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7/7/2010
03:36 PM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
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New But Familiar Look In Firefox 4 Beta

The recently released beta of Firefox 4 shows off some new features and boosted HTML 5 support. But the biggest surprise is how much the redesigned Firefox interface looks like Google Chrome.

The recently released beta of Firefox 4 shows off some new features and boosted HTML 5 support. But the biggest surprise is how much the redesigned Firefox interface looks like Google Chrome.The first thing that jumped out at me when I launched the new Firefox 4 beta was the new design. By default, the tabs are now loaded at the top of the browser (though not the very top as in Chrome) and above the tab bar is a new bright orange Firefox button, which replaces the menus in Firefox. Of course, these options can be customized and users that prefer tabs below the address bar and who prefer to have a menu bar can restore them in Firefox 4.

Though I regularly switch between all of the major browsers I have become very accustomed to having tabs at the top and I was pretty happy with the implementation of this in the Firefox 4 beta. Also, having a single button replace a list of menus has also become a standard feature in many applications so it was easy to get used to.

Another new UI feature made it possible to switch to an already open tab directly from the address bar, so if you had an ESPN page open in another tab and began typing ESPN, you would have the option to switch to that tab. Currently, many of these new UI features are only available in the Windows versions of Firefox.

The add-ons management in Firefox has also been changed in the beta of version 4. Instead of a small pop-up window, add-ons are now managed in essentially a full browser page.

Firefox 4 also includes some changes to limit the ability of sites to snoop on a user's browser history, which is very easy for any site to do. In the beta of Firefox 4, the getComputedStyle script will now tell requesting sites that there is no history available.

Like most modern web browsers, Firefox continues to boost its implementations of the still to come HTML 5 standard and support for other standards has also been boosted. The beta of Firefox 4 scored a 97 in the Acid3 standards test, which is improved over previous versions but short of the full 100 that browsers such as Chrome and Opera have scored.

For a beta there are definitely some interesting steps in this take on Firefox 4 and I expect to see many more changes in upcoming betas. To try out the beta of Firefox 4 go to www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/beta/

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