The Firefox Mini Review – A Fresh Look At a Familiar Browser

600 firefox logo shadow 300x300   The Firefox Mini Review   A Fresh Look At a Familiar BrowserFirefox took browsing to a whole new level. It offered a stable, open source, cross-platform browser with innovative features, such as tabs, extensions, and find as you type search. Granted, many of its features weren’t original ideas of the Mozilla Foundation. Nevertheless, Firefox introduced them to the masses, and meanwhile many features have been adopted by other browsers, demonstrating how much this browser has changed the game.

When Chrome was released, Firefox slowly lost market share. It was an old beast, struggling with performance issues. The unexpected competition pushed Firefox to return to old strengths and it has since been catching up. Firefox continues to be a unique, reliable, and progressive browser, not least thanks to its huge active user base.

Are you curious to see Firefox with fresh eyes? This brief review highlights some of Firefox’ great features and recaptures why it remains one of the best.

Firefox In Its Own Words

A better browser. For the greater good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8qV2BeW4rA

The Native Fox

The first tab you see when you open a native Firefox profile contains the above video. The second tab is the Firefox’ default home page. You may never see this because you restore a session every time you launch Firefox or maybe you have added a custom home page. The default start page contains shortcuts to everything that makes Firefox outstanding.

Firefox’ native home page contains shortcuts to your Downloads, the Bookmarks manager, your browsing History, Add-ons, Sync, and Settings. And if you left tabs open during your previous session, you will also see a Restore Previous Session option in the bottom right.

Firefox New Tab   The Firefox Mini Review   A Fresh Look At a Familiar Browser

Note that you won’t see the native home page in case you set a custom home page. Find an explanation how to reset the home page here.

You can access all of these features via the orange Firefox control button in the browser’s top left.

Firefox Control Button   The Firefox Mini Review   A Fresh Look At a Familiar Browser

Or click the [ALT] button on your keyboard to temporarily view the classic menu bar.

Firefox Classic Menu Bar   The Firefox Mini Review   A Fresh Look At a Familiar Browser

3 Reasons Why People Hang On To Firefox

The reasons why so many people still love Firefox and hang on to it are many. For some it’s pure sentiment. Others may share Firefox’ vision of an open source software, built based on the users’ needs. For some Firefox is more stable than other browsers. Many don’t like or trust Google or other corporations offering free browsers. The hardcore fans, however, stay for particular features, often implemented via extensions that no other browser offers. Let’s have a look at a few of those features.

1. Master Password

If you are the type of person who allows the browser to store usernames and passwords, you should switch to Firefox. It offers a master password to protect your privacy.

To activate your master password, click the orange Firefox button in the top left, select Options and switch to the Security tab. Check the box next to Use a master password and set your password.

Firefox Master Password   The Firefox Mini Review   A Fresh Look At a Familiar Browser

To get even more secure, try these 5 Firefox Addons For Serious Password Management.

2. Vertical Tabs

The screenshots above reveal that natively, Firefox uses horizontal browser tabs in the same style as Google Chrome. Hardcore users crave vertical tabs. This isn’t a native feature, but it’s available as a browser extension.

Open the Firefox Add-ons Manager and search for vertical tabs in the top right search bar. Choose from one of the many results and enjoy the new feature.

Firefox Add ons Manager   The Firefox Mini Review   A Fresh Look At a Familiar Browser

Find a selection of the best extensions on our Best Of Firefox Addons page.

3. Firefox Sync

Many of Firefox greatest features were originally available as extensions only. The session manager or managing tabs are a good example, and so is Sync. With today’s mobile lifestyle, where people access the Internet via a host of different devices, syncing has become essential. Other browsers offer it, but Firefox does it equally well and may be easier to trust.

Go to Firefox Options and switch to the Sync tab. Click Set Up Firefox Sync in case you have not used it before. Log into your account or create a new one. Once you are logged in, complete the setup by picking what you would like to sync. You can choose from Add-ons, Bookmarks, Passwords, Preferences, History, and Tabs.

Firefox Sync Setup   The Firefox Mini Review   A Fresh Look At a Familiar Browser

Conclusion

Firefox isn’t a naturally minimalistic browser like Chrome, but if you keep the tabs and extensions at bay, it can be. Some features still need to evolve to a level where they become intuitive to use, such as the profile manager. Nevertheless, Firefox remains a living and hopefully thriving legend.

Why do you hang on to Firefox?

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33 Comments -

Paul H. Rubin

Two extensions not available on Chrome: Tab Mix Plus and Informenter. Neither of these is available on Chrome and I really love them both.

Ben Klaas

I like Firefox for a number of reasons, but the most important one for me without a doubt is Firebug. It’s the single greatest web development debugger I’ve ever used.

Honorable mention: password management, sync, good native debugging (the 3D DOM viewer they added recently is sweet), Greasemonkey, excellent tab management, rendering engine is super fast, javascript and css support are typically cutting edge, it’s not made by Google, Apple or Microsoft, it IS made by Mozilla, who are a really important player in web standards, it has a huge and excellent set of add-ons.

I have Chrome or Chromium installed on most of the machines I touch, but it’s Firefox I typically open first.

Vipul Jain

lol, i thought FF launched a mini version of it’s browser and I was like, “How did I not know” :P
Though on topic, I prefer chrome since I have an android device and it’s easier to keep my bookmarks synced, also it’s more resource friendly than FF.

