First Firefox 4 beta arrives with tabs on top

Between Chrome, Opera, and this latest pre-release version of Firefox, web browsers are starting to look more alike than ever. Mozilla put up the initial public Firefox 4 beta late yesterday, giving folks their first hands-on look at the new browser and its revamped user interface. Like Chrome and its other followers, Firefox 4 puts tabs at the very top of the window behind a translucent frame and does away with the menu bar. The result looks like so:

 

Firefox was admittedly overdue for a visual overhaul, having dragged along the exact same UI since 2008. For folks who don’t like the tabs-on-top look, Mozilla offers a tabs-below-the-address-bar toggle via the big, orange "Firefox" menu. Too bad Firefox hasn’t embraced Chrome’s all-purpose address bar and still includes a separate Google search field. Otherwise, though, one could almost mistake this for Chrome—or newer version of Opera, which actually look almost identical to the new Firefox by default.

Firefox 4 is about more than just a snazzy new UI, of course. Feature highlights include a new add-ons manager, support for Google’s WebM video format, support for newer web technologies like CSS3, and crash protection, so that plug-ins like Adobe Flash shouldn’t take the browser down when they fail. Performance has improved, too. Firefox 4 beta 1 completes the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in 658 ms on my system, a nice improvement over Firefox 3.6 (1001 ms), although still not quite as good as the latest version of Chrome (344 ms).

Comments closed
    • dashbarron
    • 9 years ago

    No 64-bit?

    • Krogoth
    • 9 years ago

    Internet browsers are serious business!

      • Skrying
      • 9 years ago

      You’re still on this? Yes, they’re one of the biggest issues in software. Functionality and performance are huge deals when every major company who deals with the web is looking to use browsers as a a platform for applications.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 9 years ago

      Web browsers are what might eventually bring down Windows, thats pretty major.

    • Fighterpilot
    • 9 years ago

    Fast Dial doesn’t seem to work with it…so back to FF 3.66.

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    Tried the beta but too many addon not compatible and having some kind of font problems… i think having separate boc for search and navigation is good because i would set the navigation box to load in current tab and search box to load in a new tab in the background…

    My wishlist for FF4…
    -more vertical space ( less bar at the top and auto-hide status bar that doesnt resize the screen)
    -an option for tree style tab at the side ( either left or right ).. graphical tab like opera would be fine since i wont have to use addon like tab scope anymore
    -i hope they wont get rid of themes, like chrome did…
    -addon such as scrapbook should be integrated… it’s much easier for me to look for tutorials when it’s saved and managed locally… is it possible to save a webpage as pdf?.. it would be great i think..
    -Brief is a great rss addon, i hope they can integrate it too..
    -Integrated Speed Dial

    • aspect
    • 9 years ago

    I wish they would push the tabs even further up merging it with menu, close, minimize/maximize.

    • bjm
    • 9 years ago

    Why not just go all the way and move that eye-sore orange “Firefox” tab-thingy that sits above the tabs to the URL bar as a Firefox logo? If you’re going to copy Chrome UI, do it all the way!

      • Ihmemies
      • 9 years ago

      There’s nothing like that at least in the newest win32 minefield build. In fact the browser looks nearly same as 3.0.19, except that menu bar & address bar are glass styled (not a big deal).

      • Farting Bob
      • 9 years ago

      How is not having a close button useful?

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    They have some work to do, apparently. Tabs weren’t on top for me, they were below the menu bar. Then again I move bookmarks to navigation bar to save on vertical pixels.

    When the menu bar is hidden you can’t click on the address bar or search field to type anything and have it stay showingg{?}g

    • FuturePastNow
    • 9 years ago

    Fine, then I’ll just use Chrome instead. Firefox 3.6 has been way too crashy, anyway.

      • HisDivineShadow
      • 9 years ago

      Welcome to a better browser. Your new Google overlords would like you to know they have added your Buzz account to their public search engine. As we speak, federal agents are coming for you for that thing you did and gmailed about that time when you were drunk and talking to that person you know you shouldn’t know but do know anyway and don’t want anyone knowing is in your address book. Someone knows.

      In the meantime, perhaps would you care to click on an adsense ad for Joe’s Discount Lawyers. Rumor has it you may be needing one soon.

      You know why.

    • Goty
    • 9 years ago

    Everyone complaining about the new layout features needs to realized that they are all *[

    • bowman
    • 9 years ago

    Firefox DOES have an all-around address bar, they’ve had it since 3.0 and it’s pretty great.

    The search field is only retained for.. Well, actually I don’t know, I would have thought including Google as the standard search engine was enough for the Google revenues.

      • Farting Bob
      • 9 years ago

      Its probably still there because alot of people who are used to IE expect a seperate search box and dont know that the address bar also acts as one. These people make up the majority of internet users and would be turned away from FF if they thought there wasnt a search box.

    • deathBOB
    • 9 years ago

    I see wasted space. Why not bring the window buttons and menu bar down to the level of the tabs?

    I’m disappointed that they’re emulating one of Chrome’s weakest features. Having the bookmarks menu way over on the upper right corner necessitates an annoying amount of mouse movement for no gain.

    • johnrreagan
    • 9 years ago

    Yeah, yeah “tabs on top” because that matches those hanging folders you see in offices or the little icons on your desktop. Seems like mental gratification to me. I don’t think of hanging folders when I use FF. I like the tabs closer to the window so I don’t have to travel as far to switch.

    • LaChupacabra
    • 9 years ago

    l[

    • Peldor
    • 9 years ago

    r[

      • KarateBob
      • 9 years ago

      Exactly! They’re copying Chrome/Opera, while requiring more mouse movement. Conspiracy by mouse/peripheral companies?

