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firefox 4 betaFirefox 4 Beta is now available for Mac, Windows and Linux users. If you want to help Mozilla out and test-drive their latest offering, you can download the beta version and take part in the feedback process. So you probably want to know what’s new in this version before giving it a go. Below is a roundup of the changes they have made to the overall appearance, functionality and a little peek under the hood as well.

You’ll find that the address bar and tabs have a more compact feel to them, taking up less space than they did before, and the navigation buttons are smaller. The changes in Firefox 4’s appearance are subtle, but definitely pleasing. The functionality seems to have improved in comparison to previous versions, but some of the results in Firefox 4 Beta still disappoint in comparison to other browsers.

Tabs on Top

Probably following in the footsteps of Chrome, the tabs are now on top.

firefox 4 beta

This is the default appearance in the Windows version, but in OS X and Linux you have to change it yourself, in the View menu, under toolbars.

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firefox 4 beta

Firefox Button (Windows Vista & 7 only)

In Windows Vista and 7, the menu has been replaced with one button at the top of the page, from where you can access all of the previous Firefox menu items. The use of the button complements the more compact redesign, but the appearance of the button itself leaves something to desired.

firefox 4

Bookmarks

Provided you’ve disabled the Bookmarks Toolbar, a new button is featured next to the address and search bars. From there you can access all of your bookmarks.

firefox 4

If you choose to enable the Bookmarks Toolbar, the button will disappear.

Another small change, making it more similar in appearance to Chrome is the merging of the stop and reload buttons.

firefox 4

Add-Ons Manager

The Add-ons Manager has been slightly revamped and opens in a new tab rather than in the previously smaller window. The UI itself is also due more changes, and it is of course, not actually functioning. It should be interesting seeing what they are going to do with it once it’s ready to ship. Most of your add-ons probably won’t work with Firefox 4, but you can contribute to the testing process by installing the Add-On Compatibility Reporter.

mozilla firefox 4

Switch to Tab (Windows only)

An interesting feature available for the time being only for Windows users is the Switch to Tab feature. If you’re the kind of person who has several tabs open at a time, you will appreciate this new change. By typing part of the name of the site in the URL, an option will appear to switch to that tab.

mozilla firefox 4

HTML5 Support

Firefox 4 boasts native support for HTML5 video. There isn’t much in the way of HTML5 content out there just yet – but with time – that is bound to change.

mozilla firefox 4

Crash Protection

Crash Protection is listed as one of Firefox 4’s features, but in fact, this has been around since the release of 3.6.4. When using plugins like Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime and Microsoft Silverlight, in the event that any of these plugins crashes, you will no longer be forced to restart Firefox entirely – losing any progress in other tabs. Instead, you are able to reload the page to restart the plugin.

Speed & Efficiency

In comparison to Firefox 3.6, there is a distinct difference in the speed. Running various Javascript benchmark tests, Firefox 4 was far ahead of 3.6, but still lagged behind Safari, and there was simply no comparison with Chrome.

Running the Acid 3 test, Firefox 4 still fails, unlike Chrome and Safari.

As far as memory usage was concerned, Firefox 4 seemed to be using more memory than 3.6 and of course more than double Chrome’s usage. There have been other reports that Firefox 4 was more efficient in terms of memory usage than 3.6, but that wasn’t the case in our experience.

Privacy

A significant change in Firefox’s privacy and security settings is in its changes to the CSS Web standard. In layman’s terms, the CSS flaw that exposed your browser history to websites has been remedied. The fix is not 100 per cent foolproof, but is a step in the right direction.

Developers will be interested to see other changes to Firefox 4 including Websocket support allowing development of real-time gaming and chatting, support for new CSS3 features allowing for faster display of webpages, a Web Console that allows for analysis of websites, and the JetPack SDK making Add-On development easier, and allowing you to install and use add-ons without restarting the browser.

Coming Soon

One much-needed feature in the works is the native syncing of settings, passwords, bookmarks, history and even open tabs, across multiple devices. According to Mozilla we can also look forward to faster browsing, new privacy controls and OS X and Linux specific themes.

Have you tried out Firefox 4 Beta? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.

