Firefox 29: New Features at a Glance

Earlier today, Mozilla officially released Firefox 29 for desktop as well as mobiles. Although the rapid release cycle has accustomed us to small incremental changes, this release contains several significant user-facing changes to make it interesting. Mozilla has made a determined effort to make Firefox more consistent, intuitive, and personal. This release is the culmination of more than two years of work on project Australis. Here are the most noticeable changes in Firefox 29 for desktop.

New Theme

The pillars of Australis are: consistency, precision and refinement. Mozilla has attempted to evolve and polish the existing user interface, while eliminating idiosyncrasies, and unifying various aspects of design including borders, colours, and spacing. With this re-skinning, Firefox now looks even more like Chrome, but that’s not really a bad thing. The Firefox button has been nixed in favour of a menu button in the address bar. The tab bar has been redesigned so that the active tab is now more prominent, while the others recede into the background. However, unlike Chrome and Opera, Firefox has retained the separate ‘Search Bar’.

Firefox-29

New Menu

The new menu bar houses all the commonly used options, but looks a lot cleaner and is undoubtedly a lot easier to use. It’s also entirely customizable, but I’ll discuss that a little later.

Firefox-Menu

New Bookmarks Manager

Once again, taking a leaf out of Chrome’s book, Firefox has simplified its bookmarks manager. Now you can open, delete, move and perform most of the stuff you want to do with your bookmarks without having to open the Bookmarks Library.

Firefox-Bookmarks

Customization Mode

One of the many reasons, I used to love the old Opera was the flexibility of its user interface. While Opera ditched all of its strengths during the migration to the Chromium engine (Blink), Firefox is building on top of its solid foundation. Firefox always had a ‘Customize Toolbar’ option, but it was pretty limited. Firefox 29 replaces that with an extremely powerful and intuitive customization mode. Once in this mode you can easily add or remove buttons from the address bar as well as the menu. Buttons available include the ones that are bundled with Firefox, as well as the ones added by extensions.

Firefox-Customization-Mode

Sync with Firefox Account

The Firefox Sync option has passed through many iterations. With Firefox 29, you get the ability to set up Firefox Sync by creating a Firefox account. All you need to create a Firefox account is to enter your email address and set a password. This is a lot simpler than the previous mechanism which forced you to use a random sequence of characters as your identification.

Firefox-Account

Of course, these five are the biggest and the most visible changes in Firefox 29. There are a bunch of other changes including a new Gamepad API and multiple developer oriented enhancements. Firefox 29 is undoubtedly a major step forward for the browser, which was once dubbed as the ‘Internet Explorer killer’. However, it might have to move faster than it has in the recent past if it hopes to catch up with Chrome – the current market leader.

[ Download Firefox ]

Lock Down Your Facebook and Google Accounts with Privacyfix

Way back in 2010, just as the controversy surrounding Facebook’s Open Graph was exploding, we had reviewed a nifty bookmarklet called ReclaimPrivacy that could automatically scan your Facebook settings and highlight areas of concern. Recently I came across a Firefox and Chrome extension called PrivacyFix, which does the same thing, but better.

As soon as you install the extension, it will scan your currently-logged-in Facebook and Google accounts, as well as your browser cookies to identify privacy threats. Once it finishes scanning, you will see a neat report, which highlights potential areas of concern. Privacyfix explains each of the identified issues, and assists you in fixing them.

Privacy-Fix-Facebook-Privacy-Settings-Recommendation

Privacy Fix also maintains a database of popular websites that track and retain user data. For websites with an opt-out policy it offers to send a mail requesting to opt-you out. Additionally, it can delete existing tracking cookies, and block tracking cookies from being placed in the future.

Privacy-Fix-Facebook-Privacy-Settings-Configuration

Privacyfix is a simple, hassle-free solution that goes a long way towards avoiding accidental privacy breaches on social networks. Both Facebook and Google offer great privacy tools. Unfortunately, they are either difficult to find, or too confusing for most users. By automatically identifying and highlighting potential issues, Privacyfix makes things easier for the user. It’s a tool that even your parents could use with confidence. Go ahead and download it. There is no reason not to.

Privacy-Fix-Health-Bar

[ Download Privacyfix ]

Firefox For Android Gets A Major Update; Brings New UI, Flash Support

We already knew that Firefox for Android was expected to get a huge update. Last week, Mozilla has teased us about the upcoming update on Twitter. Now, the company went ahead and launched the latest version of its popular browser, Firefox for Android v14.0. Mozilla has been beta testing Firefox for Android for the last few months. Now, the company has finally moved this browser out of the beta status.

