All posts tagged ‘Firefox 4’

File Under: Browsers

How To Bring Back the Status Bar in Firefox 4

Firefox 4 will bring a significantly revamped user interface to the popular Mozilla browser, including some welcome changes like automatic bookmark and history syncing, a better add-ons manager, tabs-on-top and dozens of other improvements.

Firefox 4 is also notable for what isn’t included — the venerable status bar. The status bar is an almost universal element of browsers and Mozilla decision to remove it is, well, curious.

Mozilla says that ditching the status bar gives Firefox a simpler, smaller user interface. While that’s true, it comes at the expense of something that every other browser manages to offer — URL previews in the lower left corner of the browser window.

Defenders of the change point out that all of the elements that used to be in the status bar are still in Firefox, they’re just in different places. The page load information is now displayed on each tab, and the URL preview seen when hovering links has moved to the URL bar.

It’s the later change that irks many long-time Firefox users. Part of the problem is that there simply isn’t as much room in the URL bar so URLs are truncated with ellipses, giving you less information about where a link leads.

Mozilla plans to improve the URL preview interface before the final release of Firefox 4, but that doesn’t change the fact that Firefox’s URL preview is now in a different place than every other browser on the web (Chrome and IE 9 don’t have permanent status bars, but both still show link previews in the bottom left corner of the browser window).

Luckily there’s already a Firefox add-ons that brings back the status bar. If you’re using the Firefox 4 beta and you miss the status bar, the appropriately named Status-4-Evar will restore it to its former glory.

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File Under: Browsers, UI/UX

Try Firefox 4 with Tabs in the Title Bar

Top: Maximized window with tabs in the titlebar. Bottom: Normal tab bar

Firefox 4 has entered the home stretch. The recent release of beta 8 added the last of the major new features for Firefox 4, including a new add-ons interface, better syncing and more hardware accelerated WebGL support. From now until the final release later this year, Firefox development will primarily focus on squashing bugs and refining the user interface.

The Firefox 4 UX roadmap outlines the user interface changes that Mozilla is hoping to complete before Firefox 4 is released. Most of the changes are very small — improving the contrast of the type in the URL bar or tweaking the session restore dialog — but there’s one welcome change in the list that many Firefox fans have been clamoring for — tabs in the titlebar.

The idea of saving screen real estate by smashing tabs up into the title bar of the browser windows started with Google Chrome and has since been copied by other browsers and applications.

It’s a tiny tweak, probably not more than a few dozen pixels are saved, but it can make all the difference when you’re using a netbook or other small screen device. Putting tabs at the top of the browser window also adheres to Fitts’ law, which says that the closer things are to the edge of the screen, the easier they are to click.

In Firefox’s case Fitts’ law seems to be the main reason for the new look — tabs are only pushed into the title bar when the window is maximized, making it easier to flick the cursor to the top of the screen and click a tab.

The new tabs-in-the-title-bar look is expected to arrive in Firefox 4 beta 9 (which will be the next release in Firefox’s beta cycle), but you can preview it today by grabbing a special build of Firefox for Windows and Linux. The builds are the work of Firefox developer Bill Gianopoulos, and as such are not official releases nor are they supported by Mozilla.

Also bear in mind that the code used to create these experimental versions of Firefox comes from Firefox’s nightly builds, which means there may be more bugs than you’ll find in the latest Firefox beta. That said, these builds worked just fine for us on Windows 7 and XP.

If you’ve got a small screen or have been looking for a way to make Firefox’s tabs a bit more like Google Chrome’s, grab the experimental builds. If you prefer to wait for something official, Firefox 4 beta 9 should be released in the relatively near future.

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File Under: Browsers

Firefox 4 Beta 8 Arrives With Faster Graphics, Better Sync

Mozilla has dropped the eighth beta release of Firefox 4. Originally intended as a quick update to fix some issues on beta 7, Firefox 4 beta 8 actually brings over 1,400 bug fixes, some improvements to the new add-ons interface, better syncing and more hardware accelerated WebGL support. There’s also a beta update for Android and Maemo mobile phones, which we’ll look at later.

If you’d like to take Beta 8 for spin on your desktop, head over to the Mozilla beta downloads page. It’s been a very long development cycle for Firefox 4 — the final version is still a couple of months out, since once the betas are done, Firefox 4 moves into the release candidate stage. However, the enhancements being made over versions 3.5 and 3.6 are substantial, and these releases are stable enough to use in day-to-day browsing, so it’s not like we’re waiting a long time for nothing. We can reap the rewards well before the official release date.

The improvements to Firefox’s new sync feature — which syncs bookmarks, browsing history, user preferences and open tabs between both desktop and mobile versions of Firefox — make signing up and starting sync easier for new users. Most of us use multiple screens every day — one or two computers, and at least one smartphone with a web browser — keeping it all in sync is increasingly difficult. That’s where Firefox’s sync tools come in and the streamlined sync interface makes it even easier to pick up where you left off, no matter what device you’re using.