  1. Jishnudevan
    July 29, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    firefox4 is definiely too late.mozilla will have to do a big job from now to catch with chrome
    But for some strange reasons i still like firefox and prefer it over chrome

  2. Jishnudevan
    July 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    firefox4 is definiely too late.mozilla will have to do a big job from now to catch with chrome
    But for some strange reasons i still like firefox and prefer it over chrome

  3. Gnounc
    July 25, 2010 at 4:34 am

    If you want a browser that just browses...chrome is the shit. Its fast, its nimble, its even lean. Frankly if chrome had a stumbleupon bar that didnt suck, I would make the switch today. But it doesnt. Firefox, stumbleupon and stylish all work together to bring me the custom browsing experience I've become accustomed to. I'm just hoping jetpack takes off and we can begin to see some impressive use cases for it. And that after mozilla is finished with this feature dump they start to work on the speed (which is pretty good for it being the multifaceted workhorse that it is)

  4. Anonymous
    July 18, 2010 at 1:05 am

    i just want my add ons back..

  5. Daniel
    July 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Cleaning up the UI is nice, but it would have been nice had they not just done this for the users who use virtually none of Firefox' functionality and forgotten about the "power users" in the process. If I want to use the minimal, space-saving bookmarks toolbar as before (without the big ugly new "Bookmarks" button) I have to turn the menu back on, which essentially reverts all UI changes and goes back to the classic layout. It's cleaner, yes, but unless you switch back to the classic UI you will need to perform 1-2 additional mouse clicks for every action you want to perform.

    All my installed extensions from 3.6 ported over nicely to 4.0b1 though, you just need to disable compatibility checking. I never encountered a plug-in that crashed or didn't work because I forced it to run on a newer, unsupported version, same goes for 3.6->4.0.

    Crash protection is nice (if it works), but I would have preferred it if they fixed those annoying memory leaks with Flash. Visit 100 pages with flash ads (or YouTube videos) in succession, and Firefox gets incredibly sluggish and has short freezes regularly, even after closing all tabs. This happens on Windows, MacOS and Linux all the same, and can only be fixed by restarting Firefox, which I find unacceptable. Flash is very sloppily programmed, but that's no excuse since I don't encounter these problems with Opera, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Safari.

  6. Daniel
    July 14, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Cleaning up the UI is nice, but it would have been nice had they not just done this for the users who use virtually none of Firefox' functionality and forgotten about the "power users" in the process. If I want to use the minimal, space-saving bookmarks toolbar as before (without the big ugly new "Bookmarks" button) I have to turn the menu back on, which essentially reverts all UI changes and goes back to the classic layout. It's cleaner, yes, but unless you switch back to the classic UI you will need to perform 1-2 additional mouse clicks for every action you want to perform.

    All my installed extensions from 3.6 ported over nicely to 4.0b1 though, you just need to disable compatibility checking. I never encountered a plug-in that crashed or didn't work because I forced it to run on a newer, unsupported version, same goes for 3.6->4.0.

    Crash protection is nice (if it works), but I would have preferred it if they fixed those annoying memory leaks with Flash. Visit 100 pages with flash ads (or YouTube videos) in succession, and Firefox gets incredibly sluggish and has short freezes regularly, even after closing all tabs. This happens on Windows, MacOS and Linux all the same, and can only be fixed by restarting Firefox, which I find unacceptable. Flash is very sloppily programmed, but that's no excuse since I don't encounter these problems with Opera, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Safari.

  7. Jim Hubbard
    July 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I'm not against innovation and developing your product, but you should give your users a choice. Firefox often does not. They change the core so radically that your plugins fail and you need to find new ones to maintain the same functionality.

    This is simply irritating. I don't think anyone would say they didn't care if they abstracted the add-ons and UI from the core and gave people a choice of what to stick with.

  8. Guest
    July 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

    That screenshot of the switchtab feature. Take away the Firefox button, round off some of the corners, and you've got Google Chrome

  9. Aibek
    July 13, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Looking forward for that upcoming bookmarks sync feature

  10. Miggs
    July 13, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Theese are exciting features but not killer ones for me. Firefox is my one and only browser since I started using the internet. Can't throw away those addons anymore. Good or bad, bloated or 'green', I'll always stay with 'him'!

