All posts tagged ‘Firefox Sync’

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, Mobile

Firefox Home Syncs Your Faves to Your iPhone

Mozilla’s new Firefox Home app for Apple mobiles is now available for download. You can get Firefox Home for the iPhone and iPod Touch in iTunes. It’s a free download.

As we mentioned when we first told you about it, the Firefox Home app is not Firefox on your iPhone. It’s a companion to Firefox.

It securely syncs your bookmarks, browsing history, user preferences and open tabs from the last time you used Firefox, and it brings them down to your iPhone or iPod Touch so you can access that stuff on your mobile. It works in tandem with Firefox Sync, Mozilla’s hosted, cloud-based service that keeps all of your installations of Firefox synced up with one another.

Browsing my Firefox bookmarks on the iPhone

It’s especially welcome now, as most of us use multiple screens every day — one or two computers, and at least one smartphone with a web browser. Firefox Sync tied our work machine and our home machine together by syncing all of our browser data in the cloud, and Firefox Home completes the circuit for iOS users, making all the hard-to-remember stuff — your myriad “starred” favorites and bookmarked URLs — available in your pocket.

Needless to say, this app is only going to be useful to you if you’re a Firefox user with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Android users have had Mozilla’s mobile version of Firefox available on their phones since April.

You also need to have Firefox Sync set up to use it. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up when you install the app on your phone. You will also need the Sync add-on for Firefox (newer versions of Firefox will ship with Sync pre-installed). As Charlie Sorrel notes in his Gadget Lab post, this is a bit more work than syncing your desktop Safari data to your iPhone, which just involves checking a box in iTunes (and you can keep Safari and Firefox in sync — and by extension, the iPhone — using Xmarks, but only on the Mac). Opera’s mobile browsers have easy syncing as well. But unlike those choices, this isn’t a new browser or a half-way-there solution, it’s a direct line to the same browser data that’s on your desktops and laptops.

Once the app is set up, you can search your history, access your Firefox bookmarks and see the tabs you most recently had open when you walked away from your computer. All of this info is accessible from within Firefox Home’s search bar, which is sort of a miniature version of the “Awesome Bar” in Firefox. It will search both page titles and URL strings, and it will auto-suggest results as you type.

Searches use the Awesome Bar approach

Just like using the Awesome Bar in Firefox, everything shows up in a single list as you type, and a little icon shows up next to each item to tell you what sort of result it is — a bookmark, a piece of history, an open tab.

Click on an item and the page opens inside an in-app browser. It’s your standard iOS WebKit browser in a pretty blue wrapper, and it performs about the same as the built-in browser inside other popular apps like Twitter.

So Firefox Home is not Firefox on your iPhone, which is something we’re not ever likely to see. Mozilla’s brass has made it clear that Apple’s app policies are too restrictive for Firefox, and the company doesn’t want to dumb the browser down for the iPhone. For people who use Firefox as their primary browser everywhere else, this app is the next best thing.

You can read Mozilla’s announcement for more links, troubleshooting tips, and feedback channels.

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File Under: Browsers

Google Chrome Working on Extension Syncing Feature

Google Chrome appears to be gearing up for another web-browser first — syncing extensions among your various Chrome installations. Chrome already syncs bookmarks, preferences and themes. Adding extensions makes for a universal browsing experience no matter what computer you happen to pick up.

The feature isn’t part of Chrome just yet. In fact, Google hasn’t even mentioned it. But the eagle-eyed folks over at Download Squad noticed that someone recently checked in some extension-syncing code into the Chromium project.

Chromium is the open source project that Google’s Chrome is based on. We’ve been using Chromium nightlies for some time now, but sadly, testing last night’s build did not reveal any extension-syncing. (Download Squad also failed to get extension-sync working.)

So, while Chromium’s extension-syncing is thus far embryonic, it is nevertheless a work in progress. This means Chrome will likely beat Firefox Sync to incorporating extension-syncing: Despite being at version 1.3, Firefox Sync still does not sync extensions.

Firefox Sync does, however, sync several things Chrome doesn’t, including your browsing history and currently open tabs. And to be fair, Mozilla’s extension system is quite a bit more powerful and complex than what Chrome offers, and that complexity likely makes extension-syncing somewhat more difficult to build.

Browser extensions in Chrome are especially lightweight. Developers can write extensions that alter a web page’s behavior or add buttons or other elements to the browser’s skin. All of the coding is accomplished using simple web standards — HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

By contrast, traditional extensions for other browsers are more powerful, but their file sizes are larger. The lightweight approach makes it easier to sync extensions between two installations of a browser quickly.

Mozilla is encouraging developers to experiment with its own lightweight-extensions model for Firefox called Jetpack, which also uses add-ons coded in web standards. Safari 5, released this week, is using a similar HTML-JavaScript–based model.

Although Chrome’s extension-syncing isn’t working at the moment, and there will no doubt be some wrinkles to iron out even once it is, we’re looking forward to seeing it turn up in developer builds, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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