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If all goes according to plan, Mozilla should be launching the final version of its Firefox web browser by the end of February. Firefox 4 has been in beta for months and users have been able to test it the whole way through. After spending some time it myself, I’m pretty optimistic about how good it will be.
I’ll freely admit that my primary browser has been Firefox for the last three years, though I do keep Safari and Chrome (on my Mac) and Internet Explorer (on my PC) as backups, just in case. Not only have I loved that it keeps my tabs intact whenever it might crash, but it also has a healthy list of browser add-ons that help make it better.
Firefox 4 is a major upgrade to the browser, especially because a lot about how it looks and functions has been adjusted.
Tabs are now placed above the URL bar, rather than below, sort of like how Chrome was doing them from the beginning. But that’s really just window-dressing to me. The best part is how they’re organized now. You can place tabs in groups, so that anything you want to keep open — and together in one place — can easily be done by just right-clicking on the tab and choosing “Move to Group”. These are called Tab Groups, and you can manage them using a new drag-and-drop interface built within the browser.
You can also “pin” a tab to the top-left (next to where the tabs begin) so that you have quick access to sites that you tend to visit most often. We’ll see what else they might add in before launch.
Firefox 4 will allow you to sync your bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history and tabs to use them on other computers or on Android and iOS devices. This is definitely a useful feature for someone like me that has more than one laptop, but privacy might be a concern if you’re doing this with publicly-accessible machines or even on a friend’s computer.
Security and Privacy
Speaking of security and privacy, Firefox 4 is supposed to be better in both areas. Private Browsing, an option to hide your browsing session, is now more prominent as an option. Thing is, there are also plenty of add-ons that help make the browser more secure and private, so really, Mozilla won’t be really doing it all alone.
Between HTML5 support, more add-ons (including the ability to change the look and design of the browser), a newer look that gives more screen space for web pages and better navigation, Firefox 4 looks very interesting. I’ve really enjoyed my time using it, and am a little surprised at the lack of bugs it has in its current form.
I’ll be curious to see what they may throw in before launch, and if speed and performance can improve even more. Once the final version launches, check back here again for a follow-up review.