Photon Engineering Newsletter #6

More exciting progress this week! Here’s Photon update #6!

New Menus

Work on the new Photon menus has reached the point where we’re ready to turn them on by default (for Nightly). Bug 1372309 is tracking the last remaining work (mostly test fixes), and you should see this happen in tomorrow’s Nightly. Up until now you’ve needed to manually enable the “browser.photon.structure.enabled” pref to play with the new menus – you’ll no longer need to flip that pref as it will already be enabled.

The biggest change you’ll notice is that the application menu (a.k.a. the “hamburger menu”) contents look different. Instead of a grid of icons, it’s a linear list of commands. Opening the menu and entering submenus is much snappier than before. Here’s the new look on Windows 10 (left) and macOS (right):


The overflow menu (under the “>>” icon) has existed for a long time now, normally it’s only shown when the window is so narrow that we run out of space to show all the toolbar icons. You can now pin items to it permanently, as the new destination for commands you want easily accessible without taking up toolbar space. (Previously you could do this by adding items to the hamburger menu. That’s no longer customizable.)


There are also some minor related changes to Customization Mode, which now shows the overflow menu as a customization target instead of the old hamburger menu.

Recent changes


  • Enabling the new menus, as mentioned above.
  • The sidebar toolbar button no longer has a panel dropdown, instead it just toggles the display of the sidebar (you can change which sidebar is shown from inside the sidebar itself).
  • Various smaller styling/polish fixes to the different panels and toolbar items have landed and will continue to land this week.
  • WebExtension browser actions will now be pinned to the overflow panel instead of the hamburger menu (though we are aware of at least one remaining issue with this).



  • The Photon-themed download icon landed, this was spun out of the main download animation bug to start landing pieces as they’re ready.
  • Work continues on animations for downloads toolbar button, stop/reload button, and page loading indicator. We’re working through some performance issues with the latter two — these animations are triggered during our performance test suites, and we see some impact to the measurements.
  • New arrow-panel animations are underway. We’re updating the way panels and menus animate when they’re opened and closed. On macOS we’re temporarily removing the current animation entirely, while we await platform improvements that allow us to get the effect we want in a way that performs well.



  • QA-sign off received for the old preferences shipping in Firefox 55 (which have not been the default on Nightly since landing the new preference reorg).
  • Search followups are largely complete, and we are enabling the search feature this week.


Visual redesign:

  • We got some good contributions from community member UK92! Thanks!
    • Updated two of our in-content pages (about:about and about:rights) to use the new Photon style.
    • With maximized windows on Windows 10, the window control buttons now span the entire height of the tabstrip, eliminating a small gap.
  • Landing updates to the sidebar styling (header and search box)
  • Updated the Synced Tabs button icon in the toolbar.
  • Starting work on changing the color of the titlebar on macOS (making it darker, similar to Windows 10).



  • Lots of discussion and decisions, finalized scope and content for Firefox 56 tour.
  • De-scoped automigration, and are instead moving ahead with a manual import option accessible from the new Activity Stream page.
  • Simplified tour and notification logic
  • Outstanding technical issues resolved and a few 56 tour contents are ready to land this week. No more blank tour overlay in Nightly!




Stay tuned for more updates next week!

6 thoughts on “Photon Engineering Newsletter #6”

  1. In Windows (7 & 10), when I double click the title bar to vertically maximise the window, it selects whatever tab happened to be below the double click. (Which is obviously incorrect.)

    However, when I double click again to restore the window to its original size, it *doesn’t* select the tab below the double click. (Which is obviously correct.)

    Also, I’m not happy with the massively reduced target area for moving a window (particularly relative to every other application on my system) — but I’ll try to get used to it. I’m also struggling to get used to clicking a submenu to reveal it (rather than just hovering over it). Maybe removing the arrow would remove my expectation that it should just pop up automatically?

    However, I do like how it’s looking (particularly on Win10).

  2. Agree with voracity regarding the menu behavior – I miss the hovering to go in to menus. Requires lots of extra clicks to navigate the sub-menus.

    I’d assume the right-click menu will eventually have the same behavior (as it feels out of place with the new hamburger menu)?

    The current tab handle being white colored and having the curved shape also feels a little strange/jarring.

    Overall, I like the direction Photon is taking.

  3. Actually… the first thing I wanna do (after knowing the hamburger menu is not customizable) is remove the hamburger menu icon from my toolbar :/ Really curious about the reason behind the design. As a mac user I don’t really need another menu item which contains full of widgets I rairly use in the toolbar. (If I want to find something I’ll use the system menu bar which is always there)

    1. Photon isn’t really changing anything here. We it’s important to have a consistent UI entry point, and it simplifies a lot of code and design by not having to worry about how to handle this being missing (e.g. in support docs, new feature tours, or notifications).

      1. We had a customizable hamburger menu before and it’s great: I use it a lot because I can remove widgets I don’t need, make it works much better than default menus.

        After Photon, now we can’t customize the hamburger menu, but have another customizable “menu” sitting on the toolbar.

        So I think I’ll hardly use the hamburger menu — maybe only for those options I can’t find in the customize panel, like “Customize…”

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