Early Impressions of Firefox 4

Album Cover: Life After Death

"While your gun's raisin', mine is blazin'."
The Notorious B.I.G. / I Love the Dough

Posted on February 13, 2011 8:35 PM in Browsers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I downloaded and installed Firefox 4 Beta 11 today, and my very first impression was how different it is. Whenever a new version of Firefox comes out, I always upgrade my wife's computer so she's got the latest and greatest. This is the first version where I'm kinda cringing at the thought. My wife isn't a huge fan of change, and there is enough visual change to the interface to really throw her off.

For me, though, all of the visual changes are welcome, even if they do take a little getting used to. I definitely feel like there's more room to work with now that the tabs have been moved up to the titlebar area. Even with the clutter reduction in the main toolbars, I still think there's room for more cleanup. Removing the "Feedback" button in the upper-right corner would give me more room for the address bar and the search bar, but for all I know that might (and probably will) go away when version 4 is no longer in beta.

The first thing that struck me as a negative was the missing status bar, with no apparent way of making it reappear. From the looks of the Firefox support site, the status bar has been removed with no intention of supporting it at all in the stock version of the browser. Apparently one has the option of installing add-ons that restore some of that functionality. The main reason I like the status bar is that I tend to hover over links before visiting them to see where the link is going to take me. From reading that aforementioned support link, I realized that the URLs of hovered-over links are now displayed in the right-most half of the address bar. That works for me, so I won't be installing any additional add-ons to restore the status bar.

I've heard lots about how fast Firefox 4 is, but I've yet to experience anything that blew me away in terms of speed. I'm still only a few hours in, though, so maybe once I get to my usual tasks like reading feeds in Google Reader, I'll form a different opinion on that front.

All-in-all, though, even after a few hours of using the new browser, I can comfortably say that I'm not even considering moving back to version 3.x. It's onward and upward from here.

Comments

Andy on February 13, 2011 at 9:24 PM:

Memory issues (leaks) still not fixed. It's better but not fixed. I've been running beta 10 for a while.

It is nearly impossible to use these days. I have almost switched 100% to Chrome (which I use for regular browsing and some development, especially layouts). I still like Firebug but Chrome has almost everything Firebug has, and some things are pretty. Obviously, Chrome is faster than Firefox 3 and 4 too.

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yareckon on February 16, 2011 at 9:58 AM:

FF4 has been working very well indeed for me. The speedups are most noticeable on JS HTML5 demo pages actually :), though I definitely feel the slowdown in day to day browsing when going back to FF3.6 for testing things.

Use the "link target display" addon to get a Chrome like hover in of a link's full url for thems that want that. Sometimes I just don't get enough space to see the full url in the awesomebar. The only thing I find annoying is the "addon bar" which doesn't always stay hidden.

For webdevs make sure you are running Firebug 1.7. Firebug 1.6x has lots of issues with FF4.

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Dude on March 21, 2011 at 3:52 PM:

Apparently Firefox 4 ships with a huge font rendering problem. The fonts (if you haven't noticed yet) are all thing and blurry, apparently due to the hardware acceleration.

The only solution for now is to go to the config page "about:config" and set "gfx.direct2d.disabled" to "true" (don't forget to restart FF).

I really wonder how they could release it with such a glaring problem?

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