  11. JK III
    July 13, 2010 at 1:28 am

    The beauty of firefox is in the addons. Don't care about the main changes (except for speed) as long as I get to keep my addons. In my current FF version (3.5) I use "Personal Menu" which works like the Firefox Button; saves a lot of space.

    • nm
      July 13, 2010 at 6:16 am

      I definitely agree with you - that is where Firefox's strength lies. But there are so many other ways it doesn't really meet Chrome's standards, imo.

      • Anonymous
        July 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm

        I dont think chrome is better than firefox if it loads pages 0.005 seconds quicker

        • nm
          July 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm

          There is more to Chrome than just loading pages faster. For one, Firefox is much more bloated, and uses more than double the memory that Chrome does - and I think that's a very big issue to consider. But at the end of the day - each person is entitled to their opinion and which browser you choose to use is up to you. It's all very subjective and comes down to personal preferences.

  12. Tyler Garland
    July 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I am digging it.

  13. HPearce
    July 13, 2010 at 12:10 am

    "Probably following in the footsteps of Chrome"

    And Chrome followed in the footsteps of Opera !

  14. HPearce
    July 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    "Probably following in the footsteps of Chrome"

    And Chrome followed in the footsteps of Opera !

  15. Jim Hubbard
    July 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Who cares anymore? Firefox seems to be "upgraded" just for the press.

    Every time I upgrade my FF, I go through plugin wiithdrawal and have to hunt to find new plugins that still give me the functionality of the old plugins that no longer work with the "new" Firefox.

    It's more than old...it pisses people off. If most people are like me, I am not upgrading FF again unless there is a HUGE security hole that won't be patched or some earth-shattering upgrades (which there usually are not).

    Maybe FF should just post a shell as the core product and make all things (even things like the menu bar) add-ons themselves. Then, the core should not really need to change that often - and even if it does it should not break all of our favorite add-ons when it does.

    Enough already.....

  16. Jim Hubbard
    July 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Who cares anymore? Firefox seems to be "upgraded" just for the press.

    Every time I upgrade my FF, I go through plugin wiithdrawal and have to hunt to find new plugins that still give me the functionality of the old plugins that no longer work with the "new" Firefox.

    It's more than old...it pisses people off. If most people are like me, I am not upgrading FF again unless there is a HUGE security hole that won't be patched or some earth-shattering upgrades (which there usually are not).

    Maybe FF should just post a shell as the core product and make all things (even things like the menu bar) add-ons themselves. Then, the core should not really need to change that often - and even if it does it should not break all of our favorite add-ons when it does.

    Enough already.....

    • nm
      July 13, 2010 at 6:17 am

      That's an interesting way of looking at things but I have to say I don't agree. There's nothing wrong with developing a product, and attempting to make it better for its users. If they didn't do anything at all they'd be criticised for not caring wouldn't they?

      • Jim Hubbard
        July 14, 2010 at 11:24 am

        I'm not against innovation and developing your product, but you should give your users a choice. Firefox often does not. They change the core so radically that your plugins fail and you need to find new ones to maintain the same functionality.

        This is simply irritating. I don't think anyone would say they didn't care if they abstracted the add-ons and UI from the core and gave people a choice of what to stick with.

        • Checker
          August 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm

          The only innovation Firefox has had is the add-ons. They just emulate what other browsers have done already.

    • Guest
      July 14, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      It's actually not that bad. Just google how to disable the extension compatibility check (for Firefox 4 Beta 1 specifically). All of my ~20 extensions I had installed in 3.6 went over to 4b1 no problem and work just as they used to. The annoyance is simply that they require each extension to *explicitly* state which versions of Firefox are supported - goodbye direct forward compatibility, but it's just a technicality, disabling the version check usually works fine.

  17. faran
    July 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Thumbs up for chrome, FF4 even does not compare with it.

    • Anonymous
      July 13, 2010 at 4:58 pm

      Why? chrome is better because it loads pages hundredth of a second quicker? or is there any other point in using chrome?

  18. DarkUFO
    July 12, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I think FF 4 is a little too late. I can't see myself moving away from Chrome TBH.

  19. Mark Szymanski
    July 12, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I've been using Firefox 4 on Mac and the switch to tab feature works just fine.

    • nm
      July 13, 2010 at 6:24 am

      Thanks for letting us know. When I wrote this it wasn't working on my Mac.

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