Being that Firefox 4 Beta 1 was released, we decided to see how it runs under Windows XP. Even as Microsoft has left XP in the dust, it still is a popular choice for netbooks and low budget laptops.
The major change to the user interface is the new Firefox button. Aside from the general items listed under File, the Firefox button includes a “Customize” menu which allows you to change the positioning of the tabs, and whichever toolbars you’d like to show up.
We noticed under Windows XP, the title bar takes the top most position instead of a blank space as shown in the Vista/7 screenshots. Opera 10.60 uses a similar style, but completely disables the title bar. We hope designers will change the UI so it can become similar to that of Vista/7.
We also found our first graphical glitch where the Firefox button is overlapping the forward and back buttons. Certainly this would be fixed by the time the product releases. This bug occurs when no tabs are open.
Mozilla added a new graphical touch for tab loading. Now it displays a countdown timer in the form of a clock subtle flashes informing you that the page is still loading. Another feature with tabs is the use of the awesome bar for tab switching. You can type a keyword, url, or phrase and then click to switch to an already open tab on the fly.
The next major change in the user interface is the Add-ons page. Instead of listing each add-on in a conveniently small window, the page takes up the entire window. We would prefer designers to modify the Add-ons page as a sidebar so that we can at least view webpages while changing settings.
Obviously not all plugins are supported for Firefox 4 beta 1. Yet that might change in the upcoming weeks. On our system we found the plugins; NoScript, Rainbow, Web of Trust, and FlashGOT to be fully compatible with Firefox 4. You can check to out additional Firefox 4 plugins at Firefox add-ons.
Feedback And User Studies
Originally the term “Beta” for computer software meant testing programs for hours and hours while giving feedback through bug reports. Now that term has socially devolved into just using software before it is released to the general public. Firefox is bringing back the true purpose of “Beta” by having slightly intrusive popups asking you to give feedback.
Users can optionally fill out a survey about their experiences with the program. User studies are also conducted to test out specific portions of the software. The results of that data are shown for everyone to see. You can of course disable all feedback and studies by clicking the new Feedback button > All your user studies > Settings > and uncheck everything under notification.
For the general public people will be completely oblivious to the changes dubbed “under the hood” that helps the browser run faster and safer. For impact on computer performance, task manager displayed 104,000 K memory usage when 2-3 tabs were open. We noted one crash which occurred when trying to display a CSS3 demo page.
There are still more features to be released in the upcoming months. One feature we’re excited to see is account management but details are slim. So we’ll see you next time for Firefox 4 Beta 2.
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