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A look into the future of Firefox

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NathanJ79
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A look into the future of Firefox

I'm sure some of you have heard that Firefox 3.7 will do away with the address bar, which, to me, invokes images of IE 7. When Microsoft did that with IE and WMP it seemed foreign and strange, but 3-4 years later, here comes Mozilla with a similar design.

But that's not the end of it. Firefox 4 will look more like the Chrome of today than Firefox, save for the name.

Theme/UI Revamp
Chrome or not, that screenshot looks sleek as hell. The link goes to Mozilla's wiki, where they show off what Firefox 4 looks like, and then they explain it. (They do say that they aren't trying to copy Chrome, farther down, but in doing so their explanation implies that Chrome was ahead of the curve and they're just now catching up.)

I'm excited about the design, but I don't think parts of it are right. My Firefox 3.6 UI is perfect for me. There's a little bit of wasted space but by the same token, it isn't cluttered. I like where they're going, but I'd love to sit down with some of the design geeks at Mozilla and show them my setup. I'm always tweaking it to best complement how I use the web. For example, my most recent change was to remove the Stop control (which, with Refresh, I'd moved to between the AwesomeBar and the Search bar) and add the fullscreen toggle to the right of the search bar. I'll post a screenshot later.

Also getting an update are notifications. (The link goes to a huge PNG on mozilla.com.) Basically the "bar" will be replaced by a speech bubble of sorts.

A lot of good insight into the next 18 months or so (hopefully less?) of Firefox design. Some good stuff to look forward to, but I'm sure I'll be tweaking it.

Looks like Personas didn't really pan out so well for them after all...

computerfreaker
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Looks pretty cool! I've been

Looks pretty cool!
I've been more than a bit worried over the constant "compression of the interface"; it seems like everybody's fighting to have the smallest, most minimal GUI possible to "save the user time". Unfortunately, that can hurt more than it can help, with the Office ribbon being a prime example of this.

Still, it looks like the Mozilla team is doing some very cool stuff. I especially like the progress line - I'm actually using the Tab Progress Bar addon to do the same thing right now. (I especially love it that that screenshot is showing tab progressbars with the same electric green my Firefox tab progress bars use Blum )

I don't like the new notifications at all, simply because the emphasis is on answering "yes".
"Do you want to send your geolocation data?" "Do you want to save your passwords?" "Do you want to let this site do this thing?" are all questions I would typically answer "no" to, yet the new notifications make it harder to answer "no" and easy to answer "yes" accidentally. All it takes is one slip to blow open otherwise-tight security; NoScript, IMHO, will be significantly weakened.

Other than that, I think the Mozilla team is doing a good job, and I'm looking forward to this.

Thanks for sharing that link!

"The question I would like to know, is the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. All we know about it is that the Answer is Forty-two, which is a little aggravating."

Bahamut
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I have custom buttons on my

I have custom buttons on my menu bar (on the right near the throbber), but I suppose I could move them to the right of the URL bar. I don't like the idea of moving the tabs to the top, though. They belong right above the page because each tab represents a page and has no bearing on the constant UI elements it would then sit atop. I think it's a noble goal, but is the current design really broken? Who is really starved for space? Even with only 768 pixels (and most have at least 1024), the current design works fine. Do we really need to redo the entire menu UI to save 25px? Whatever happened to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?

As for the notifications, they're replacing a sleek bar with a big blob. The current system could use a few improvements, but this is a step backwards in my opinion.

Vintage!

José Pedro Arvela
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Tabs position can be toggled

You will be able to toggle the position of the tab bar, so it is one top or on bottom. They decided to place it on the top because all navigation elements are related to the page being seen, and not to the browser itself.

About height issue, with the rise of micro-notebooks, those 25px are precious.

About why they are doing a redesign, their logic can be found in here.

I do agree the notifications are badly made. All program wise notifications should be made trough the system's api (Growl for Mac, the library which name I can't remember for Linux). Then if they want to improve the bar, I have no problem, but those non-native blobs seem bad in my opinion.

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Mir
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my requests

dont take my #*$^ing toolbar and address box away *#&nit. from what i have seen the future of Firefox removes those. >:|

computerfreaker
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No

Look at the article & screenshots - the address bar stays there. The toolbar is removed by default, but you can bring it back.
At least, that's my understanding; if I'm wrong, I'm joining you in a strong protest again taking the address bar.

"The question I would like to know, is the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. All we know about it is that the Answer is Forty-two, which is a little aggravating."

José Pedro Arvela
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No... once again...

