Firefox 4 Beta out now with modified user interface

It’s heeeere! The much awaited Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta (or rather Beta 2 to be exact). With its ‘all new’ layout. That’s quite similar to Chrome but still needs work. Feature-wise little has changed since the Firefox 3.7alpha5 release. And there are still plenty of gap areas. That in the Beta can’t be addressed through add-ons because of changes in the Firefox 3.7alpha5 add-on structure. Even Nightly Tester Tools, every tester’s jailbreak app, doesn’t work.

Right now there’s just the one add-on that does work: Mozilla Sync (aka Weave, Dec 9, 2009).

Several previewers have been complaining that Firefox 4 Beta starts up slower. I didn’t notice any speed checks as compared to Firefox 3.7 alpha builds. But when you start a new instance or even open a new blank Windows the app seems to lockup for several seconds.

In the default display, the menu and bookmark tool bars are hidden. With menu tabs displayed above the address bar. But unlike Opera there’s no tab preview. All you get is the page title text. The Bookmark bar is now accessed via a button set at extreme right. Unfortunately in the Beta, you can’t change the button position. But oddly enough you can add the same button to the menu using the customize option!

The new orange colored button (labelled Minefield) at the top extreme left is more Opera that Google Chrome. This button supposedly allows access to the most used links. On my version Check Updates is a frequently used option that doesn’t appear in the quick list. But not having the menu bar constantly visible isn’t that bad. On Windows press ALT to display the menu. Then when you click a menu item it vanishes. If you can’t decide what do do press ALT again to hide the menu.

The right-click context menu has been updated for hyperlinks. You can now direct open a link (in the selected tab/window). Or in a new Tab or Window.

Test-wise Firefox 4 Beta 2 still turns in an ACID3 test score of 97/100 compared to Firefox 3.6.6 (94/100), Google Chromium (100/100) or Opera 10.60 (100/100). The only browser that does worse is Internet Explorer 8 with a failing score of 20/100. But then do we ever expect great geeky stuff from Microsoft.

For this users I miss simple things like the ability to paste ‘n open URLs from the address bar (available in Google Chrome/Chromium and Opera). Or the ability to add, disable and re-enable add-ons without a app restart. Google Chrome manages this so well. How come Firefox can’t do so too?

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