Firefox 3.6 gets lightweight themes (personas)

As Firefox 3.6 approaches its first of two planned beta releases, it has gotten one of the most distinctive features of this release: support for lightweight themes, also known as personas.

Like with Mozilla Labs’ Personas extensions and unlike full fledged themes, personas only customize the toolbars and status bar backgrounds, and the menus text color, just a couple of elements of Firefox UI that makes a large share of what we perceive as customization.

Namoroka with a lightweight theme

To install or even preview a lightweight theme, the web site owner must call a JavaScript API, and get authorization from the user to preview or install the theme if it is not served by getpersonas.com or another whitelisted site.

Leightweight themes installation  confirm

To change or uninstall lightweight themes, proceed just like with regular ones: open the Add-ons Manager, open the Themes page and change themes at will.

Personas in the Add-ons Manager

Lightweight themes have been a wild success. Since its launch earlier this year, GetPersonas.com now counts more than 27,000 personas, thanks in large part to the fact that they are very easy to author: create a couple of images (3000 x 200 pixels for the header, 3000 x 100 pixels for the footer), upload them to GetPersonas.com and once approved, they become available for users everywhere.

GetPersonas.com still not fully supports Namoroka, but it is being worked right now, and we should be able to preview and install personas in the next few days. I tried a staging server and found functionality and performance just as good as with the Personas extension.

In the meantime you can try a few lightweight themes provided by Dao Gottwald, one of the developers involved with the Personas uplift, the first Mozilla Labs’ project to get into Firefox’s core. Practically all the other projects are now expected to contribute experience and code in future releases: Ubiquity (via Taskfox), Jetpack, Prism, and Weave.

There are still a few issues to resolve like supporting RTL languages which tend to have menus and button in the right side, where the theme just doesn’t look good.

Also, it’s not clear at this time whether Personas’ option to define a custom persona will be available. In Personas, you are able to load a couple of images yourself and try them as a persona before submitting them to getpersonas.com.

EDIT: Updates to GetPersonas.com have already been pushed and it now supports Namoroka: you can preview by just hovering themes thumbnails and install with a single click!

12 thoughts on “Firefox 3.6 gets lightweight themes (personas)”

  1. I still don’t understand why Firefox is integrating this into the main software instead of leaving it as an extension. I see no real benefit from it.

    1. gxg, I’ve said that in the past about a lot of the additions until I’m blue in the face. In the end my Firefox is becoming bloatware and the only thing I can do about it is to switch browsers. :(

  2. I don’t know, but can guess that the implementation is trivial, the user interface fits well into the existing GUI, and the functionality has proved itself sufficiently popular. So why not? Not that I’m likely to use it though.

  3. The only reason for personas move from extension to core is because Chrome has the same (core) functionality as well. In fact, chrome did it really well… Its just a few simple lines of code that replaces certain aspect of the browser (like a mini web page). Im personally AGAINST it because i probably won’t use it… nor do i want that extra code myself. But its fine by me as maybe it will lead to better UI improvements as them make some of the lightweight themes… more…. non-lightweight. Seems like a waste of man power when you could just add it in as an extension.

  4. Creating a theme using the traditional mechanism is an enormous task, and shuts a lot of designers out. This is one of the reasons why switching to lightweight themes is ‘a good thing’.

Comments are closed.