The address bar stays there, as it always was. The bookmarks toolbar is now hidden by default, but it is still possible to bring it back. The menu bar will be hidden by default and replaced by the orange button on the top, but it will be possible to also bring it back.

But these decision isare being made so carefully they are even placing a new button next to the search field to open some sort of Bookmarks Menu Popup... or something similar. So all bookmarks will still be available very easily when the new design comes out.

Blue is everything.

Mir
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4 VS 5

Yes i have seen screenshots of what 5 will look like. Cnet had an article about the future of Firefox and 5 will not even have the address bar. when i find said article i will post links to pixs. give me time because i do work.

José Pedro Arvela
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There is a 5 already?!?

I've been monitoring the blogs of some Firefox developers (in the area of design) and I have found nothing about Firefox 5.

I do know originally it was intended to have a Firefox 3.7 and a Firefox 4, but the 3.7 was dropped and most of its features will be backported to 3.6. This leaves all design into Firefox 4, and so, all mockups seen around here are about Firefox 4.

If you do have a mockup form Firefox 5 from a safe source, please tell me, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Blue is everything.

Mir
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hmm

i cannot find it atm so here is this to fend off the verociousness of your hunger.

http://news.cnet.com/2300-1001_3-10001838-6.html?tag=mncol

preview of FF4 from november plus FF through the ages

NathanJ79
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computerfreakerI've been more than a bit worried over the constant "compression of the interface"; it seems like everybody's fighting to have the smallest, most minimal GUI possible to "save the user time". Unfortunately, that can hurt more than it can help, with the Office ribbon being a prime example of this.

Au contraire, GUI minimalization is not intended to save time, but to maximize space. Fullscreen mode in a browser is cool as hell if you don't need the chrome. So reducing the chrome is sort of a compromise.

The Office Ribbon is brilliant for new users, but it does cause problems if you're accustomed to the old way. MS Paint is much better for its Ribbon.

computerfreakerI don't like the new notifications at all, simply because the emphasis is on answering "yes".

A valid point, but one I disagree with.

Portable Firefox and now Mozilla Weave have taken "the browser" out of the mouths and minds of many and replaced it with "my browser". Back in the day, my brother and I both used Internet Explorer. We shared our Favorites and logged out of sites when we were done with them. Now with Portable Firefox, no one uses the one on my flash drive but me. At home, my wife and I each have one. So "yes" is the right answer for me and my wife, for most options, because the browser is ours and ours alone. Privacy concerns get moved out of the browser and into physical control of the browser: as long as we maintain exclusive physical access to our browsers, we don't worry that it will remember our passwords.

But again, that's just my take. Hopefully others who share your opinion will have some kind of representation in the new Firefox.

BahamutI don't like the idea of moving the tabs to the top, though. They belong right above the page because each tab represents a page and has no bearing on the constant UI elements it would then sit atop.

While I'm not comfortable with tabs above the address bar and other UI elements, I understand why it's the correct course of action. Here's why it's correct:

1. By even using a tabbed browser (rather, by using more than one tab) you are simultaneously browsing more than one web page.

2. Due to the general instability of the wild Internet, it's a good idea to run each tab in its own process. This way if one locks up, the rest of your tabs remain unaffected. (Never mind that a user will perceive this as being anywhere from "in theory only" to "completely untrue" if the browser itself hangs.)

3. Each tab has its own URL, and navigation elements only apply to that tab.

Ergo, tabs should be topmost. Because from the top down you have the browser ("Firefox") and below that your tabs ("PortableApps.com", "Google News", "Ars Technica", and "Facebook" for instance). Below and clearly inside each tab, but at the top of the tab, should be the UI elements that control the tab.

Mozilla hasn't said this, at least not that I've seen, but I'm thinking each tab should have custom UI elements, as specified by the user. Since each tab should run in its own process, each tab will take up a variable amount of system resources, and eliminating erroneous resources that the tab does not need should produce a smaller memory footprint. For example, I have the extension BBCode, but there is no reason to load that into the Google News tab. Also in example, the extension Adblock Plus can be disabled on some sites, say PortableApps and Ars Technica, because we (and by we, I mean I) want to support those sites by whitelisting their ads. So why not take it a step further and just *not load* Adblock Plus in that tab? There is no reason for it to be there.

Jose Pedro ArvelaI do agree the notifications are badly made. All program wise notifications should be made trough the system's api (Growl for Mac, the library which name I can't remember for Linux). Then if they want to improve the bar, I have no problem, but those non-native blobs seem bad in my opinion.