Florin Ardelian

Yeah, the title is very misleading and it’s what brought me here. I was also expecting to find a “mini” version of Firefox. I hope it was just an accident.

Tina Sieber

I didn’t mean the title to be misleading. Sorry for the confusion, Florin!

Florin Ardelian

I come here for the facts, because I’m fed up with sensationalist websites which become more and more like Slashdot and they are nothing more than a waste of time. I’m sick and tired of wasting my time reading articles only to come to the conclusion that they were written just to get more ad clicks, even if that meant blatantly lying.

I’m happy to say that, until now, MUO has been my go-to website for getting the facts, with well written articles that are easy to understand. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I see that the writers focus on content quality and get involved with their readers.

Keep up the good work, guys!

Tina Sieber

Thank you for your feedback, Florin!

Ben Klaas

The first point on chrome is a bit of a mislead, as Firefox has been available on Android for some time. It was my go-to for quite a while on Android, though on that platform I’ve moved to the speedy Dolphin browser.

Vipul Jain

Actually I’m into flashing every other custom ROMs, so it’s easier for me to just enter my Google details and get my Chrome bookmarks instantly on the default browser.
Whereas on FF I need to first reinstall/restore FF and then sync.

Tina Sieber

Sorry for the confusion everyone! This was one of five suggested titles and apparently the one that appealed most to the editor. I called it ‘mini review’ because it’s a short and sweet review.

Vipul Jain

Of course we know it wasn’t intentional! :)

Esteban

I still use firefox because of the extensions / add-ons. There are many valuable add-ons that can only be found in firefox.

Michael Greene

I’m right there with you. Almost everybody I know has gone to Chrome, but I can’t leave my add-ons behind.

Sean Davis

Firefox is (and always has been) one of the greatest browsers. It renders things more reliably than any other browser and is still very fast. Firefox Sync is amazing on its own, and the extensions are worth your while.

And then, about:config.

Van Vanix

There are a lot of reasons why I like Firefox and its far different from other browsers, you may find satisfaction just like what I feel.

Zhong Jiang

Firefox is the best browser before Chrome hit the spotlight, and I’m still supporting it. Despite Chrome growing dominance.

Junil Maharjan

Firefox Sync has saved me so many times.

Tug Ricks

Honestly, I think I use Firefox because it’s a non-profit, and it isn’t overly motivated by profits and data mining. Is it as good as Chrome? Eh. But it works well enough, and I feel like I’m helping out the proverbial “little” guy.

Tina Sieber

It’s one of the aspects I find attractive about Firefox as well. My heart goes out to people who pour their heart in projects for the love of it, not for the money.

druv vb

Firefox is and will be. It was the first browser I installed when Internet Explorer went stray. Then came Opera, which is really good. Chrome which is really fast. But Firefox has a native feel to certain tasks that others can match. Though its resource intensive and leaks memory, there’ something else to it. Keep going Mozilla.

Andy Bristow

Started off using Firefox but went over to using Waterfox 18mths ago and have never gone back. The downside to Waterfox is that its not updated as regular as Firefox.

Tina Sieber

What do you like about Waterfox, Andy?

dragonmouth

I’ve been using Firefox on my Windows and Linux PCs since it was introduced by Mozilla as Phoenix. I use it because it works and I am used to it. I see no point in going through learning a new browser when I don’t have to. When FF starts giving me problems, I will switch. While I do use add-ons and extension, it’s only a few. Many users complain that FF is slow and bloated. That’s what happens when you use 30,40, 50 or more extension.

Tina Sieber

Well, I think it’s good to use a second browser next to your default because if things do go bad, you have an instant alternative and don’t need to start from scratch. You’ll also notice much faster when and where things go bad if you use two browsers in parallel. It’s quite the reality check.

I agree about addon bloat. I have stripped Firefox down to only the addons I can’t live without, which really helps with performance. If only I could be this disciplined with open tabs. :)

Collin Hoffman

Firefox can be made very minimalist with a couple of tweaks. Tabs on top is a great start, but I’ve also done a couple other things. the Movable Firefox Button addon allows you to move the button (obviously) anywhere on the toolbars. I put it to the right of the address bar. Another thing that I’m surprised browsers don’t do by default is to put the bookmarks toolbar icons in the same toolbar as the navigation controls (making sure to delete the bookmark text, leaving just the icon. I also checked the “Use small icons” option and made a custom CSS script to hide unused navigation buttons. The final result can be seen here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bzx39bXiEjYTeGxFakRhbm1vTnM/

Tina Sieber

Thanks for the tips, Collin! Would love to see your result, but unfortunately the link isn’t working. It says the file doesn’t exist. Can you try again?

Tina Sieber

Looks almost like Chrome. I like how bookmark flavicons are positioned next to the URL bar.

Collin Hoffman

That’s kind of what I was going for. I like the layout of Chrome but not some of the styling of it.

Collin Hoffman

I forgot to mention that the CSS script also sets a minimum width for the current tab so that the page title can and sometimes additional information can be read even when there are lots of tabs open.

ross capp

Two feature i love & can’t find on chrome:
– find as you type search
– tab groups (ctrl-shift-e)

Tina

Did you ever try to hit CTRL+F in Chrome and start typing?

I use the TabGroups Manager extension, so the tab groups shortcut is extra useful. Good one!

Howard Dully

I have used Firefox for a couple of years now, it is quite versatile and you can set it up the way you like your browser to be,