A Look at Firefox 4 Beta 1

A few days ago Mozilla released the first beta of Firefox 4. Though, it is still pretty early in the development cycle, I like what I’m seeing so far in Firefox 4 beta 1. So far, they’ve updated the user interface, made several changes to the underlying HTML rendering system called Gecko, 64-bit Firefox binaries and there is now support for WebM. Of course there are still things to come in later Firefox 4 releases, and I’ll write about such releases when the time comes. This “look” was run on Windows XP x64 SP2 with the 32-bit version of Firefox.

When you first start Firefox, you’ll notice several things. For one, tabs are now on top (though you may set it so that tabs are on the bottom, like older Firefox releases). There is also the newer, more modern theme. Surprisingly, I like it.

On Vista/7 systems, the default UI is the “Firefox bar”. It can still be used on 2000/XP systems, and looks fairly good even if it is not being used in its intended environment. As always, you can always disable it and use the classic UI on Vista/7 systems.

Currently, Firefox 4 gets 97/100 on the acid 3 test, while Firefox 3.6.6 gets 94/100. By the time Firefox is officially released, it will get 100/100 on the test. Though, that is not as important as many of the other HTML5 improvements in the beta. Firefox now supports WebM video, which will surely be more popular thanks to YouTube’s encoding of all videos to WebM.

Firefox 3 introduced the current add-on system. It does what it needs to do and does it well. Firefox 4 introduces a new add-on system that no longer opens a dialog box. Now, the add-on system is interfaced with in a tab. It does the same job as Firefox 3.x’s system and it keeps with the new UI’s “theme”.

Not to mention that Firefox 4 supports hardware acceleration for videos current. Though later releases should expand this to in-page content. Don’t worry though, Firefox 4 supports this through DirectX 9 on Windows (so it will be compatible with Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7). Firefox 4 also supports Direct2D (which is available in Windows 7 and the “Platform Update” in Vista). IE9 does the same thing, and performance should be superior with Firefox 4. There are other new features that I’ll discuss in the final review of Firefox 4.

All in all, I feel that right now Firefox 4 is an excellent browser. Even in the pre-release state that it is (though I have yet to have it crash on me). Unless I find a serious problem with it, I will probably use it until the final vesion of Firefox 4 is released.

EDIT: Firefox 4 Beta 2 and now Beta 3 are released. As I said, I will post a final review when Firefox 4 is released.

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