A First Look at Firefox 4
Firefox 4 made it out of the Beta and Release Candidate stages this week. The Mozilla Foundation has released its Firefox 4 web browser for Windows, Mac OS X (the one based on BSD Unix, but not earlier versions of Mac) and Linux.
If you’re already running Firefox 3, you can start on the Menu Bar with Help > Check for Updates… When I did that on the release date, the download was pretty slow.
So, I downloaded Firefox 4 the other way — I went to http://www.mozilla.com/firefox. When I clicked on the large "Firefox 4 Free Download" link, the download was almost instantaneous. Obviously, as I was selecting where to save the 12.0 MB file, the file was actually downloading.
The installation process is simple and quick, especially if you’re already running Firefox 3. Firefox 4 will recognize that FF3 is installed, and will shift into an "upgrade" mode.
What’s my impression of Firefox 4? I like it! It appears much faster, and I really haven’t found a feature that I didn’t like (sometimes, an apparent change is really a new option that’s selected by default).
On the other hand, my wife doesn’t. They moved the Tabs, from the long-time location just over the browser window, to the position just below the Windows tital bar. Well, the Windows title bar isn’t there any more – no more wasted space for it. The Firefox main menu, which is now a pulldown box, is right there at the top of the window.
Next down where main menu bar (File, Edit, etc.) will be displayed if you press the Alt key, as you can see below. Then, the tabs. Below the tabs is the new address bar, and then finally the bookmarks toolbar.
The Address bar continues to be to the right of the Icon bar, which is now quite minimized, despite whatever configuration you had previously set. The Home button has been moved to the right of the Address bar.
The new Firefox 4 automatically imported and included the Add-on’s that were already in effect in the previous version (if you’re upgrading). In my case, one Add-on that I routinely use is View Source Chart, and it didn’t quite work.
It’s similar to View Page Source, but does additional formatting to make the source code more understandable to someone who knows HTML. View Source Chart previously offered the options to automatically opening in a popup window, or to open in a new tab in the same browser window. The popup function in View Source Chart no longer works, but all that was needed was to change one of the View Source Chart options to make it open in a tab.
That taught me a new trick. If you use the Firefox option to open a new Window, you can drag a Tab to the new window and make it open there. Cool.
I really want to be able to see the Source Chart at the same time I’m seeing the resulting web page, so that I can understand what’s happening (I usually use it when what’s happening is NOT what I want to be happening, so I’m in debug mode. View Source Chart is a great debugging tool for web developers.
Another cool new feature is that the Bookmarks button is now displayed all the time – a the right-hand end of the Bookmarks Toolbar.
Now, how about a fix for the folks, like my wife, that don’t like the tabs on top. Just press Alt to show the menu bar, then select View from the menu bar, and click on Toolbars > Tabs on Top to uncheck that option and return the tabs to their old location.
Bottom line: Mozilla has a great new web browser in Firefox 4. I haven’t had any crashes with it or found new changes that weren’t reversable via changing my options in Firefox. If you haven’t upgraded yet, give it a try. I think you’ll like it.
When you open Firefox 4 for the first time, you’ll get a Step 1 option to “Meet Firefox 4” (a video) and a Step 2 option Know Your Browswer (a series of web pages showing the significant changes.