Firefox 4.0 review

Firefox 4.0 review

Firefox improves again!

Hot on the heels of IE9 comes Firefox 4.0. At first appearances, it looks a lot like IE9, but a quick test reveals that there are many differences. I have to withdraw my comments about IE9 catching up with Firefox. Firefox 4 is yet another leap ahead in terms of user-friendly functionality.

The Interface

The tabs are not on the same row as the address bar and I prefer it this way. Sometimes in IE9, the address bar is too short to show the whole URL and that can be annoying. This makes the header area fractionally taller but not enough to be noticeable. This also allows more space for tabs than in IE9 and when you’re working across multiple websites, this can be really handy.

Firefox 4.0 address bar

Firefox 4.0 address bar

There’s a new Firefox button on the top left that accesses all the menu functions. This seems to be a theme in the new generation of browsers to reduce or entirely remove all the menu buttons or links and replace them with a single link or icon. Firefox have done it nicely, by making the button really obvious and the drop down menu is clear and functional. There’s also a nice twist on favourites or bookmarks toolbars using tabs. Firefox have introduced “App Tabs”. These are mini tabs that you can pin to the tabs bar for websites that you may use all the time, like your bank or your favourite web designer! They don’t have a label and only display the favicon instead (see image below)

Firefox 4 app tabs

This image shows 2 "app tabs" just to the right of the Firefox menu button.

Other new features include scrolling tabs. If you have too many open, you can scroll side to side to see them all. Also, “panorama”, which is a way to put your tabs into groups that you can organise “in a fun visual way” – their words, not mine! If you accidentally close a tab, you can also re-open it by finding it under the history menu.

Firefox 4.0 search bar

Firefox 4.0 search bar

As you can see, the little home icon has been moved to the right side beside the in-built search bar. The little box with a star in it is where you access all your bookmarks (favourites). Another nice design tough is the way the browser indicates the web page is still loading. The refresh arrow changes to a cross with a red box and the tab favicon will display a spinning “working” icon (see image below). It’s easier on the eye than checking down the bottom for a status bar.

Search bar appearance while loading a page

Search bar appearance while loading a page

Other Functions

More Search Options: The search menu now allows an easy change between search engines with a drop down menu.
One click bookmarking: Using the star in the address bar.
Smart Keywords: You can now assign a keyword like “books” to an online book store and go right there if you search for terms including the word “books”, such as “travel books”.
Search Suggestions: Will offer suggested searches based on what you’re typing.
Spell Checker: Built in for use on things like forms or blogs.
Tags: Add tags to favourite websites so that these will be priority suggestions when searching.

Firefox 4.0 Performance

Firefox 4.0 claims some pretty amazing improvements in browsing speed. I tested it on a busy forum website that has considerable advertising and found it to be a great improvement.

There are a lot of other changes to Firefox that I won’t go into here. Suffice to say that for the average user, Firefox will continue to be a simple, effective, fast browser option with a range of more advanced tools for those that need them.

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