desktop browsers have access to most of the Win32 API and the entire new WinRT API.

As Mozilla developer Brian Bondy writes in a recent blog post, taking the hybrid approach will give Firefox more power: “We can build a powerful browser which gives an experience equal to that of a classic Desktop browser.”

That doesn’t mean that everything with Firefox 8 for Windows will be smooth sailing though. For example, the current rules for the Metro environment allow for only one browser in Metro mode. That means that if you don’t set Firefox to be the default browser then it can’t be used in Metro mode. Given how few users change the default settings, most may never even realize that Firefox can run in Metro mode.

Bondy also points out that it remains to be seen whether or not Microsoft will let a hybrid Firefox in the coming Windows Store since it won’t technically be a Metro application. Other unknowns include whether or not Firefox for Windows 8 will work with the ARM-based version of Windows 8 or whether that will require another port.

For more details on just what it will take to create Firefox for Windows 8, be sure to read through Bondy’s post.