You have a good point, but I think Mozilla's is that they want it to look the same on all platforms. Windows 7 also has a sleek new notifications system that apps can take advantage of, and should, but it's in the interests of all open source software authors, I think, that their programs work the same in Windows and in Linux. I might be talking purely out my backside here, but I think one of the key benefits to programs like Firefox and OpenOffice is that they help to reduce loyalty to and dependence on Microsoft Windows. I do know that open source =/= Linux and open source does not even need Linux, but just as an open source browser is, at least as a choice available, a better thing for the Internet than not, an open source operating system can be the same force for good. It's just that Linux has never had the prime time readiness (for average users, anyway) that Firefox has enjoyed.

Bahamut
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Mozilla hasn't said this, at

Mozilla hasn't said this, at least not that I've seen, but I'm thinking each tab should have custom UI elements, as specified by the user. Since each tab should run in its own process, each tab will take up a variable amount of system resources, and eliminating erroneous resources that the tab does not need should produce a smaller memory footprint. For example, I have the extension BBCode, but there is no reason to load that into the Google News tab. Also in example, the extension Adblock Plus can be disabled on some sites, say PortableApps and Ars Technica, because we (and by we, I mean I) want to support those sites by whitelisting their ads. So why not take it a step further and just *not load* Adblock Plus in that tab? There is no reason for it to be there.

That would be way too complex for the normal user to set up and do, and those who could aren't even likely to put in the effort to set up rules. I could see the point of separate extension sets, but what would be the point of having separate UI sets for different websites?

While I'm not comfortable with tabs above the address bar and other UI elements, I understand why it's the correct course of action. Here's why it's correct:

1. By even using a tabbed browser (rather, by using more than one tab) you are simultaneously browsing more than one web page.

2. Due to the general instability of the wild Internet, it's a good idea to run each tab in its own process. This way if one locks up, the rest of your tabs remain unaffected. (Never mind that a user will perceive this as being anywhere from "in theory only" to "completely untrue" if the browser itself hangs.)

3. Each tab has its own URL, and navigation elements only apply to that tab.

Ergo, tabs should be topmost. Because from the top down you have the browser ("Firefox") and below that your tabs ("PortableApps.com", "Google News", "Ars Technica", and "Facebook" for instance). Below and clearly inside each tab, but at the top of the tab, should be the UI elements that control the tab.

No, UI elements are constant unless you specifically have things set up otherwise. Mozilla isn't likely to implement your idea and even if they do, most people aren't going to use it anyway. Even if the tabs are technically separate processes, logically, they only represent pages and all other aspects of the browser are the same.

Vintage!

PSquid
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I see where you're coming from, but...

No, UI elements are constant unless you specifically have things set up otherwise. Mozilla isn't likely to implement your idea and even if they do, most people aren't going to use it anyway. Even if the tabs are technically separate processes, logically, they only represent pages and all other aspects of the browser are the same.

I see where you're coming from on that, but I'd actually like to disagree - essentially, with the way tabs are designed/themed/etc as default, in both present Firefox and the 4.0 concept, all elements below the tab bar are visually "in" your current tab, or at least that's how it looks to me.

Now, taking that to it's logical conclusion - is your current address bar content relevant to other tabs? No. So it should visually be "in" the tab. Same for the navigation buttons (they don't do anything to other tabs).

On the other hand, the menu (and some parts of the status bar - that's an awkward one, since the status and link destination are tab-specific, but there's also tab-independent stuff there with a number of popular extensions, notably Greasemonkey) applies to all tabs, so I'd argue this should be above or at the same height as the tabs, and visually not "in" them.

Of course, that's just my opinion - to each his own.

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Now, taking that to it's

Now, taking that to it's logical conclusion - is your current address bar content relevant to other tabs? No. So it should visually be "in" the tab. Same for the navigation buttons (they don't do anything to other tabs).

The elements themselves and what they do are constant. If you had a completely different layout for each web page (or category of web page), then that argument would make sense. Perhaps such a layout would work for a window devoted to web apps, but for normal browsing, elements don't change.

Vintage!

gluxon
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Why's this a big deal? What

Why's this a big deal?

What Mozilla's changing isn't Firefox itself, they're just changing how the default theme looks. It can be replaced, and probably reverted to look like 3.6 again. We've all seen how flexible firefox is, 4.0's not going to change the fact that firefox is still the most customizable web browser ever.

As you guys have said, you can bring the bookmarks toolbar back and rearrange the UI buttons. Simple addons can restore notifications, and everything can be as it was before.

