Mozilla has made available a beta test release of its Firefox browser for Windows 8, optimised for touch gesture input and the tile-based Modern UI interface of Microsoft's tablet-focused platform.
Firefox for Windows 8 Touch Beta – available to download from Mozilla's website – features a new tile-based Firefox start screen with one-tap access to Top Sites, Bookmarks and History.
The browser, which has already had a prolonged development phase, is designed to ensure users get the best-possible browsing experience on Windows 8 tablets, touchscreen laptops and other compatible devices, Mozilla said.
An Aurora or pre-beta release was unveiled last autumn, at which point the beta was pegged for December.
Mozilla developers first disclosed that they were planning a version of Firefox optimised for Windows 8 early in 2012, nearly two years ago. Back then, the discussion centred on whether third-party browsers would be able to run in both the Metro-style or Modern UI environment of Windows 8, as well as on the legacy desktop, as Microsoft's Internet Explorer 11 is capable of.
The beta release does indeed run in both the Metro and desktop environments, although the user appears to have to use a menu option to re-launch the browser in the other environment if they wish to switch.
In the Metro environment, Firefox supports the Full, Snapped and Fill views of Windows 8, as well as full support for gestures such as pinch to zoom and one-touch swipe transitions. The Firefox start screen also features tiles that make browsing a more visually rich experience and are easier to recognise and tap, Mozilla said.
The Windows 8 mode version of the browser does not share bookmarks, history or passwords with the desktop version out of the box, Mozilla warned, but this can be fixed if users are signed up to the Firefox Sync service.
Mozilla said that most of the features of Firefox for Windows 8 are nearly complete, but has asked for feedback and bug reports from users testing out the beta release.
An official date for when the full release version will be available has not been disclosed, but Mozilla told V3 to expect an update in the coming weeks.
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