Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Firefox 4 Beta 1

While I was away, the first beta of Firefox 4 was released. The main changes are for Windows 7 and Vista users, who will see a very different and simplified user interface compared with version 3.6. The menu bar is gone (although clicking ‘alt’ brings it back temporarily and it can be permanently re-enabled), replaced by an orange ‘Firefox’ menu which has all of the menu commands in it. Aero Glass support has also finally arrived and no longer requires an add-on, making the browser match other modern Windows programs much better. All in all, this is probably the biggest user interface change to Firefox in its history.
Mac users will also see out-of-process plugin support, which was added for Windows and Linux users in 3.6.4 – now, should Flash cause a crash, it shouldn’t crash the whole browser.
A new feature on all platforms is an updated Addons Manager, which now appears in a new tab rather than as a separate window. It looks much better, especially on larger monitors. It’s still early days for it with more changes likely. Most other modal dialogs, such as the Download Manager, Preferences and Bookmarks Manager will move to the content area eventually as well.
Once again, Firefox seems a bit faster – it starts up a little quicker and clicking between pages seems snappier too. On the web standards front, compatibility with Acid3 is at 95/100, and large chunks of HTML 5 are now supported.
If you fancy testing out the beta, I’d also suggest installing Mozilla Addon Compatibility Reporter. This allows you to enable any addons that aren’t yet compatible with Firefox 4, and report to Mozilla whether they work or not. Right now Greasemonkey doesn’t appear to work but all of my addons either already support Firefox 4 or can be forced to work using the Compatibility Reporter addon.

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