Firefox 4 Review: Many Likes, Few Dislikes

New browser impresses on most fronts

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Disclaimer: I am already a usual Firefox user.  Internet Explorer and I had a nasty divorce a few years ago, and despite people telling me how much better it has gotten, I still can’t convince myself to go back.  I’ve used Chrome, and I like it – but for some reason nothing struck me enough to warrant changing my ways.  With limited interaction with Firefox 4, I think that I’ll probably hang around with Mozilla.

Despite countless articles able to be written on detailed performance factors, speed tests, etc., I’m steering these comments more towards aesthetics, interface and features.  Having said that, Firefox 4 is fast.  The difference isn’t so noticeable on my work PC but at home it is working like a flash.  Even on my computer which was in the process of downloading a huge file and running an anti-virus scan, the new Firefox still seemed faster to me than the old one.

When you open the browser, the first thing you’ll notice is that the top of your screen looks a great deal different.  Most noticeably, your tabs are now above the address bar by default.  Personally, I like the look of this.  If your personal aesthetic preferences aren’t pleased, you can drop the tabs back below the address bar.

Also immediately noticeable is the big orange Firefox button.  This is actually a drop down menu that contains all the options that were previously spread out across the top – options, help, etc.  Some users might have a miniscule problem at first locating these necessary functions, but grouping everything under one button sure looks good.

One of my favorite little features is the “pin tab” feature that allows you to shrink your open tabs into small icon tabs.  You can do this to your most commonly used tabs to keep them available with out taking up tons of space.  Just right click on any tab and select “Pin as App Tab.”

Your address bar still quick searches your bookmarks and history but is now called your “Awesome Bar.”  Stupid name, good functionality.  Mozilla has boasted that it “learns” about you as you use it more often, which I assume means it links more frequently visited sites at the top.  Haven’t been able to use it long enough to see what it is “learning” about me.

All in all, the interface is nice and compact.  It all looks very clean, as bookmarks, home page, and refresh are all small icons.  The add-ons browser had been updated and has a featured add-on page, mobile add-on page, and even the add-on of the month which I got as it is highly beneficial.  I’ve never been one for excessive add-ons as I find many of them to be pointless.  But if you’re a person who loves to have them all, the new manager is pretty user-friendly.

A feature that doesn’t appeal to me is the new tab groups.  Ctrl+Shift+E  pulls up a screen with all your open tabs shown as tiny previews of the pages they are currently on.  You have the option to add a new tab group and lump  tabs together by whatever qualifier you choose.  It is a little clunky to me and I believe the “pin tab” feature discussed earlier eliminates the majority of tab confusion.

In a couple days of using Firefox 4, I haven’t run into any issues that would steer me in a new direction.  The new interface is smooth and appealing, and it is loading pages faster than any previous incarnation.    And honestly, for the majority of internet users, those are the two most important aspects of any browser.

Firefox 4 Review: Many Likes, Few Dislikes
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  • Caspy7

    The Awesome Bar has the same functionality as it did in 3.6 except it now includes currently open tabs in the results list.
    It has been referred to as the Awesome Bar for some time now. I don’t know if that’s now the “official” name or something, but if you’ve used Firefox previously (this functionality was introduced in 3.0 http://bit.ly/geNV1u) then your experience of using the location bar will not change much.

  • Petes

    Anybody else with CTRL+TAB not working?

  • http://www.photostudiosupplies.com/ Green Backdrops

    I liked firefox 4

  • http:/www.mlmwatchdog.com Rod Cook

    Love it!! Fast and slick… Chrome has a million miles to go and Explorer sucks…..

  • http://www.SeeWhyLearning.com James Cousineau

    Wow! It even retained my add-ons this time. Fast, yes – much faster. More “real estate” also with the new redesigned top of the browser. Love it!

  • Vinny

    I downloaded Firefox 4.0 last night. Big mistake. This thing is a beast, and not in a good way. It’s slow. If anybody tells you any different, they’re either lying, smoking crack, doing lsd, live in an alternate universe, or they are irrational FireFox fans, or they work for FireFox.
    If you want a cheap knockoff of Chrome combined with the molasses like speed of IE, then by all means get Firefox.

  • Christopher Courter

    Crashes a ton, massive memory hog, have seen it at 1.7million k under windows manager just before one of these crashes with a total of two tabs open. I’m not liking it so far.

  • Noryl

    The main reason I moved from Internet Explorer to Firefox several years ago was the bug-ladened bookmark function in IE.

    In the past year or so, the bookmark function in Firefox has gone every bit as rotten as the one in IE. I’ve written them about this and they don’t seem to care!

