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Mozilla plans to remove the Compact Density option from Firefox's Customize menu


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Mozilla plans to remove the Compact Density option from Firefox's Customize menu

 

Mozilla plans to remove the Compact Density option from the Firefox browser's customize menu.

 

Firefox is one of the few browsers that supports different densities for the user chrome. The default one is normal, but users may set it to compact or to touch in the customize menu.

 

Customize can be accessed via Menu > Customize, or through a right-click on a blank spot on the browser's toolbar.

 

Compact reduces the height of the user chrome, touch makes it bigger as it is optimized for use on touch devices.

 

The upcoming Proton design refresh of the Firefox web browser could increase the default size of that interface significantly. Current previews make use of more space, and while things may change before the final release later this year, it seems unlikely that Mozilla is going to keep the current status quo.

 

Here is a comparison of the densities of the latest stable version of Firefox, the latest Proton design (still in development), and Chrome.

 

Firefox-header-size.png

 

A new Bugzilla listing suggests that Mozilla will remove the Compact option from Firefox's Customize menu.

 

Mozilla notes that the compact design is "fairly hard to discover" and that it assumes that it "gets low engagement". Based on these, Mozilla decided to retire compact mode from the menu.

 

Touch, the second customize option next to Compact, will be retained because of its accessibility use.

 

The organization plans to remove the Compact option from the customize menu and migrate users who use Compact to the Normal mode once the change happens. The preference browser.uidensity will remain for the time being, but it is possible that it will get removed at one point in time as well or that the compact mode value won't change it anymore at the very least.

 

Mozilla wants to design Firefox with a minimum height of 768 pixels going forward, noting that Firefox would take up 12% of screen height in the worst case scenario on 768 height pixel displays.

 

Mozilla bases its decision to remove compact mode on an assumption; while it may be correct that compact is not used by the majority of Firefox users, it is still used by a percentage of users, and these users are understandably unhappy about the decision.

 

Criticism focuses on the following main points:

  • Mozilla does not seem to have hard data about usage numbers.
  • Compact mode gives more height to the displayed sites in the browser.
  • The upcoming Proton design refresh takes up even more space than current versions of Firefox.
  • Lack of discoverability could be changed.
  • Operating system toolbars and docks take away space as well.
  • Compact mode is used on screens of all sizes, e.g. when users display two browser windows side-by-side.

 

Removing features and consequences

 

Compact mode might indeed be used by a low number of Firefox users only. Naturally, these are unhappy about the decision, and with the upcoming Proton refresh, tabs and user chrome will look even bigger than before to them (as Proton normal density is larger than current normal density, and even larger than compact density).

 

What will these unhappy users do? Some may discover that the about:config preference continues to work for the time being, others may use userChrome.css to create a compact design. Those less technical inclined might switch to a different browser that has a more compact design, or stay on an older version of Firefox instead. Most may use the normal density design of Firefox once Proton lands.

 

Closing Words

 

One of the main issues with Firefox is that things get changed a lot, especially when it comes to the user interface. Say what you want about Chrome, but Google seems to understand that many users prefer continuity when it comes to the programs that they use daily on their devices.

 

Removing features that a percentage, low or not, of Firefox users uses, and without any or low engineering benefits, looks like a change for change's sake kind of decision.

 

 

Source: Mozilla plans to remove the Compact Density option from Firefox's Customize menu

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