With every browser upgrade, users have to adapt to a slightly new interface, some extensions may no longer be compatible, and personal data and settings have to be imported. Many people are reluctant to upgrade because they are not sure what to expect or they don’t welcome change. This article examines how smooth the migration from Firefox 3 to Firefox 4 really is and which first steps you should take after completing the upgrade to Firefox 4.
Small upgrades within one version of Firefox usually happen automatically. To upgrade to a new version, however, you need to download the installer and perform a ‘manual’ installation, as if you were installing a new program.
Close Firefox and run the Firefox 4.0 setup file you just downloaded. I typically select the custom installation, not because I’m such an expert, but because it allows me to make some individual choices. For example you can decide where the installer shall place icons and shortcuts for the program and I don’t like shortcuts on my desktop.
The upgrade is quick and painless. Within three clicks you will reach the installer screen that indicates it’s ready to upgrade and an incredibly quick few seconds later you will be presented with the finish and launch Firefox now window.
When you first launch Firefox 4, it will check whether your previously installed add-ons are still compatible. In other words, all your add-ons, provided they are compatible, will be imported automatically!
Chances are that several add-ons will no longer work with Firefox 4. The candidates will be summarized in a list. Click the > Check Now button to see whether the developer meanwhile provided a Firefox 4 compatible version. If they did, you will be able to install the updated add-on in the next step.
Click > Install Now to proceed and > Finish once the installation was completed.
Inside Firefox 4
When Firefox 4 has finally launched for the first time, you will see little difference to the version you closed only minutes ago. At first sight, it may look like you changed the theme, but nothing more.
In my case, Firefox 4 launched with the browser session I had just closed in Firefox 3. Moreover, I was already logged into all the services I had used before closing Firefox 3 for the last time. All my bookmarks, history, cookies, cache, and other personal data had been copied over as well. It almost felt like I had never upgraded.
If you look closer, however, you will probably notice a few changes after all, like the position of the tab bar, buttons that have changed, or add-ons that are missing because they are no longer compatible.
Per default, Firefox 4 launches with the new Tabs on Top feature enabled. If you prefer the tabs where they used to be, go to > View > Toolbars and uncheck the > Tabs on Top option.
For those of you welcoming more space and less clutter, consider disabling the Menu Bar and thereby reducing it to a single button in the top left corner. It turns out that this feature is also available in Windows XP. Go to > View > Toolbars and uncheck the > Menu Bar option.
In case you are wondering which extensions you have lost due to the upgrade, click the key combination [CTRL] + [SHIFT] + [A] to open the add-ons manager in a new tab. Contrary to previous versions of Firefox, disabled and incompatible add-ons are now shifted to the bottom of the list, so you can get a quick overview. If you find that any essential add-ons are missing, switch to the > Get Add-ons view and search for alternatives.
Upgrading from Firefox 3 to Firefox 4 is a very smooth experience. All your personal data will be imported automatically and superficially, you will notice very little change. Yet Firefox 4 does bring many new features, including significantly increased speed, synchronization options for your personal data, and support for HTML5.
You should keep in mind though, that it’s not really a question of whether it’s painless or worth it to make the move. Browser upgrades should always be treated as a mandatory operation, especially if your browser will handle security relevant data, such as passwords, credit card information, or online banking. Fortunately, with Firefox 4 the upgrade is both very easy and rewarding.
What do you think of Firefox 4 and what are your favorite new features so far?