Mozilla's getting close to unleashing a Release Candidate version of Firefox 4, but in the meantime, you can play around with the latest beta version, the browser maker announced in a blog post.
"The latest Firefox 4 Beta is available to test the cool features and improvements in the next version of Firefox," Mozilla said. "As we continue to refine features and performance in Firefox 4 Beta, this release includes faster start-up time, bookmarking, and makes complex animations smoother."
The beta also gives longtime Firefox users some time to get used to the new look, which now bears a strong resemblance to Google's Chrome browser. Underneath the hood, Firefox 4 boasts a boatload of changes and additions, including HTML5 support, multi-touch support, WebM and HD video, full hardware acceleration, and more.
With Chrome quickly adding browser market share and Internet Explorer still way out in front, Mozilla is eager to get Firefox 4 in the hands of its users sooner than later. It's Mozilla's hope that Firefox 4 will be ready for prime time by the end of February, the browser maker revealed in an email to its developers.
"We've worked tremendously hard on Firefox 4, and it's time to ship it," Mozilla's Damon Sicore wrote in an email. "I'm seeing the same burst of excitement and activity that we've seen in the endgame of every release... To finish, we have to reach Release Candidate status as quickly as possible, ideally finish the hard blockers by the beginning of February and shipping final before the end of February."
Hard blockers are bugs that would prevent a final release, and right now there are about 160 of them, Sicore said. He added that it's historically taken six weeks to reach a Release Candidate once there are 100 hard blockers left.
To help move things along, Mozilla is urging developers and testers not to disable Flash, Silverlight, or other major plugins.
"Windows users: We need to know if you are affected by hardware acceleration causing crashes or other issues," Sicore said. "Don't just assume that someone else has filed a bug already. Make sure. Ask someone if you don't know how. This is very important."
You'll have to wait until next year before getting a chance to play with Firefox 4 in Release Candidate (RC) form. An updated release schedule shows the RC version being pushed back until early 2011.
"Development on Firefox 4 has not slowed down, and strong progress is being made daily. However, based on the delays in completing the 'feature complete' Beta 7 milestone against which our add-on developers and third-party software developers can develop, as well as considering the amount of work remaining to prepare Firefox 4 for final release, we have revised our beta and release candidate schedule," Mike Beltzner, VP of engineering for Firefox, wrote in an mailing list message earlier this week.
There have already been six beta version of Firefox 4 released in the wild, but after more than a month and a half of development, Firefox 4 beta 7 has yet to materialize. The problem, says ZDNet, has to do with issues integrating Firefox's older TraceMonkey engine, as well as trying to mesh the new JaegerMonkey engine.
Microsoft made waves in the browser community by being the first to announce GPU accelerated browsing, but oddly enough, it looks like they will be in a neck and neck race with Mozilla to be the first to market with the new feature in an official release. Firefox 4 Beta 4 which is releasing on Monday will include support for Direct2D acceleration; unfortunately however a few technical glitches have kept it from being “on” by default.
Luckily Mozilla has released details on how to reactivate it on their Wiki, and the process is pretty simple.
·Direct2D is not turned on by default for Firefox 4 beta 4. (We weren't confident enough to turn it on for all users.)
·However, all the code is in Firefox 4 beta 4, and it should work reasonably well for everyone.
·We really need testers, both on the beta and on nightlies. (We plan to enable Direct2D in nightlies as soon as beta 4 is tagged and branched.)
·To turn on Direct2D: Go in to about:config and set mozilla.widget.render-mode to 6, and gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled to true.
·To turn off Direct2D, once it is on by default, set mozilla.widget.render-mode to 0.
·To check whether you are running with Direct2D, go to about:support and look at the bottom. (Once bug 586046 lands, there will be even more - information about your graphics card in there.)
·Please look out for memory usage, rendering speed, and any rendering problems you might see. Also focus on interactions with plugins like Flash.
Beta 4 will also bring the first official implementation of Tab Candy, a feature that is great for users with more tabs than pixels.
One of our favorite Chrome features is finally making its way into Firefox 4, automatic updates. This might not sound like a huge breakthrough, but the little discussed feature is responsible for 97 percent of Chrome users running the most up-to date version of the browser within three weeks of its release. The concept is to simply download updates silently in the background when bandwidth is not being otherwise used, and then apply the patch automatically when the browser is started. Users who never restart their browsers will be given a gentle reminder after a few weeks.
