File Under: Browsers

Firefox 12 Banishes the Endless Firefox Updates [Updated]

[Update: While this version of Firefox moves closer to the goal of having silent background updates like you’ll find in Chrome; Firefox 12 isn’t quite there yet. See the updates below for more details.]

Mozilla has released the final version of Firefox 12, which streamlines the update process and improves on the numerous developer tools that are now part of the popular open source browser.

If you’re already using Firefox there’s no need to do anything; you’ll be automatically updated later today. If you’d like to give Firefox 12 a try, head over to the Firefox downloads page and grab a copy.

Ever since Mozilla adopted a Chrome-style rapid release development cycle, Firefox fans have complained about the frequent updates and endless restarts Firefox requires. While Firefox 12 technically doesn’t change any of that, it does move the whole process to the background where most users will no longer notice it.

It used to be that while every Firefox update was downloaded in the background, it was installed on startup. That meant updates would delay Firefox’s startup time while the app applied the update’s changes, re-checked your add-ons and performed other upgrade tasks.

The new update system in Firefox 12 downloads and actually installs while Firefox is still running. It still requires a restart for the update to take effect, but now that should happen very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that Mozilla says you won’t even notice it.

[Correction: The background updating process is not part of Firefox 12; it will (possibly) be part of Firefox 13, due in six weeks. The only change in Firefox 12 is that Windows users won’t be pestered by User Account Control (UAC) notices all the time. When you install Firefox 12, Windows UAC will ask you to approve the Firefox Software Updater. Once you do that Windows UAC won’t ask again. In other words you won’t have to approve every update. You will, however, have to wait for Firefox to install updates, check add-ons and all the rest just like you always have.]

Firefox 12 also packs in a slew of developer tool updates that improve on new built-in dev tools like the Web Console, Scratchpad, Style Editor, Page Inspector, Style Inspector and 3D Page Inspector. For more details on the various changes and improvements, check out the Mozilla Hacks blog.