Personally, I like the direction Mozilla's headed. The default theme is for firefox on windows. It's suppose to follow the template Microsoft set up for Windows GUI programs and look like a native Windows program. However, a normal user could easily change all that.

From reading Mozilla's docs, I can tell that Mozilla is truely the perfect pack of developers. They take every small detail and turn it around, they also respect their opponents.

I like the idea of the new notifications. The old one has problems you'd never think about.

NathanJ79 Looks like Personas didn't really pan out so well for them after all...

You made a great point there. I don't see how they're going to serve a purpose with glass. I can't picture how it'll look on the new theme. It'll just be icky.

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What Mozilla's changing isn't

What Mozilla's changing isn't Firefox itself, they're just changing how the default theme looks.

Defaults make a huge difference, especially when it comes to developing add-ons. I also doubt highly that this change is purely in the theme. Sure, you can hack Firefox to make it look like 3.6 or 3.7 (I've seen some screens for 3.7 and it looks nice and like what a real UI improvement is without going overboard), but add-on devs aren't going to make sure things work on a hacked-up install (or even for 3rd-party themes), they're going to make sure it works with a default installation. Sure, add-ons that don't deal with the UI or use it much won't be affected, but a lot of popular and useful add-ons will have to break compatibility with the current UI to keep up.

The default theme is for firefox on windows. It's suppose to follow the template Microsoft set up for Windows GUI programs and look like a native Windows program. However, a normal user could easily change all that.
Unless it's purely in the theme, one would have to compile Firefox oneself using custom options (some build options are based on which system is targeted for build unless overridden, and this would obviously be one of them).

I hope I'm wrong, but it doesn't seem likely that such a drastic change to the UI would be defined purely by a theme.

Vintage!

José Pedro Arvela
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There's a detail

Bahamut (#)Sure, you can hack Firefox to make it look like 3.6 or 3.7 (...)

No need, Mozilla is making all changes possible to reverse, you will only have to change a setting, most probably in the UI.

Bahamut (#)(...) but add-on devs aren't going to make sure things work on a hacked-up install (or even for 3rd-party themes)

But have you ever seen an add-on dev not supporting Firefox when the toolbars have labels below the buttons? These changes will be so easily changeable that it will be the same as changing the mode of the buttons on the toolbars between Icons, Text and Icons & Text. When things are so obviously easy to change, add-on devs will have to support them.

gluxon (#)

NathanJ79 Looks like Personas didn't really pan out so well for them after all...

You made a great point there. I don't see how they're going to serve a purpose with glass. I can't picture how it'll look on the new theme. It'll just be icky.

Actually, they have thought about that, made a bug on bugzilla to implement it, and posted a mockup (it is quite old already). And I am probably missing some big article about it, as I know Personas developers really want aero support so they can draw the Personas in the title bar too and blend it all seamlessly.

Blue is everything.

Bahamut
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3.7 = awesome, 4.0 = awful

I hadn't noticed it before, but they're going to replicate one of the most annoying and idiotic things about the new Windows Explorer and IE UI - the stop/reload button will be on the right side of the URL bar. The new Windows Explorer UI is horrible and they're going to copy it. *facepalm*

I really hope this is purely in the theme and I don't have to cling to 3.7. 3.7 looks awesome and they are taking things way too far with 4.0.

Vintage!

NathanJ79
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Stop/Reload, opinion

Button placement and UI design comes down to a matter of opinion. I didn't like IE7 or WMP11 at first either (still don't) but I moved my Stop and Reload buttons to between the Awesome Bar and the search bar. Later, I removed Stop altogether. It's redundant. Just mash ESC. At least that's what I do. Also on the right side of my Menu bar I have Home / Bookmarks History Downloads / TextAreaCache WebOfTrust AdBlockPlus Throbber. And to the right of the search bar, Fullscreen toggle. It works great for me.

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I tried removing...

I tried removing the stop button and found out that I hardly ever use it, although I'm annoyed when I can't use it when I want it. I found an addon that does an awesome job of merging the reload and stop button. When a page is loading the stop button is available. When the page isn't loading the refresh button is available. Saves space and makes everything less cluttered. It has a bunch of other functions to merge other buttons and make some interesting combination.

Release Team Member

NathanJ79
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ESC = Stop

Jacob MastelI tried removing the stop button and found out that I hardly ever use it, although I'm annoyed when I can't use it when I want it.

Again, just press ESC (Escape). Though my browsing habits likely differ from yours, explain where/why you would need to stop loading a page. Besides, in the broadband age, most of the time, the page is going to finish loading before you can hit ESC, let alone move your mouse to the stop button and hit the clicker. So even having a Stop button is both wasted screen space and wasted time.

