Firefox 4 Beta Available for Download
Mozilla on Tuesday made Firefox 4 Beta 1 available for download and testing. For the first time Mozilla has integrated a testing feedback app into its Beta to make it easier for people to offer their suggestions and report problems.
"This is a very early Beta, so a lot of features are not complete yet, and the interface is still rather unpolished," Alex Faaborg, principal designer at Mozilla Firefox said in a blog post.
New beta versions will be released every two or three weeks until the official Firefox 4 launch, which is tentatively scheduled for November 2010.
Tabs on top
The most visible change to the Firefox 4 user interface is the location of the tabs at the top, similar to Chrome’s tab placement. Chrome has a combined Web address and search bar that is called the "Omnibar." Firefox's "Awesome Bar" is similar, but it has added functionality such as a "Switch to Tabs" option to search across open tabs while retaining a separate search bar.
The only item above the tabs is the Firefox Command button that includes tasks like print the page, send a link and exit. A useful addition would be the standard minimize, maximize and exit icons in the upper right corner of the browser window. At this time, it's a Command button function, but oversights like this one are typical of beta versions.
"Recently modern browsers have been transitioning to placing tops on top, and that decision isn’t arbitrary, it isn’t about fashion," Mozilla's Faaborg said. "The change to placing tabs on top isn’t about one browser versus another browser, it’s about the evolution of the Web as a platform."
HD video with HTML5
Video support has evolved as well and the new Firefox 4 offers HTML5 support, a next generation programming language for Web sites that can integrate video without a third party plugin like Adobe Flash.
Firefox is best known for its dizzying array of more than 6000 add-ons that users have downloaded 2 billion times. Thankfully, Firefox 4 Beta 1 introduces an improved Add-ons Manager accessible from Firefox Command dropdown that displays a list of all current add-ons and options to disable or enable from this menu.
Firefox 4 Beta includes the feedback add-on for this testing version, which will be removed when the final version is released in the fall.