This world is clearly headed to Hell. Please don’t think of it in the religious way – I don’t give a single cent on religion, it’s only the “Hell of all-the-same” and nothing more. For example, let’s look at the popular Web browsers – until a few years ago, each one had its own personality (yes, I think that some software products can really have personality) and features, not to mention the fact that each of them seemed to have an individual path to follow. Now, it seems it’s all about
stea creating about the same features and the layout of the best ones with the hope that some of those who left your product will jump back in your wagon…
… and, unfortunately, I am talking about Firefox 4 here. It’s just an impression I had for some time already – after all, Firefox 4 isn’t a surprise that just dropped in out of the blue, so people have been talking about it and even using its early versions for some time already. All in all, I am starting this review being really curious about this long-awaited Web browser – will it live up to the expectations or not?
To be honest, I expected for Mozilla not to make Firefox 4 available as an update to version 3, but provide it as a separate product, at least for now (see what’s happening with Maxthon, for example), since most Firefox 3.x.x-compatible addons don’t seem to work with this last version. Oh, well, since I don’t use Firefox as my primary browser, I decided to simply update my existing installation and see what happens…
As it usually happens, I played with this program on my desktop computer, so the fact that I got a maximum score of 3338 in the Peacekeeper benchmark is pretty bad (to check the results I got for Firefox 3, Opera 11 and a bunch of other browsers on the same computer, please check this article), but we should also consider that some optimizations only work on Windows Vista/7. Regarding that part… just keep an eye on PCTips3000, I’ll put Firefox 4 and IE 9 face to face on my Windows 7 laptop pretty soon!
Getting back to Firefox 4, I should say that Windows, Mac OS X and Linux versions are available, as well as mobile versions for Android devices and the Nokia N900. If that doesn’t get you high, knowing that you can sync your Firefox stuff between different computers/software platforms should, but we’ll get to that a bit later…
… since now I have to add that updating my Firefox 3.6.15 to Firefox 4 only took a few seconds, but I also noticed something really strange – the update needed to download 15.5 MB of data, while the downloadable setup package has 12 MB in size. Well, since I didn’t notice any spyware or toolbar in the meantime, I must say that this is only a minor detail. All in all, installing or updating to Firefox 4 shouldn’t give you any headaches, at least not as long as you’re not using too many plugins that won’t work with it.
After updating my old Firefox 3 to the current version, the main window still had the menu bar, but Firefox 4′s default interface doesn’t have such a thing, since all tabs have been pushed up and the menus are accessible via that orange Firefox button. If this would be the first Web browser I ever used, then I should say we’re talking about a pretty cool idea. Unfortunately, Google Chrome and Opera have done it already, so Firefox is just following the trends now instead of leading the way. On the other hand, there are plenty of themes and personas available to help you personalize your Firefox 4, so I guess there’s nothing really bad to say about this browser’s looks, but there’s nothing out of this world, either.
The list of Firefox 4 features present on the official page may seem pretty impressive at first sight but, if you take a closer look at it, you’ll figure out that only some of the goodies to be found there can be considered solid improvements. On the other hand, I would be a fool to deny the fact that there are quite a few Firefox 4 features that will improve your experience with it a lot, so please allow me to try to tell you about some of this browser’s highlights – just be sure that this is all a bit subjective, so if I think that the orange Firefox button is nothing but a ripoff of something Opera had for some time already, that’s also the truth…
If you’re not a keyboard freak, I know for sure you’ll love the Home and Bookmark buttons located to the right of the search field but I really don’t get the hype surrounding the Awesome Bar – to me, it’s nothing but an address bar with integrated autocomplete based on the history of visited sites, so nothing new in 2011.
When it comes to tabs management, I must say things are looking very good, the Tab Groups (Mozilla’s approach to Opera’s Tab Stacking feature) and the ability to turn frequently used tabs into App Tabs are both awesome! Once you pin a tab as an App Tab, it turns into a little icon that glows when there’s new content in that page – this works great with your webmail, Web-based RSS readers or chat/forums.
I know I should have started with this part, but it doesn’t really matter – even if I decide to put this in the last phrase of this article, it still remains an awesome feature – Firefox 4 can (finally!!!) sync your settings, including Bookmarks, Passwords, Preferences and even Tabs between computers/devices running it. Finally, no need for MozBackup anymore!
While Firefox 4′s speed on my Windows XP computer is really disappointing when compared to Opera or Chrome, the new Add-ons manager alone can make me forget about it! Seriously, I even forgot about the many plugins and themes I had in Firefox 3.6.15 and don’t work with this new version, but I know one thing for sure: a lot of people won’t take that easy, so let’s move on to the final part of this review – after all, most people don’t care about the new technologies coming with the new version of their browser, they just want to get the job done like before… maybe faster, if possible!
Tips & Tricks
1. To bring up the old school menus, press Alt.
2. When you feel that the amount of open tabs is overwhelming, hit Ctrl+Shit+E and bring some order to this chaos!
3. If you want to sync your browser, there’s no keyboard shortcut to help you – just press the orange Firefox button and click on Sync Now or, in case you’re still using the old school menu, go to Tools and do the same thing.
4. Ctrl+J brings up the Downloads manager, while Ctrl+H will take you to your browsing history page. Not the first browser to use these shortcuts for these tasks and surely not the last, either…
Firefox 4 is, without a single doubt, the best Firefox ever – it’s faster and more reliable than Firefox 3, looks and feels great, it’s even available for Android devices and all the three major platforms for computers, but…
… if you ask me, I still think it’s a memory hog that’s slower than both Chrome and Opera, but its greatest problem, at least for now, is lack of support for a lot of popular addons that will keep quite a few users with Firefox 3.6.x.
The best Firefox ever is not the best Web browser ever but, in my opinion, it’s one piece of code that will surely become a serious threat to Chrome, Opera and IE 9 on all those Windows 7 computers out there as soon as all those great Firefox 3 addons start to work properly on it. Until then, it’s black or white, depending on the type of user you are – if you’re not using a lot of Firefox addons, you should update as soon as possible, but if you do… no need to tell you what path to choose, right? That’s all, folks!