Firefox 13 - a review of sorts


Updated: June 23, 2012

By now, even your grandmother is using Firefox 13, so belated is my little review here. But it's only been about two weeks since it was birthed, and I have let everyone else get the first-story first-click glory. Now, I will give you a very reasonable tour of the latest release.

Is it important enough to merit a separate article, you may ask? Well, the significance and scope of change is definitely less than what it used to be in the era of longer-term major number editions, but the particular version comes with some useful tricks. Firefox 13 is a gradual upgrade, worth its own little space in the blogosphere. Follow me.

Firefox 13 teaser

New Tab thingie

You've seen this in Opera and Chrome for a while now. When you try to open a new tab, instead of a blank canvas, you get a sort of a dial page, with normally nine tabs for your recently or most visited tabs shown. The preview acts as a reminder and a quick shortcut menu. Firefox 13 now has this one too, because we all know new things = progress.

It looks like something like this; screenshot from the latest Fedora.

New Tab feature

This feature could be interesting, although it introduces privacy problems. Because if you just recently visited Aussie Hussies, you don't want it showing up in your collection when a colleague pops by for a visit and you open a new tab. You can disable the feature through about:config, browser.newtabpage.enabled, set to false.

Disable New Tab

Moreover, for some reason, the tab previews seem to be aligned to the right. This is also true in the Windows version, so it's not a Linux thing or a Fedora thing. But for those with a gift of OCD, it's a hurtful placement.

Update: there's an even easier of way of enabling and disabling the New Tab feature. When you open a new tab, you will notice a small nine-squares grid icon in the top right corner, just below the Bookmarks bar. If you click on it, it will in turn toggle on and off the New Tab dial. No need for burrowing into the configuration. Thanks Geoff for this tip!

Toggle New Tab

About:home

Speaking of about feature, there's another called about:home. If you visit this page, which could potentially be your homepage, you get a very distinctive functionality; a very dominant Google search, plus links to your most popular items, like Downloads, Bookmarks, History, Add-ons, etc. Quite useful, if you ask me.

About home

You can also configure Sync, check your settings and restore your previous browsing session. In a way, using about:home makes things easier for you, as you need not use the address bar, the search box or the system menu for most of the common tasks, nor do you need to set Google or another search provider as your homepage. You can get all the desired functions from a single, elegant web page.

Moreover, according to official rumors, this page will serve as a portal for an upcoming Mozilla app market, which should probably introduce a handful of goodies to users, most likely in the mobile segment.

Reset feature

You can also restore your browser to a default configuration. Again, this is accessible by going to another about page, this time about:support. However, I found the Reset button to be present only in Windows and not the Linux version, either Fedora or Mint.

This feature is similar to creating a new profile, but this task has never been quite easy for most people, so now they have a simpler way of doing, even though using any of the special about pages is very geeky.

Reset

Speed and whatnot

Firefox 13 also promises to be faster. But despite some fancy names of technologies mentioned and used, I cannot see any improvement, since my browser is totally optimized already. And my environment is as good as it can be. If you are coping with a slow browser, then you should take a look at my two articles:

Slow browsers

Browser speed benchmarks

Anyhow, multiple tabs, especially when you're recovering an existing session with tons of open sites, are loaded on demand. In other words, not until you switch to the relevant page will the server be queries for an up-to-date and refreshed information. This should speed up browser startup times and reduce CPU and network hogging, especially if you tend to save your session and use the New Tab option.

Overall, not a bad choice of spreading traffic load about, allowing people with little to no understanding of how things work to feel their browser is snappier and more responsive, so all in all, not a bad choice by far.

As to rumored crashes and regressions, none of that here. Firefox 13 is running fast and true on Pangolin, its cousin Mint Maya, as well the earlier mentioned Fedora and Windows, so all is well.

Conclusion

Now did I miss anything that no one else hasn't told you already? Notice the triple negation, boom, gotcha. Seriously, you've read this before, but not as wittily, eloquently or with as many fine screenshots, so you win if you managed to get all the way to this paragraph and be reading it right now.

Anyhow, in terms of sheer usefulness, Firefox 13 is quite a good release. It somewhat reminds me ofFirefox 10 ESR, the long term release for businesses. It has enough unique and good stuff to be labeled a major release. Overall, it's working as expected. If you are as disciplined as I am when it comes to maintaining a sane computing environment, you probably will not see any major changes in memory usage or page rendering. For others, the expected improvements might be a breath of fresh air. All in all, jolly good.

Cheers.

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