File Under: Browsers

Firefox 20 Beta Brings Better Private Browsing

Firefox’s new per-window private browsing mode. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Firefox 20, currently six weeks away from a stable release, brings two nice new features to the popular open source browser — per-window private browsing and a new downloads manager.

If you don’t want to wait six weeks for the final version of Firefox 20, head on over to the Beta Channel download page and grab a pre-release copy today.

The per-window private browsing mode mirrors what you’ll find in Google’s Chrome browser and is, frankly, how it should have been all along. When you want to start a private browsing session in Firefox 20 you simply select the new “New Private Window” menu option. That will open a new window noting that Firefox will discard any history, search history, download history, web form history, cookies, or temporary internet files for sites you visit in that window. Obviously files you download and pages you bookmark will remain.

The new per-window model is much more intuitive than the old method of private browsing which put your normal browsing session on hold, hid it away somewhere and opened a new, private session. Now it’s easy to have private windows right alongside normal windows, very handy for those who, for example, need to log in to two different Gmail accounts simultaneously.

The change does have some potential consequences for Firefox add-ons using the new(ish) SDK. If you’re an add-on developer, head over to the Mozilla Add-ons blog for more details.

The other big change coming in Firefox 20 is the revamped downloads window. Mozilla proposed this download toolbar button and overlay window design so long ago that Apple’s Safari has already long since copied and released its own version.

The new downloads overlay. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

While Firefox might not be the first to get its new downloads interface to the web, it’s welcome nonetheless and alleviates the need to cycle through windows or hit keyboard shortcuts just to see if your downloads are done. If you want more info than is shown in the new overlay (which comes up when you click the toolbar button), the old, separate-window style downloads panel is still available.

For more details on everything that’s new in Firefox 20, be sure to check out Mozilla’s beta release notes.