We have witnessed Firefox evolve since the Firefox 3.7 days, seeing each piece of the plan fall into place. Firefox 4 will also be the last major change in the history of the browser. Mozilla has recently decided to move Firefox to a faster release cycle like that of Google Chrome and it is likely you will have Firefox 5 in June this year.
A new look
Current trends dictate a smaller UI footprint, as websites take over many of the functions usually reserved for browsers. Firefox 4 optimizes UI space for the content that need to be displayed.
Firefox has a new menu that has two columns with the most popular browser options.
Tabs on Top:
Tabs-on-top are a much better paradigm than the older tabs below the address bar system as they clarify that the address bar and browser controls apply to the current tab rather than the browser as a whole.
No status bar:
Mozilla has gone for Google Chrome like transient status bar, and a new add-on-bar for icons.
New add-on manager:
The add-on manager has seen a significant overhaul, and not just in looks, but in features as well. The new UI lets you search for locally installed add-ons in additions to add-ons from Mozilla’s database. Add-ons show much more detail now, and one can even click on the “more” button to see further detail about the add-on.
Firefox 4.0 adds a number of core features earlier available only via add-ons.
This is now an in-built feature. It allows synchronizing bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history, and tabs. Settings up sync have also been further simplified – you no longer need to remember two passwords.
Firefox Panorama sets the browser apart from all others. Panorama introduces an entirely new way of managing tabs by visually arranging tabs in groups using a thumbnail view and lets you focus on one group of websites at a time.
This feature is pretty much the same as pinned tabs on Chrome Opera. Tabs can be collapsed to showing just the icon of the website, thus saving space in the titlebar.
Firefox’s extensibility comes at the price: add-ons need restarting the browser. Well no more! Firefox 4 lets developers create add-ons in a way that enables installation without requiring a restart.
Tab switching from location bar:
When you start typing in the location bar, Firefox now allows you to switch to existing tabs that match your entry.
Do not Track:
Firefox now includes an option that lets you opt out of being tracked by websites. However this feature is of limited use until it is respected by such parties.
If you’re one of the new using Windows 7 with a multi-touch input device, you will now be able to use gestures with Firefox.
With this version, Firefox has caught up with the latest browser scene, although a number of small issues, such as poor tab sync integration and Panorama integration still plague the browser.
Is Firefox 4.0 everything Mozilla expected it to become? Perhaps not, but as the biggest change yet to come in the history of the browser, it is no less significant.