    I suppose if you spend your time online flitting from site to site to kill time, the losses or uncontrolled duplicate entries won’t matter much. But if the bookmark set records information organized for use with many projects, then orderly access is essential.

    The damage that Mozilla has done to me in this respect is enormous! I plan to take another close look at Chrome and to check on the current state of IE.

    In the meantime, if you depend on your bookmarks and don’t want them corrupted: TAKE CARE, because Mozilla clearly will not. …and by the way, if you try to export your bookmarks, the first thing you will find is that they FORGOT to put that command into Firefox 4!

  • Superman

    LIARS! Firefox 4 SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It crashes all the time, especially if you just leave the browser open. It doesn’t load webpages on the first click a lot of the time! It eats-up RAM and processor usage!!!!!!!! And a lot of the time, it is horribly slow when playing videos online!!! I found out how to fix the design issues (home page button, reload button, tabs toolbar, etc.), but the browser actually doing what it suppose to do, I can’t fix!

  • Paul Citro

    I tried it for a few days then went back to the old version. I didn’t like having to do an extra click to get to my book marks. Deal breaker right there.

  • Bobbbbbbyyy

    What is this fuss about? Ok it’s faster I guess, but everytime I use Google it freezes and if I don’t open task manager and close it brings the system with it. I had a non-fatal blue screen because of it since I had to manually shut off my computer because I thought it was forzen. They need to fix this problem ASAP, I’m using IE right now and I can tell you it’s a helluva lot better then Firefox 4.

  • ShelLuser

    The problem with “quick” reviews is that most people tend to base their opinion on others.

    Just take a look at the CNet comments. Then take a look at the Mozilla forums… Version 4 isn’t ‘good’, the die hards probably won’t even bother to comment and simply deselect “check for upgrades”.

    This idiocy started when someone figured it would be a good idea to introduce tabs to thunderbird. “You love tabs in Firefox so you will love them here”. It made me run back to the previous version on my PC, I even ditched thunderbird entirely on my laptop and went with MS Live because the installer was no longer available.

    Mozilla should get their act together. The main feature I can live with wrt MS Explorer is that although some stuff changes the overall look and feel does not. Sure; they minimize stuff. Pressing ALT still gets me a menu. Toolbars remained at the same place for several versions. URL entry / Search entry? Yes, that was combined with 9. AND even that can be undone.

    Mozilla should take more care in staying backwards compatible.

    I for one don’t need a browser which changes its look every year. I want what I like best and continue to use it. If a chance is in order; fine. Just allow me to ditch all your hard work and move back to the GUI I like best.

    Is it about the developers or the users?

    I tried 4, then noticed that everything was upside down. My trusty NoScript (bottom right) now moved upwards and my AdBlock plus moved to the lower left. And I totally disliked that.

    On my main PC I simply clicked “don’t upgrade” for both FF 3 (3.6.17) and Thunderbird ( because I’m relatively safe behind a NAT router.

    But should the need arise for immediate upgrades due to security issues then I’m going to use MS’ products. I’ll miss my GPG (gpg4win & enigmail) dearly, but it still beats the (IMO:) stupid GUI changes Mozilla forces upon me.

    • boe

      I’ve been a loyal Firefox user since version 1.0. When I was given a chance to upgrade to 4.0.1, I didn’t hesitate to install it on my laptop and work computer. Big mistake! I used to trust you Mozilla, not anymore.

      The new look and feel is abysmally micro$oftish. Why-oh-why did you feel the micro$soft urge to fix something that wasn’t broken? You threw away a beautifully functioning design for this ill-conceived design that hides as much as possible from the user. After spending an evening trying to make it look like the previous versions, I decided – why bother? It’s still a pig in lipstick. I downgraded to 3.6.16, turned off auto-update and am now actively searching for my new browser — and it certainly won’t be Firefox 4.

      BTW – this review is SO miss-leading. Never mind the abysmal UI changes, Firefox 4 is slow and buggy.

  • Claudia

    A POS. Completely broke on both my Linux OS and Windows Vista. Thanks to a complete dvd backup for Linux and System Restore for Vista I got my old version back after hours of work. Still not what it was. Never, never again will I let Firefox update my browser. I’ll wait until a stable complete new program is available and remove the old and upload the new from scratch. Even then you can’t trust FF anymore.

  • list left

    really do not understand the free ride FF4 is getting. It takes up much more memory than before and it now crashes my system when I try to go full-screen on streaming video (FF 3.6 never did). The final straw was when I had to force-quit it when it hung on trying to open a web page that was downloaded to my hard drive. Terrible.

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