After growing tired of waiting for the first official Firefox 4 release, I decided to download the beta and try it out. I’ll note some of the major changes here.
- Menu Bar Gone: The Menu bar has been replaced by a master Firefox button – the same idea as the big top left button in many Microsoft Office and other applications. I quickly turned the menu bar back on, as to me it is more convenient than accessing the general Firefox button and everything through there.(If you keep the firefox button, you can just press alt for the menu bar.)
- Tabs on Top: Tabs are now located, by default, on top next to the firefox button. Since I switch tabs alot, this doesn’t make too much sense to me, as it is farther to the tab buttons. The positive of tabs on top is that when they are next to the firefox button, it is vertically compact and gives you lots of screen space. All in all, moving the tabs back to the bottom and turning the menu bar on gives Firefox 4 a very Firefox 3ish look, which I believe is more convenient.
- Status Bar Gone: The bottom status bar is gone, replaced with a (turned off by default) add-on bar that shows nothing but add-on icons. Loading page information pops up as an oval instead of in the status bar. The most significant change to this is that when hovering over a link, the url of the link is shown in the url bar, next to your current url. While this can be annoying to get used to, I think eventually it won’t make too much of a difference to me. The nice thing about the removal of the status bar is, once again, more screen space. Edit: With the release of Firefox Beta 12, the hover over link is back to the bottom. Probably good.
- Tab Panorama: There is now a button on the tab bar consisting of 4 rectangles (or Ctrl+Shift+E currently) that starts panorama. This is a somewhat strange feature where you can organize your tabs on your current window in groups. The tabs not in your current group are completley hidden unless you go back in to panorama. While this seemed unusual, it doesn’t hurt anything, and could be useful.
- Performance: On an anecdotal level, Firefox 4 has seemed a little slower to me in startup and a little laggy in panorama mode. It also uses a decent amount of RAM for me, about 500,000 K with only three tabs open and a couple add-ons. I really can’t draw any conclusions yet though. Further Hote: The memory usage still seems troubling, perhaps I have a hungry add-on, but I’m not running anything that seems as if it should eat memory. Firefox 4 for me has used up to 1 GB of RAM with about 10 tabs open.
- Come More Small Stuff: The Open Link in New Tab button is above the Open Link in New Window button – a good change! The URL bar is also rearranged. The add-on manager opens in a tab now.
There’s much more I’m sure I’ve missed, but overall, Firefox 4 hasn’t been quite as good as I expected for all the time in development, but not really worse either.