Thursday, November 11, 2010

Firefox 4 beta 7 is really different

I just updated to the seventh beta of the upcoming Mozilla Firefox 4. It threw me off my feet. Mozilla talks about all the performance improvements on its official blog. They do sound like all companies do when releasing their latest updates (the speedier performance, accelerated graphics...), but for the first time, they are very much true about this update. And that's know joke.

Here's my take:

Credit: Mozilla

You are greeted with the 'fasten your seatbelts' notice for a reason. Firefox 4 is almost complete, and this beta is a near-complete version of this browser. What I noticed is that this browser is really noticeably fast. Pages actually load up faster than before and graphics lag no more for me. The scrolling is smooth. I had choppy scrolling because of my low-end graphics card. Now it's all fixed.

From Mozilla:
This release boosts performance in some important ways: it adds the J├ĄgerMonkey just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compiler; adds more support for hardware-accelerated graphics, as well as hardware acceleration for Windows XP and Mac OS X; and enables 3D capabilities, without the need for plug-ins, with WebGL.
Really, this browser is really fast (I keep on repeating). It's Chrome-fast. I really feel I have got a better Internet connection.


Quite surprisingly, Firefox 4 beta 7 has a revamped look. It has a different feel altogether. I wasn't expecting this. And this was what threw me off my feet.
Link preview has changed.

The interface now looks sleeker and smoother. It has glowing, fading animations all over. Moreover, the color of all the toolbars has changed. From the bland whitish, it has become a slight tint of blue. It looks freshly painted. 

Unlike the standard in all browsers, links and bookmarks moused over appear in the Location Bar, as seen in the photo there. That too, fades in and out, making it beautiful, and even forcing you to go over links again and again, one after the other.

The beautiful new green rings
Another great thing is that this new version has replaced the ugly page loading 'progress circles' on tabs with elegant looking green rings. Well, they don't show the progress in anyway, though. But I have no complaints here. I didn't even notice that they do not show the progress. See? That wasn't even needed.

The add-ons page has changed a little. Now there are 'Remove' buttons instead of the little crosses. I like this because it used to make me think: Why can't I uninstall this extension? The crosses were not visible properly.

Panorama is one more noticeable thing. Formerly known as Tab Candy, this is one feature I have found really useful in organizing tabs. The page is now different compared to before, with a color revamp, and a new search feature, it's better than ever. When you click the search button, the screen becomes dark, and when you search for open tabs, the relevant ones light up. Also, after you close a tab group, it offers to undo it for you, which is very useful too.

Note: The Panorama keyboard shortcut has changed from Ctrl+Space to Ctrl+E.

There are many more minor changes, like the new refresh/stop button, which look like these mockups. Looks like all the browsers are slowly dirfting to the refresh buttons hidden in a longer address bar. You need to get used to it, though.

When Firefox doesn't have focus, the orange Firefox button changes to the color of the title bar, blending in. First I thought it's a bug, but then I understood that it's the way it's meant to be.


Overal, I'm really happy with this new version of Firefox. I will be eagerly waiting for the final release, which is apparently coming next year. With the beta 7 already out, that could possibly change. And obviously, that will be a lot faster than this. How better can it get now?

Further reading:
Opera Mobile vs. Opera Mini, performance test
What is DNS and why is it so important?
How to set up multiple Twitter accounts with just one email