Firefox fans, get yourselves over to the Mozilla website to pick up the newly released beta 1 version of Firefox 4! The new version of the popular web browser has been in development for quite a while now, and the beta version marks the release of a build stable enough for the average Joe to use.
Quite a lot has changed since in the development of the new version, so here’s a quick run down of things that you’ll want to look out for when using the web browser.
One of the first things that catches people’s attention in any program is the layout of the GUI. Firefox is no exception to this, and a few changes have been made to make the browser appear more streamlined and modern to the user.
The biggest change here is one that only Windows users can see in this first beta, as the theme for Firefox on Mac and Linux hasn’t yet been updated. If you are a Windows user, you’ll no doubt realise that your tabs are relocated to the top of the browser window, as opposed to under the address bar. This has been the cause of some debate in the Firefox community for years now, and although the change has been implemented as a default feature, you can still change it to how it used to be using an option in the preferences.
Another Windows 7 and Vista only change in this version is the removal of the menu bar, which is now replaced by a single ‘Firefox’ button, similar to the interface of Microsoft Office 2010.
Users on all platforms can take advantage of the new add-ons manager, which will replace the old manager which was beginning to feel in need of a refresh in Firefox 3. The user interface will be redesigned for this before the final release, so keep an eye out for that in future versions!
Other minor tweaks include the merging of the ‘stop’ and ‘reload’ buttons into one ‘stop/reload’ button, and the bookmarks toolbar being replaced by a single bookmarks button.
Behind the Scenes
In addition to the changes made to the user interface of Firefox 4, a number of changes have been made behind the scenes to ensure that everything is up to date and running smoothly.
When we told you of the Firefox 3.6.4 beta, we mentioned that it included crash protection against various plugins that could have previously caused your whole browser to crash. With this feature, if a plugin on a website crashes, it won’t bring the whole browser down with it. Instead you can simply close, or reload, the tab that’s affected and carry on with the rest of your browsing completely uninterrupted from the crash. This applies to Adobe Flash, Apple Quicktime or Microsoft Silverlight plugins, so you’re covered from a lot of hassle if things go wrong with a plugin you’re using.
Of course, no browser update seems complete this year without better support for HTML5, and Firefox 4 delivers here too. It includes a new HTML parser, replacing the old version used and eradicating a ton of bugs at the same time as improving speed. There is also support for more HTML5 form controls.
Firefox 4 brings so many new features to the table, it’s impossible to fit them all in to one post. You can see more detail of the various changes and additions that have been made to the browser here. If you want to download the latest version, you can do so by visiting the Firefox download page.
A word of caution: some of the add-ons that you use in Firefox 3 may not be fully compatible with the new version (yet), so don’t be put off if some off your favourites aren’t working first time around!