File Under: Browsers

Faster Firefox 8 Hits the Web

Mozilla has released Firefox 8. The latest version of the popular open source browser is faster than its predecessors and offers some new tab loading options to speed up restarts, better control over add-ons and more CSS 3 support for web developers.

If you want to take the latest Firefox for a spin, head on over to the downloads page. If you’re already using Firefox you’ll automatically be updated.

It’s no secret that recent Firefox releases have lagged behind Google Chrome in the speed department, but Firefox 8 is hoping to change that. Indeed in our speed tests this release was neck and neck with Google Chrome, both on reasonably simple pages like Webmonkey, and more complex, JavaScript-heavy pages like Gmail. In both cases Firefox was a mere 2/10th of a second behind Chrome (Chrome loaded Webmonkey.com in 2.424 sec, Firefox in 2.635 sec; for Gmail the two scored 4.583 sec and 4.723 sec respectively).

Firefox 8 also cuts down on startup times with a clever new feature that selectively restores tabs. If you use a lot of tabs you know that closing the browser with dozens of tabs open, and then firing it up again the next day, makes for a very slow restart. You’re left waiting for all those tabs to reload when all you want to see is one of them. Using the new selective restore setting you can tell Firefox to only load the focused tab when the browser restarts. That way the tab you want loads and you don’t need to wait for all the rest to finish. Background tabs then load when you select them.

Similar features have been available through add-ons for some time, but now it’s part of Firefox proper. To enable the new tab restore features, head to Firefox’s Preferences and look for it under the General tab.

Firefox 8 has also cut off the add-on free ride for outside applications. It used to be that any application could install a Firefox add-on without your permission. Now, while the add-ons are still actually installed, Firefox will disable them and ask you to choose which ones you’d like to keep.

The big news for web developers in Firefox 8 is experimental support for CSS 3 hyphenation. Hyphenation support allows web developers to create justified text columns that use proper word breaks and hyphens. Firefox 8 also has support for the HTML5 contextmenu attribute, a part of the menu element that allows developers to add items directly to the browser’s right-click menu. More details about what’s new for developers can be found on the Mozilla developer wiki.

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