Winstripe – (A Belated) Part 2

Tags: — Jeff @ 04:17

I had a reasonable bit of constructive commentary on Winstripe to post. Then I had to go on vacation for a couple weeks. I got back to changes. Then I left for a month for Alaska. I got back to more changes. My original commentary was now effectively obsolete, so I removed it. In fact so much has changed that this commentary is written by one who feels thoroughly overwhelmed. That said, what you get from me here, you get. (This is by special request, by the way — you should feel privileged!)

What’s the overall Winstripe feel now, after a couple point releases and much visual tweaking? It feels like Windows XP. The icon style is slightly different, but it’s not a huge leap. The five defaults, in particular, are excellent. They all fit in well with XP; I particularly appreciate the efforts on the Home icon. The Reload icon change is simple yet effective. The Back and Forward arrows have a soft feel even though they have the sharp edges; I wish I understood how the designers managed it. Losing the shadows underneath the icons was a necessary step, and it happened. In all the ways I can find, it feels very much like Windows XP. It’s also had a little time to grow on me, and that’s probably helped some too. I also haven’t seen a single mention of an odd-looking theme in Google News, where I have a query set up for all news containing the word “firefox”, so it seems not to have been the oft-predicted fiasco I knew wouldn’t really happen.

What else needs to be done?

Let’s start with the main toolbar icons. The five default icons are polished; they stand alone and need no updating. Enough said, and well done!

The other toolbar icons are still of slightly lesser quality (tho all are passable for a 1.0 release). I don’t particularly like the Go button because it feels too small in comparison to the rest of the icons, but it’s certainly acceptable. Icon edges in the secondary icons feel a little too hard overall; however, this problem’s not really bad, and I unfortunately can’t offer any constructive criticism on this point. Many of the icons appear to have drop shadows underneath in the old style for the five defaults, which I think should go. (I might be imagining them, tho, because it’s extremely late at my end. If they’re not figments of my imagination, they’re so barely noticeable that they can probably be left alone. I’d still remove them for consistency.) The New Tab icon feels a little toaster-y, as pointed out by others, but it’s good enough for 1.0 (tho I might spend a little extra time on it before 1.0 if time permitted). I’m confused a little by the Space icons, which look the same. I didn’t like the “old” new Flexible, but back to nothing isn’t so great. As a random idea, perhaps an embedded spring would work? Also, shouldn’t Space be the size it is on the toolbar, perhaps (this might not be an icon, tho, so perhaps it’s another’s job)? The only icon that I feel needs some special effort is the Print icon, which is a natural candidate for three-dimensionalization that would make it fit the XP style much better. It’s also likely to be one of the most-used lesser icons, so it deserves attention the most.

As for non-toolbar icons, they’ve been updated (and in places newly created) as well. I like everything I’ve seen so far except for three small, insignificant icons that haven’t changed since their introduction: the micro-buttons for the extensions in the Extension Manager. The buttons are monotone and clash with the rest of Winstripe. It’s obviously difficult to produce good icons at such small size, but they should be updated when possible. They simply don’t fit the overall style.

All in all, tho, a great cleanup job by the Firefox designers, who have taken an ill-fitting (and in my opinion ill-released) theme and made it into a conformant, stylish thing of life. This theme has every right to be in Firefox version 1.0. (Firefox designers, if any of you happen to stop by, I’d love to know you read this, because this is written by a once-naysayer primarily to give you some well-earned kudos after much hard work. Particularly as I don’t know what reaction has been to the updates as I’ve been away for so much, I feel you need as many thanks from me as you can get.)