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First Look: Firefox reborn in version 4

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First Look: Firefox reborn in version 4

3:56 /

Firefox 4 is here. In the works for nearly a year, the next-gen browser debuts a new look, new features like Sync, and competitive browsing speeds. Check out all that fiery and foxy goodness in this First Look video.

-Firefox 4 took a heck of a long time to get here, going through 12 betas and 1 release candidate over 10 months. It almost felt like a quadriplegic turtle sometimes. But now, Mozilla has yoinked the safety net and pushed its next generation browser out to the world. Let's see what it's got. First off, there's the interface. Firefox's new look is most similar to Opera 11's. The menu bar has been squished into this button with the options spread across 2 columns. Nearly all the sub menus have been redesigned, although the hot keys remain the same. So, it's easy to pull up your favorites. Tabs are now on top by default, although you can change that under options, which now contains the old view items. To the left of the location bar, you've got your forward and back buttons. Right click to see your immediate history. Next to the bookmark star, the stop and refresh buttons have been combined into one, while the home button now resides next to the search box. Your bookmarks have been condensed into this button, which disappears when you activate the bookmark bar. On the right of the tab bar, there's a drop down to see a list of your open tabs and access the tab groups feature originally called panorama. To further the minimalist approach, Firefox hides the status bar by default. Because this is Firefox, you can tweak nearly all of these design changes, and we'll cover that in a How To video. One thing that's noticeably missing is a convenient to reopen closed tabs, although that is available from the history menu. Otherwise, I found the interface to be well designed and as easy to use as Chrome's. Enough about the look, let's talk about what it does. The biggest new feature in Firefox 4 is sync. It started off as an add-on and was exceptionally rough and often deleted data. Mozilla has thankfully worked out all the kinks and now it smoothly syncs your bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history, and tabs, not only to other computers, but also to your Android version of Firefox. It doesn't yet support syncing add-ons though. I mentioned the tab groups already, which allows you to corral your piles of opened tabs and label them to stay organized. There's also App Tabs, which reduces the width of the tab to its favicon and pins the tab permanently on the left. The tab will glow when updated, a useful indicator for things like webmail. And when you start typing into the location bar, one of the search choices will be related open tabs so you can quickly switch to an existing tab. The add-on manager has been completely overhauled and now includes support for restartless add-ons. While these are a small selection of the thousands of add-ons available, expect the numbers to grow quickly as Mozilla aims to compete with Chrome, Opera, and Safari, all of which support restartless add-ons. One nifty little improvement to the add-ons is the addition of a hot key to pull them up: ctrl + shift + A. The bookmarks and history menus have been redesigned, and now the hot keys open them by default as side bars. Go through the menu button to get the full menus. Under the hood, there are tons of changes. The biggest is full hardware acceleration across all platforms, which means that Firefox leverages your graphics card to speed up complex rendering. You'll see dramatic HTML 5 support including for hi-def web and video, and Mozilla has also taken steps to limit some of the most troublesome and common security threats known as code injections. Performance-wise, you ought to see Firefox 4 up there with Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. For full benchmarks, check out my review of Firefox 4 at download.com. With your first look at Mozilla Firefox 4, I'm Seth Rosenblatt for CNET.

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