The sync updates in Firefox 4 beta 8 coincide with similar improvements in Firefox Mobile 4 beta 3 for the Android and Maemo mobile platforms.

Firefox 4 beta 8 now supports WebGL on more graphics cards across both Mac and Windows operating systems. WebGL bridges the gap between HTML5 tools like the new Canvas tag and OpenGL, an OS-native graphics engine, to speed up HTML5 web apps and animations. If you’d like to see the new WebGL support in action, grab Firefox beta 8 and head over to the Flight of the Navigator demo page, or check out the release notes page which has a video of the demo.

The latest beta isn’t just faster with HTML5 graphics either. Although Mozilla hasn’t released any precise speed figures, in our testing, the start up time was faster than beta 7 and general browsing felt snappier as well.

The new Firefox Add-ons page

Firefox 4 beta 8 refines the main add-ons page (which is now a page, rather than a separate window, a nice improvement). The URL bar has been removed for the add-ons page, and the button design has been revamped. Although the new, slicker-looking buttons do make the interface a bit nicer, add-ons are still variously referred to as “extensions” and “add-ons.” You can see which “extensions” you have installed, but then you “Get Add-ons.” Firefox veterans aren’t likely to even notice the difference, but it could be confusing for new users.

The list of bug fixes for this release is extensive, but Mozilla’s nightly builds have already been renamed to beta 9, which means we’ll see at least one more, possibly two more beta releases before Firefox 4 arrives in final form. Mozilla hasn’t set an official release date for Firefox 4 yet, but it’s expect to arrive sometime in early 2011.

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File Under: Browsers

New Beta Release Gives Firefox a Shot of Jäger

A new beta version of the next Firefox browser has arrived.

Mozilla released Firefox 4 Beta 7 on Wednesday. Unlike the last couple beta releases which mostly just tidied things up, this release is a substantial step forward. Most notably, it includes a new JavaScript engine called JägerMonkey that give the browser a performance boost on script-heavy sites.

It has better support for web graphics and fonts, and it has been deemed complete enough for add-on developers to begin porting over their creations from older versions of Firefox.

If you’re a beta tester already, you’ll see an automatic update today or Thursday. If you’d like to download beta 7 for Windows, Mac or Linux, you can do so from Mozilla’s beta site.

Wednesday’s release comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Firefox 4 won’t be ready until early 2011. Mozilla’s release dates have always been somewhat loose, but the last update was over a month and a half ago, and we were originally expecting the browser to arrive some time between October or January. Now, it looks like Firefox 4′s release date could stretch out as far as the second quarter of next year. It’s a blow to fans of the open source browser, especially since Firefox is seeing increased competition from Chrome, which shifted to an accelerated release schedule earlier this year, and from Internet Explorer 9, which entered a public beta phase in September.

The silver lining here is that it’s looking like Firefox 4 will be much different than 3.6, the current version, and that the update will be worth the wait. Also, the beta releases have been remarkably stable, and, with very few exceptions, are capable enough for every day use.

For the full list of what’s new, check out the release notes. Here’s what has us the most excited.

The enhancement sure to make the biggest splash is Firefox’s new JägerMonkey just-in-time JavaScript compiler. Complicated, JavaScript-heavy sites like Facebook and web apps like Gmail will be more nimble, and you should see a big speed increase on games and demos that previously only impressed those running Chrome or Safari. JägerMonkey is new code that works in tandem with the same TraceMonkey JavaScript code that powered previous versions of Firefox (love the naming convention, by the way) and you can read more about the change on Mozilla engineer David Mandelin’s blog.

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File Under: Browsers

Firefox 4 Pushed Back to Early 2011

Mozilla’s next big browser update is running a bit behind schedule.

Firefox 4′s estimated release date has officially been pushed back to early 2011. The browser’s release schedule, which is posted on a public wiki, has been updated to show some new dates: beta 7 in early November, then three more betas before the end of the year, with the release candidate due early next year.

We were originally expecting Firefox 4 to be finalized by now, in late October, when the schedule was first laid out several months ago. But Mozilla’s release dates are always moving targets, so we were expecting things to change. But not this much. Now, the wait for Firefox 4 looks like it could stretch out to three more months, which is sure to upset those eagerly awaiting an update.

The good news is that the current beta is very stable (at least in our testing) and has enough polish to make it safe for day-to-day use. If you’re feeling a little bit rock and roll, we’d recommend downloading the latest Firefox 4 beta. The new features like the updated user interface, expanded support for new standards like HTML5 and CSS 3, plus a much-improved JavaScript execution engine make it worth the very small risk of a crash.

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