Thursday, 11 November 2010 09:33

Time to try Firefox 4.0 beta 7

By

Firefox 4.0 beta 7 is only a beta, but it's "stable and safe to use for daily web browsing" according to Mozilla officials.


Sometimes a version number bump seems like overkill when you look at what's changed. But Firefox 4.0 implements a boatload of improvements and new features.

Beta software isn't for everyone, but according to Mozilla officials, work on Firefox 4.0 has reached the stage where the newly released beta 7 "is considered to be stable and safe to use for daily web browsing, though the features and content may change before the final product release." Despite that rider, it seems that beta 7 is feature complete.

The main drawback at this time is that not all add-ons have been tested for compatibility.

As usual, the release notes include lists of what's new, known issues and more, but here are some of the highlights.

The JägerMonkey JavaScript engine delivers improved speed. According to people who worry about milliseconds, performance in this area is significantly improved over beta 6, making Firefox 4.0 one of the fastest browsers. Other sources of speed improvements include graphics hardware acceleration for some operations on Windows and Mac OS X.

What else is new? Please read on.




Compared with previous Firefox versions, 4.0 incorporates several new technologies and APIs. These include WebGL, OpenType, HTML5 Forms, Firefox Sync (synchronise Firefox across multiple devices), CSS Transitions, HTML5 WebM video, Websockets, and touch support (Windows 7 only)

User interface changes include tabs on top, app tabs (provision for permanent tabs for services such as webmail and music streaming), a combined stop/reload button (like it or not, that seems to be popular among browser developers).

Known issues include slower than usual operation for some users of Twitter and Gmail. plus the inability of beta 7 to work on PowerPC-based Macs.

Beta 7 was released nearly two months behind schedule. The release of beta 8 is still listed for November 12, which now must be extremely unlikely, bringing into question November 26 and December 12 for betas 9 and 10.

If the proposed spacing is achieved, that would push beta 8 to mid January and the release candidates to the first half of March rather than "early 2011" as timetabled.

Firefox 4.0 beta 7 is available here.

 


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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