Mozilla claims that Firefox for Android is significantly faster than the stock browser that ships on Android smartphones. The latest update brings significant performance improvements, personalized start page, faster start-up, better text readability and much more. It also supports Adobe Flash, which allows you to check out your favorite videos on the go. The most notable feature of this update is its re-designed UI and a new personalized start page. Check out the complete changelog below.

Changelog:

  • Faster start-up and page load times.
  • Support for Adobe Flash.
  • Significant performance advancements.
  • The user interface has been completely re-designed with a new Awesome Screen.
  • New personalized Start Page with top sites and tabs from last time.
  • Better text readability through font size inflation.
  • Tap-to-play is default for plugins.
  • Google searches now utilize HTTPS.
  • New panning/zooming architecture implemented for better touch responsiveness.
  • Updated minimum system requirements to Android 2.2+ for optimized experience.

Apart from these amazing features, the new Firefox comes with enhanced privacy options with features such as Do Not Track, Master Password, HTTP Strict Transport Security and more. The Firefox for Android also allows you to synchronize bookmarks, passwords, history and open tabs from all of your other devices.

If you have previously used the Firefox on your Android device, then I’m sure, you might have been disappointed with the poor memory management and lack of flash in the browser. However, the latest version is definitely worth a try. To download the new Firefox for Android, search “Firefox” on the Google Play Store or head over to this page.

Mozilla Shows Firefox For Windows 8 Tablets But Don’t Look Now

Mozilla announcing plans to do a Metro version of Firefox for Windows 8 tablets was received with optimism. The browser has a steady community despite Google’s Chrome replacing it in the hearts of most techies. Yesterday, Ed Bott at ZDNet shared Mozilla’s progress on Firefox Metro. As it turns out, what Mozilla showed wasn’t the final design so I’m being told not to judge them. In his status update blog post, Mozilla engineer Brian Bondy elaborates on where Firefox Metro is:

  • Integration with Share Charm to share a page with any application (What are Charms?)
  • Support for Metro Snap
  • Search Charm integration: if Firefox Metro is your default browser and you enter a URL in the Search Charm, the page will be loaded

Bondy says work on the UI and experience has not started. For Mozilla, supporting Metro in Windows 8 is important since:

If a browser is default on Metro, it will also be default on the Desktop.

If a browser does not support Metro, it is seriously at risk of losing the default browser status, and therefore significant market share.

Here’s what was shown:

When I saw the screenshots I was reminded of Windows 3.0. Here’s why:

Metro is a design language and there are only two ways a company can differentiate their browser from Intern Explorer 10:

  1. Features
  2. Design
It will be interesting to see how Mozilla achieves differentiation.

http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/taouu/html/ch02s08.html

Microsoft Allots Special Status to Web Browsers in Windows 8, Google Confirms Metro Version of Chrome is Under Development

Microsoft, which has been making a lot of noise about the “no-compromise” development mantra of Windows 8, has been forced to make another compromise. Realizing that the new WinRT APIs are too restrictive for modern web browsers, Microsoft has created a special application class for web browsers.

nullWinRT or Windows Runtime is the new programming model that Metro apps will be using. WinRT applications can be developed using Visual C#, C++ etc. as well as web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. WinRT is a sandboxed API that is more secure and power efficient than the classical Win32 API. The expectation is that WinRT will go a long way towards solving Windows’ malware problem. Unfortunately, Microsoft has already been forced to make compromises for the sake of practicality.

Windows Phone, which has received widespread critical acclaim, has had a very visible influence on Windows 8. Unfortunately, not everything that works in a smartphone is conducive to a desktop OS. The restrictive nature of Windows Phone has deterred developers such as Opera from supporting the platform. No one made a big fuss about it since Microsoft has a fairly small smartphone market share. However, if Windows 8 were to do the same thing, anti-trust proceedings would be all but certain. Moreover, Microsoft itself executes Internet Explorer Metro with elevated privileges.

The solution proposed by Microsoft is far from ideal, but compromises never are. The Metro version of a browser will be dependent on the classical version. Hence, a user will have to download and install the browser through a classical installer package. This means that third party web browsers won’t be available in the Windows Store. This is a fairly significant limitation, since ARM devices will only support the new Metro interface, and sideloading of apps will be disabled. Another restriction is that only the browser that the user sets as default will be able to run in the new Metro mode.

Firefox had already confirmed that it intends to release a Metro-fied edition. Now, a Google rep has informed Mashable that Chrome for Windows 8 is also under development. “Our goal is to be able to offer our users a speedy, simple, secure Chrome experience across all platforms, which includes both the desktop and Metro versions of Windows 8,” the rep said. “To that end we’re in the process of building a Metro version of Chrome along with improving desktop Chrome in Windows 8 such as adding enhanced touch support.”