Firefox 4.0 beta 7 has been finally released a few days back by Mozilla after numerous delays because of the pending bugs that needed to be fixed. Newer beta seems to be significantly faster on many well known browser speed tests. As many Firefox users who test out the new version of Firefox will take notice that Mozilla has come up with some major changes not only in the browser internals ( such as general increase in speed, support of hardware acceleration) but also on the GUI side of the things. Unfortunately many interface changes to the browser are not as welcomed by longtime users of this great browser as the other internal changes. One can’t avoid the feeling after looking at the newer iterations of the Firefox particularly starting from Firefox 4.0 that Mozilla is losing its track. What I mean is that rather trying to bring enhancements to the core functionality of the Firefox for example to speed up the rendering engine, reduce the startup times for the browser, make browser more stable by putting the installed extensions in to separate process etc. they are putting most of their energy to bring needless and bloated features such as Panorama which are useful to only a very small set of Firefox users base. Worse part is that there not exist any way to disable these. Martin from ghacks has discussed about it previously and in a new article explicitly points out some of the annoyances with the new GUI related features in Firefox 4.0. He mentioned about the Panorama feature (which is worst of new annoyances in Firefox 4), in addition he talks another poor decision taken by the Firefox developers to put the tooltips in the location bar and remove the status bar entirely and replacing it with the new Add-on bar. Although this can be mitigated by an extension named Status-4-Evar but the point is that Mozilla should have provided to rollback some of these changes (at least the major changes as this one). For the other changes including the big orange Firefox/Minefield button and tabs on top can be disabled from the Firefox interface.
Apart from the changes that are mentioned above there are some more subtle issues (decisions on Firefox developers part) that I didn’t like. For example I was happier with the Extensions/Add-ons manger opening in its own window (in older Firefox 3.x) rather than in a new tab as it is now. In that case if I had a long list of installed extensions I could just type the initial starting alphabet of the extension that I am looking for and extension list window scrolled down to the appropriate position. Now when I try to do this in the Firefox 4 beta (actually I am using Firefox 4.0b8 pre) it triggers the quick find toolbar at the bottom which is off course not what was intended. In addition I am not fan of the new transparency features in the Firefox 4. As it also covers the buttons on the locations bar and puts more stress on the eyes to see the buttons that are placed besides location bar. Of course one can disable the Aero feature in Vista or Windows 7 but that works at the whole OS level right? There are no options as I know to disable this feature. Another thing a textbox is provided to filter out the listed extensions in the add-ons manager based on the input search string. It could be fat better if it works in more interactive way (search as you type etc.). In addition, it could be better to separate/categorize the installed extensions in to active and disabled extension rather than to intermingle them in the add-ons manager.
Apart from these gripes as I mentioned above I really like the new version of this fantastic browser. It is stable faster and more extensible than any other web browser available today despite the fact that it is still in beta. For me I don’t’ think I will be able to switch to any alternative browser at least in near future because none of them provide such a strong extensibility through the extensions as Firefox does (including Google Chrome).
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