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Hands on with Firefox's mobile browser

By   |  October 21, 2008

A couple of weeks ago we wrote that a mobile edition of Firefox was expected within weeks. Well, here’s an alpha version of Fennec. We decided to give the little fox a spin to see what exactly the Firefox team had been up to over the past few months.

At this point Mozilla has only released an alpha version of Fennec, the name given to the mobile version of Firefox. And as such it is a little buggy, but many of the expected features are already in place and working.

Fennec right now is only available for a single mobile device, the Nokia 810 tablet, although a version is also available for testing on Linux, Mac and Windows. Of course the desktop version doesn’t do the touch screen capabilities any justice but for an idea of what to expect when Fennec does hit your mobile, read on.


The first thing when you open Fennec is the simple and clean layout. There is the address bar across the top of the screen and the rest of the space is dedicated to the browser.

The address bar is well implemented and like the desktop Firefox browser responds to partial words typed into the bar. Most often this based on your browsing history which is pulled up on the screen below. If none of those is your intended destination then hit enter and Fennec searches on Google by default.

The one thing on a mobile device you don’t want to do a lot of is typing so Fennec’s attention to detail in this area could of crucial importance.

With a page loaded in the browser window you can scale this up or down to fit either a piece of the website in the window or the entire page.

Where are the buttons?

The initial Fennec window is clean. So clean that you’re probably wondering where all the controls are. This is where the touch screen comes in. Swipe from the right to the left and you’ll see a basic set of tools appear. In the right hand bar you’ll find the back and forward buttons as well as the “star” which can be used to bookmark websites. Down at the base of the right bar you’ll see a cog icon which opens up the basic settings window.

Right at the top of the right hand bar you’ll see a jigsaw icon. Clicking on this brings up a familiar extensions manager. In the alpha release this is still pretty much empty although there are a handful of standard plugins – things like Adobe reader.

One of the nice features in Fennec is the horizontal movement. For example, one swipe to the left exposes the tool bar. Clicking on the settings button slides the browser window even further across. To get back, two swipes to the right closes those windows.

Tabbed browsing

The same is true of the left hand bar. Swipe across the screen from left to right and you’ll find Fennec’s version of tabbed browsing. In the left hand bar there are icons of the pages you already have open, as well as a “plus” icon to open a new “tab”. Helpfully, each “tab” has a close button attached to it so you can close any existing window without having to actually open it.

It is still early days with Fennec, but this alpha release makes it look very promising. The interface is clean and simple and with a touchscreen promises to be easy to use, but we’ll have to wait until we get our hands an a Nokia tablet before we can say for sure.

Give Fennec a spin and let us know what you think in the comments.

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4 Responses to “Hands on with Firefox's mobile browser”

  1. Dwayne Bailey
    October 21st, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

    Fennec in Afrikaans, mostly thanks to the existing Firefox Afrikaans localisations:

    Just a screenshot, not live just yet, nice little browser. Pity I don’t have a nice cool platform to test it on :)

  2. Alastair
    October 21st, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

    @Dwayne Bailey:
    Excellent. Good work. I do like the way Fennec works.

  3. Tectonic » One billion Mozilla add-ons
    November 23rd, 2008 @ 7:31 am

    […] more on Fennec see our first look at the browser. Share this […]

  4. Tectonic » Mozilla’s Fennec out next week
    January 28th, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

    […] was previously only released for the Nokia 810 tablet, although an emulator version is also available for testing on Linux, Mac and […]

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