Firefox Metro Preview for Windows 8 arrives – Initial Impressions

Looking for Internet Explorer alternatives that support the new modern UI? There is nothing wrong with IE, just that some of us have different preferences when it comes to web browsing. Up until now, there has simply been two choices for Metro/Modern users: Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

The problem with these choices is that Chrome is just the desktop version running in full-screen without any Metro-esque features and changes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for everyone, but it certainly looks a bit out of place when compared to other Win8 apps. So for those that want the new look and feel, IE still remained the only option.

Today that sort of changes. I say “sort of” because what we get is the Nightly Build version of what the Firefox team is touting as the “Firefox Metro Preview”. Despite MS dropping the name, Mozilla has decided to keep it in this instance. The preview is far from complete and has its share of bugs, but it does at least show us that Firefox is willing to embrace the new UI, unlike Google’s offering.

At first I thought that this was a TOTAL dud. The Firefox screen would start in the new touch UI, but it would freeze after that. I almost gave up and moved on. Then I started messing with defaults. Even though the “Nightly” metro-style icon will show up if Firefox is your default, it only seemed to work once I changed my default browser from Firefox over to Nightly. Makes sense I suppose. After my brief problems with it, I jumped right in.

The new version runs very smoothly and has a clean looking design. You have a bookmarks area on the left, downloads on the right, and recent pages in the middle. There is a single box for searching and typing URLS, which is in contrast to the desktop version of Firefox. Things like copying and pasting works great and even the new “Snap” feature for side-by-side apps works fine here. There is also the Mozilla sync feature for things like bookmarks.

Overall, for basic stuff I really thought that the new Firefox Metro UI worked and looked great, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

There are clearly missing some features and options in the Nightly build, though for pre-release software that isn’t at all unexpected. For starters, there is no zooming and panning yet. Scrolling is fine on touch devices or through the keyboard, but you can’t use a scroll wheel on the mouse, which is a bit disappointing.

With IE you are left out in the dark when it comes to Flash, this was something I was looking forward to getting with Firefox. No such luck. While the final version should have it, the current Firefox Metro app doesn’t have flash or even support for add-ons at all.

Now for the bad news. If you like Firefox and hoped to have it running as your primary (stable) browser in Windows 8 desktop and the new UI, you will be a bit disappointed. The final version of Firefox 18 will get the full Metro experience in stable form, but it won’t arrive until Jan. 8th. In the meantime, you can always use the Nightly build, but performance and stability may vary.

What do you think? Do you prefer Chrome, Firefox or IE for Windows 8?

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