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Impressions of Firefox 4

May 24, 2011 | Tags: , | Leave a comment

I’m one of those people who subscribe to the idea, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which is why I was a bit hesitant to install Firefox 4. But after a month of using the new Gecko 2.0 based web browser, it’s left such a positive impression on me that I’ve been inspired to write about it here. Considering how often I’ve been updating this lately, that’s saying something.

First of all, the layout is much nicer. At first my initial thoughts were along the lines of “This looks cool, but I miss the old layout.” Now, after using it for a month, the new layout feels so much more natural and breathable than that of its predecessor. They’ve really slimmed down the screen real estate of many GUI elements such that more of the Firefox window is used for viewing web pages instead of providing visual scaffolding for the application. There’s a fine line when striving for a clean, minimalist design without becoming too sparse and sacrificing usability or too abstract as to render the user clueless about where to find things. Firefox 4, in my opinion, has successfully identified and positioned itself right on the edge of that line.

Managing extensions, plugins, and other add-ons is easier with Firefox 4 now that they are all displayed in a single tab along with their options. Even better is the fact that you can install add-ons without restarting Firefox. I especially like how userscripts have their own section in the add-ons tab and are now easier than ever to manage.

Everything I’ve said so far is nice and all, but the main reason I’m so excited about Firefox 4 is tab groups. I am often working on several projects simultaneously, so it’s easy for my browser to become cluttered with tabs related to each project and mixed around in a jumbled mess on the top of my screen. With tab groups, I can organize these tabs into topical groups and easily switch between them with Ctrl+Shift+E (or for those of who who don’t use the keyboard, by clicking the tab group icon on the top right).

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Once you are in the tab group view, you can search tabs by simply typing. So, suppose I need to find the tab with that jQuery documentation from earlier. I just type Ctrl+Shift+E, followed by “jquery” and Enter, and *BAM* the tab is now open in front of me! Overflowing with excitement, I get the urge to blog about my experience, so I type Ctrl+Shift+E “qiguang” Enter, and *BAM* I’m back here again! It’s almost as good as those days when we checked email on telnet with Pine. (If you got that reference, mad props to you.)

Conclusion: Firefox 4 is highly recommended, get it now!

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