        • Sniper
        • 9 years ago

        The UI is not forced. You can switch it back.

      • Skrying
      • 9 years ago

      Huh? You’re gaining vertical space. That’s a big deal in a world where 16:9 is becoming the normal aspect ratio.

      The tabs on top is also more logically organized. It may not be a big deal to you, the experienced user, but it is a big deal to those who are not as familiar with the interface.

      The old setup was broken. Should it have just remained the same because it was the default for so long?

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 9 years ago

        Firefox <4 had an interface that mostly conformed to the “rules” of generic interfaces; thats not such a bad thing. I get a little annoyed that an increasing number of applications break conventions and make up their own thing, generally hiding detailed controls.

          • Skrying
          • 9 years ago

          So you think even if something is broken it should left alone because it’s what everyone is use to? First, the change from “convention” isn’t that large. Second, the majority of browsers have made the switch that it is a new convention. Third, it’s rooted in sound logic.

          All reasons why the change makes sense and, like with many such cases, the complaints will quickly go away as people learn the changes quicker than they expected.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 9 years ago

            I don’t think the old way is broken. I prefer applications to have menus at the top, some buttons for important things, and then a main work area.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    Yeah acts like Chrome without all of Google’s rooted China-ness. Hey I know, Google was rooted, let’s let Google push out executable code to our computers for fun! whee!

    Is there any way to get the space at the very top used for the address bar and search? That would be perfect in my book. Tab placement doesn’t mean much to me, honestly.

    Did Mozilla copy Microsoft with the happy/sad face feedback systemg{

    • Game_boy
    • 9 years ago

    I don’t want Firefox to look like Chrome. If I wanted Chrome I would download it. Firefox is the last major browser left with a ‘normal’ WinAPI interface (Opera, Chrome, Safari and IE all adopted new looks); I left MS Office for OO.org when they introduced the Ribbon and I’d leave Firefox if they ever remove the option not to do Chrome-tabs or address bar + search box.

    tl;dr: I lament the passing of menu bars.

    • DrCR
    • 9 years ago

    l[

    • Cyco-Dude
    • 9 years ago

    the google search field is redundant; you can just do searches in the address bar. and i agree, that layout could use the space it does more effectively.

      • Meadows
      • 9 years ago

      Not redundant. This way, multiple providers are more obvious, so you can, for example, instantly tell whether you’re doing a Wikipedia or a Bing search instead of a Google one. Because, you know, some people do.

      Besides, how hard can it be to handle it? You need special treatment elsewhere if you can’t do this.

        • PixelArmy
        • 9 years ago

        Put me in the separate address + search fields camp.

        I don’t always use the same search engine and IMO it’s easier/quicker to add search providers and switch between them with the separate search field (IE and FF).

        I use Chrome at work and I have to type the protocol:// to navigate to internal websites otherwise it does a search.

        In rare cases, I do want to use tab to navigate through a page, not turn my address bar into a search field.

        Additionally, it’s not like not having the extra search field is buying me real estate for anything useful. In return for no search, I get an extra long address bar…

        In short, the omni-bar works consistently in a zillion different ways… The times the omni-bar get it wrong are far more annoying than any negligible benefits (if any) it provides me. Though, I admit I don’t know how much of this can be customizable.

          • Meadows
          • 9 years ago

          Indeed. You know why Chrome is different.

    • ronch
    • 9 years ago

    Looking at the screen shot I thought I was looking at Opera. What’s the big deal about Firefox, anyway? Opera brought this style to us years ago.

    • BaconatedGrapefruit
    • 9 years ago

    Their methodology for determining the default location of the tabs was extremely flawed. Basically, they made the right decision for someone who has never used a browser before (and will only use it once), and who can only use their mouse.

    • Farting Bob
    • 9 years ago

    I use chrome on my netbook because its much faster loading and much more real estate at that resolution. But i still use FF on my desktop because of my extensions and im just used to it. Until FF becomes a “bad” browser i wont change that. Chrome is nice for simple browsing but it lacks many options that FF has or can have via an addon.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    Chrome and this new FF could easily waste less space at the top. It’s not a deal breaker or anything, but I don’t understand why they don’t give as much vertical space as possible to the web page, especially in the age of the widescreen a.k.a. the shortscreen montior.

    I’ve pretty much switched to Chrome because of it’s sync feature (I’m sure there’s an add-on for FF which does the same) but primarily because it is a LOT quicker and more responsive on Ubuntu. I don’t know what the matter is with FF on gnu/Linux, but it is definitely, definitely slower and less stable.

      • CasbahBoy
      • 9 years ago

      I’ve actually had some trouble finding a Firefox add-on that syncs to and from the same store that Chrome syncs with. As odd as it sounds, I’d like to continue using Chrome on my desktop, and Firefox on my laptop (I’ve found Firefox to be slightly more compatible for work stuffs.)

        • designerfx
        • 9 years ago

        xmarks will do it – addon for both firefox and chrome

      • Skrying
      • 9 years ago

      There’s multiple sync add-ons for Firefox, including Weave which completely blows away all of the syncing add-ons/browser implementations in terms of what it can sync. That said I’m still using Chrome because…

      … it still uses less vertical space and it’s faster. I’m not exactly sure how else Chrome could use less vertical space. I’m also not sure what your point is with regard to the new Firefox look. It certainly uses considerably less space than the old default Firefox theme.

        • flip-mode
        • 9 years ago

        My point is that I can quickly think of ways to make it use even less vertical space. At least 10 pixels less!

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