Of course, there are keyboard shortcuts for reload (R5) and back (Alt+LeftArrow) and others, but those functions are more useful to most users.

Ironically, that add-on you're talking about, it sounded familiar... I'm pretty sure that's going to be a future Firefox feature. I think it's in one of the links I posted. Works just like you said. And if no page is loading or loaded, it works as a Go button (e.g. you just typed something in the Awesome Bar and didn't think to just hit Enter).

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This one's a lot better in my

This one's a lot better in my opinion.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/313

It was an original feature built into Netscape Navigator. Mozilla for some reason removed it. It's coming back in 3.7/4.0, only, the buttons are merged into the address bar.

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There are objective reasons

There are objective reasons to keep UI elements in certain places. It makes sense to keep all the navigation buttons together and none to split them. I think having the Go button on the right is idiotic too, but I removed it long ago, so I haven't thought about it. My setup is such that buttons are logically grouped. Things related to navigation and the URL are in one area, and I have several option-related buttons in another area. UI designs are not nearly as subjective as you think.

On a side note, I wonder if buttons will be allowed on the title bar. I have several buttons that live on the right side of the menu bar near the throbber and it would seem like a waste to give them their own toolbar. Speaking of the throbber, are they getting rid of it? It's not completely useless.

Vintage!

NathanJ79
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Subjective by definition

BahamutThere are objective reasons to keep UI elements in certain places. [...] UI designs are not nearly as subjective as you think.

That you posted that, as a result of a difference in opinion, makes it subjective, but UI elements aren't dictated by the popular or unpopular opinion, it's dictated by trend. IE and Windows Explorer look the way they do because that's the Vista/7 look. Mozilla is just following that trend, I think, because they want the browser to feel natural to the newbie. Firefox veterans will likely always be able to set it up how they want.

BahamutOn a side note, I wonder if buttons will be allowed on the title bar. I have several buttons that live on the right side of the menu bar near the throbber and it would seem like a waste to give them their own toolbar.

Highly doubtful. The title bar is not part of the browser chrome and therefore wouldn't be subject to putting buttons on. Then again, that's exactly what they seem to be doing with Weave integration. So who knows?

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Firefox veterans will likely

Firefox veterans will likely always be able to set it up how they want.

True, but when addon devs are forced to choose which UI configuration to play nice with, it's not going to be the 3.6 and older UI. Defaults are extremely important whether one uses them or not.

Vintage!

NathanJ79
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SeaMonkey

While I'm not seeing the difference between add-on and core browser defaults vs. configuration, I would kindly point in the direction of SeaMonkey, a Mozilla browser that seems to want to be a 1990s incarnation of Netscape Communicator... you know, for the old-school look. Though I don't seriously think you want to go that far back in terms of design history, the design of browsers is changing. I think it's for the better (or rather, I've "come to terms" with the change, as I was initially opposed to it), but while I'd appreciate the new security and stability fixes applied to the "legacy" Firefox versions, at some point you might have to bite the bullet and go with the new.

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at some point you might have

at some point you might have to bite the bullet and go with the new.

That's my point. If I could get all the things I like (such as security/stability fixes, add-on compatibility and new features) forever while sticking to 3.7, I wouldn't have a problem; I would just ignore this. However, new features and bug fixes are eventually going to be a package deal with 4.0 and its horrid UI defaults, which means I'll be forced to choose between losing out on new features (either through add-ons or in the browser itself) or dealing with 4.0.

Vintage!

NathanJ79
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...

Bahamut[...] which means I'll be forced to choose [...]

And that's my point.

How long do you plan to boycott the new design? And what is so special about this particular phase of browser evolution? Have you once (or more) held on to a particular phase of evolution of a piece of software long after it's been rendered obsolete?

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the greater point is this: Why should software companies put forth very much effort to support those of their users who choose to remain on the oldest platform for as long as possible. They're not really supporting the bleeding edge, either, but rather advancing the middle to satisfy the needs of the majority.

All that said, I highly doubt a theme won't be available for 4.0 that lets you keep the XP look.

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It's not like...

NathanJ79 (#)All that said, I highly doubt a theme won't be available for 4.0 that lets you keep the XP look.

It's not like that never happened...

Biggrin

Blue is everything.

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I'm not asking them to

I'm not asking them to support old versions and I don't plan to boycott 4.0. What I want is for them to update the UI (which does need to be done) without making the same mistakes that others have made. Read my posts again. Your response has nothing do to with anything I've posted previously.

Vintage!

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