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Firefox 4.0 Beta 10

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Firefox has many loyal supporters, and for good reason, as it has always been a dependable browser, but of the three I use regularly, it has also always been the slowest. Not anymore. Firefox 4.0 Beta 10 now offers speed, in addition to the Firefox trademark dependability and flexibility.

The download and installation is very straightforward. If you’ve used previous versions, this will be a walk in the park, as nothing in the download and installation process has changed. You can download this version here [2].

One of the first things I noticed in the new interface was that, by default, the traditional menu (File, Edit, View, History, etc.) isn’t displayed. Although, like the IE9 browser Beta [3], Windows Vista, and Windows 7 operating systems, the traditional menu can be temporarily displayed by hitting the Alt key.

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If you’d like this menu permanently displayed, just click on View>Toolbars and place a check beside Menu Bar, or you can click on the orange Firefox button and follow the steps in the image below, and place a check beside Menu Bar from there. If you choose to keep the traditional menu hidden, basic menu options can also be viewed by clicking the Firefox button.

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The toolbars can be customized by either accessing Toolbar Layout through the Options menu as shown above, or by following the steps below and clicking the Customize button.

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In the Customize Toolbar dialog box, you can add features from the list, by dragging them to the toolbar. It’s also easy to restore the default settings, by simply clicking the Restore Default Set button in the lower right corner.

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The interface resembles IE9 more than anything else, including the sleek translucent window with a large viewing area. Although, unlike Chrome or IE9, it still maintains both a search bar and an address bar.

I’ve installed this on different computers and each originally displayed a slightly different interface. One was translucent, the other was not. Buttons, search bars, and address bars were placed in different locations. I suspect this is a result of previous settings, carried over from earlier versions of Firefox. Fortunately, an easy method for adjusting the interface is available in the Add-ons tab. You can access that several ways. Either through the traditional menu; Tools>Add-ons, or as shown below, or with the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl+Shift+A).

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I prefer the translucent Aero view, which is the Default. Once  the Add-ons Manager is open, click the Appearance tab on the left and check the Default on the right (see below).

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With Firefox Beta, you can now create multiple tab groups, which can then be viewed in Firefox Panorama by clicking the Tab Groups button (the Tab Groups button may have to be added through the Customize Toolbar dialog box described earlier). There, you can reorganize groups and open any group you choose. So, several sites can be conveniently viewed as needed, and then you can return to Panorama to select another group.

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Firefox Sync [11] allows settings to be shared between devices. Follow the steps below to begin the setup.

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With the improvements made in Internet Explorer, with the IE9 Beta, and additional competition from the likes of Chrome and Opera, Firefox still has many challenges to overcome, but this certainly looks like a good first step. If the stable final release is as good as or better than the beta versions, this could be a turning point for Firefox.

Browser usage statistics vary by country and region and, for that matter, by where they are published. However, the median numbers offered by Wikipedia appear to correspond roughly with the numbers provided on most other sites.

Source: Median values from worldwide summary table.

Internet Explorer (44.53%)
Mozilla Firefox (29.56%; Usage by version number)
Google Chrome (12.34%)
Safari (5.80%)
Opera (2.15%)

With the beta releases of both IE and Firefox still so new, it’s hard to say how this will all shake out, but Firefox seems poised for a move up in the rankings.

Firefox has finally developed a browser that equals, or exceeds, the speed of other browsers, making a compelling argument to switch.

If you’d like more details, click here [13]for the release notes.

Note: In March, Mozilla released the final version of Firefox 4 [14], and early indications are that it’s going to be very popular. According to Stat Counter [15], “…it has taken 1.95% of the worldwide Internet browser market…” as opposed to Internet Explorer 9, released earlier, which obtained only 0.87% of the worldwide market.