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Firefox 4

Firefox 4The past few days has seen (finally) the release of the next major version of Firefox: Version 4.

This has probably been one of the longest release cycles for the browser (not that i've minded much), but they have changed a tonne of stuff.

The most noticeable change is the complete user-interface redesign. They have really tried to clean up the interface, and like Google's Chrome browser, tried to eliminate as much 'chrome' space as possible.

Whilst I don't disagree with eliminating wasted 'chrome' space, i don't believe in doing so just for the sake of it.

The perfect example of this is the add-on/status bar that they got rid of in the betas, then brought back in the RCs. Now we have a situation of it being there (which I really do use with some of the add-ons i have installed), but yet the link-preview thing now appears just above it over the bottom-left corner of the page. Surely if you've got the add-on bar enabled, it would make sense to have the link previews appear in that? Anyway, like most deficiencies in Firefox, there are awesome people that develop add-ons to address them; in this case the Status-4-Evar add-on brings back much of the useful functionality that was in the previous status bar to the new add-on bar (including the very helpful download progress indicator).

Probably the other most noticeable interface change is having the tabs on top of the address/awesome bar. Whilst i see how this makes sense space-wise and semantically (the address is relative to the tab that is showing), practically I prefer the tabs below. I switch between existing tabs more often than changing the address, so there is less mouse-effort for me having the tabs as close to the page display as possible. Thankfully they have provided an option setting for you to choose to set the tabs where you like it.

This also meant that the new 'Firefox button' takes up a whole row of area at the top, and thus for me a better use of space would be to have the normal menu bar.

Another notable addition in this new version is the 'tab groups'. Whilst I do see the usefulness of this feature, i don't really see myself using it. Most of the time i skate on the edge of having a lot of tabs open, but not enough to have to group them using the tab groups feature.

So overall i like the speed and performance benefits that Firefox 4 has brought to the table, but I have pretty much changed the interface to mostly how I had it in 3.6 (if it ain't broke, don't fix it ;))

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