Mozillas tablet-friendly version of Firefox for Windows 8 is coming together, and an early public build of the browser is now available.
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Its obviously still a work-in-progress theres no documentation, and some vital functions (such as mouse-wheel support) do not work. Still, its enough to get a feel for how Firefox will work on the dont call it Metro side of Windows 8.
New tabs in Firefox for Windows 8 offer a three-column view of bookmarks, recent history, and download, presented as rectangular icons consistent with the Windows interface. On top, theres a unified bar for URLs and searches.
Once youve navigated to a Web page, Firefox switches to a full-screen view. From here, you must right-click to bring up the address bar, and right-click again to show all open tabs. (I havent tried this on a tablet, but I assume there are corresponding swipes to bring up these menus.) Dont fret, though you can configure the browser to show the address bar and all tabs at all times.
Right-clicking also brings up a few other options in a menu bar at the bottom of the screen. Here, you can jump to the downloads list, find a word on the page, open a page on the desktop, zoom in or out, create a bookmark, or pin the page to the Start screen.
This early build of Firefox does support sharing through the Charms bar in Windows 8, so its easy to pass a link along to your Twitter or Facebook app of choice. Windows 8s universal search function is not yet supported.
Though this is an early build, its showing a lot of promise. I like the flexibility that allows you to switch between fullscreen and tabbed views, and the conformance to Windows 8 design aesthetics. So far, Firefox does a better job of bridging the tablet-desktop gap than does the early version of Google Chrome we saw back in June.
Theres no word on when the final version will be available, but hopefully a more usable version will be ready by the time Windows 8 ships on October 26. In the meantime, you can try the build from downloadcrew.com. When you open it for the first time, set it as the default browser, and a Nightly icon will appear on the Windows 8 Start screen.
This story, "First Look: Firefox for Windows 8 Beta" was originally published by PCWorld.