In an age where zero day security vulnerabilities are the norm, and major releases drop every six weeks, it’s easy to understand why users would grow fatigued with giving the thumbs up for every update. Unlike Chrome however, Mozilla claims they will allow Firefox users to turn off the automatic updating feature, or to have it prompt only on major updates. This is a concession for those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of software automatically installing itself in the background, or for those that just like to always know what’s going on.
The auto-update feature will make its debut in the beta build of Firefox 4 soon, with the Mac and Linux versions getting the same treatment sometime before final release.
Innovation in the browser market is pretty rare these days with most developers putting the focus on speed rather than features, but Mozilla is working on something that may fundamentally change the way you work with tabs. A new feature called “Tab Candy” is currently being tested that will allow users to group tabs by category and zoom out on all your open pages giving you the freedom to organize the chaos that comes from a day’s worth of browsing.
You need to watch the video after the jump to truly appreciate what they are trying to do here, but to sum it up in words, it’s somewhat similar to a Mac OSX feature called expose which gives you a smaller preview of everything going on in your browser. If after giving the video a preview you want to give Tab Candy a try, you can download the custom Firefox 4 beta build which contains an alpha version of the new tab manager.
I’m not sure if this will come together in time for Firefox 4, but it’s the one feature I could see myself switching back from Chrome for. It’s great to see new ideas continuing to evolve.
We’re not gonna lie – we’ve always liked Firefox. While it still may not be faster than a potato gun, it IS extremely flexible and customizable and until recently, it got the job done just fine. However, both Chrome and Opera have surpassed the beleagured browser in speed - and they're catching up on the features side - leaving Firefox on the defensive.
The most recent beta version of the browser has been heavily overhauled to match up with Windows 7’s aeroglass design, and features an updated UI designed to gain cred from the Chrome-faithful. We spent the morning poking around the new features and designs. The five heavy-lifters of the bunch after the jump.
Yes folks, it was exactly one week ago today that we reported the availability of Mozilla's Firefox 4 browser in beta form, so what's with the double entry? That last one was a beta 1 "Candidate," whereas this latest is a bona fide preview release.
Mozilla introduces several changes to the Firefox 4 beta compared to previous versions, not the least of which tabs are now on top by default (Windows only). And on Vista and Windows 7, the menu bar has been replaced with the Firefox button. All in all, the UI changes add up a to browser that looks a lot like Chrome.
More than just a face lift, Firefox 4 includes full WebGL support, though it comes disabled by default. Mozilla beefed up HTML5 compatibility, including native support for the WebM video format.
Give the release notes a glance here, and if you're feeling frisky, download the beta release here.
Grown tired of staring at the same old browser(s) every day? If you want to shake things up and aren't put off by potentially buggy code, Mozilla has made available the first Firefox 4 Beta Candidate build.
By Mozilla's own admission, the Firefox 4 Beta isn't quite ready yet, but you can snag a copy all the same from Mozilla's directory of nightly builds. No release notes accompany the early beta build, and that's probably because there aren't a whole lot of changes from the latest Alpha release of Firefox 3.7.
Still want to give it a spin? Download a copy here (scroll down) and be sure to backup your profile before making the leap, you know, just in case things go horribly wrong.
Stephen Horlander is one of those involved in developing the visual look of Firefox, past and present. On his blog, chromaticpixel, he’s sharing some of his ideas for the way Firefox 4 will look.
His recent efforts have been on redefining the app button, the toolbar, the location bar, the search bar, and the bookmarks widget. For some Horlander’s discussion on possibilities may come off as rambling, but many others will appreciate the thought process that goes into deciding even the most mundane details of an application’s appearance.
For example, Horlander walks us through simple permutations on the location of tabs: Above the address field or below the address field? And if below the address field, above or below the bookmarks bar? Such simple things can make a world of difference in how you react to and use the new version of Firefox. (Ask those who despise the Office ribbon just how much an impact a simple visual interface decision can have.)
None of Horlander’s examples are a sure thing for Firefox 4. But the overall discussion does offer some ideas of the Firefox will be taking.