A look ahead to Firefox 13 which is due to be released this week (from Tuesday June 5th). Unlike some recent versions, Firefox 13 includes major changes and improvements.
New Tab page - The most obvious change and similar to the New Tab in Chrome (and Speed Dial in Opera). The New Tab page is what you see when you open a new tab – it was previously just a blank page but is now designed to get you to your most frequently visited sites as quickly as possible.
When you open a new tab in Firefox 13 it displays up to 9 thumbnail pictures of your most frequently visited web pages – you just click a thumbnail to visit that site.
To pin (or unpin) a website thumbnail to its current position, click the pin icon in the top left of the thumbnail. To delete a website thumbnail from the New Tab page, click the cross in the top right of the thumbnail – your next most visited site will automatically be added to the page.
Tip: if you don’t like this New Tab feature, see my guide on how to change the New tab behavior.
New Home Page – The default Firefox Home Page (the about:home page) now displays several Firefox features at the bottom for easy selection e.g. bookmarks, history, add-ons, settings etc. If you use this default Home Page regularly (e.g. click the ‘Home’ button) you may like these new shortcuts.
Note: if you prefer, you can still set the Home Page to whatever you like e.g. a bookmark or current page or about:blank – via Firefox Menu \ Options \ General tab in the Home Page section.
Reset Firefox button – This is like a ‘factory reset’ button for use if your Firefox installation suffers major problems but you do not want to uninstall and reinstall it completely (which would lose all your saved settings like Bookmarks etc).
Slowness, crashing and other performance issues can be fixed by restoring Firefox to its factory settings. Effectively you get a new installation without losing your personal data. The Reset Firefox button creates a new user profile and migrates (i.e. saves) the following to that new profile:
- Browsing history
- Web form auto-fill information
Everything else is reset to the defaults i.e. you will lose all of the following:
- Add-ons and themes
- Open tabs, windows and tab groups
- Site-specific preferences, search engines, personal dictionary, download history, security device settings, download actions, plugin MIME types, toolbar customizations and user styles
The Reset Firefox button is available from the Firefox Menu \ Help \ Troubleshooting Information tab – or you can just browse straight to it via the about:support page.
The following video explains the Reset Firefox button:
Changes in Firefox 13
Smooth Scrolling – Smooth scrolling is now enabled by default (previously it was optional). It can be very useful if you read a lot of long pages. Without it, when you press the ‘Page Down’ key, the view jumps directly down one page.
With smooth scrolling, it slides down smoothly, so you can see how much it scrolls. This makes it easier to resume reading from where you were before.
Note: if you don’t like Smooth Scrolling you can disable it again via Firefox Menu \ Options \ Advanced \ General in the Browsing section.
SPDY protocol – SPDY is now enabled by default for faster browsing on supported sites – SPDY (Speedy) is a new protocol already supported by many Google services (e.g. Google Search) and Twitter. Support for it is growing amongst other websites.
Restored background tabs – Restored background tabs are not loaded by default – for faster startup.
Previously, if you closed Firefox with open tabs, when you reopened Firefox it would load all those saved tabs at once. For windows with many tabs this caused a delay before you could use Firefox – because you had to wait for each tab to load its content.
Now, Firefox 13 will load only the active tab – the others will not be loaded until you select (click on) them, saving time at startup.
Technical (under the hood) Updates in Firefox 13
- DEVELOPER – 72 total improvements to Page Inspector, HTML panel, Style Inspector, Scratchpad and Style Editor
- DEVELOPER – The column-fill CSS property has been implemented
- DEVELOPER – Experimental support for ECMAScript 6 Map and Set objects has been implemented
- DEVELOPER – Support for the CSS3 background-position property extended syntax has been added
- DEVELOPER – The :invalid pseudo-class can now be applied to the element
- DEVELOPER – The CSS turn <angle> unit is now supported
Firefox 13 Not Supported On Pre-SP2 XP and Windows 2000
The minimum requirement for Firefox 13 is XP SP2 – this shouldn’t be an issue for most XP users who will already have the SP3 update (released in 2008) installed, never mind SP2 dating back to 2004…
Users of Windows 2000 and XP SP1 should update to a more secure operating system (SP2 and SP3 for XP are free updates available from Microsoft) – continuing to use these outdated systems poses a significant security risk. Alternatively, you could switch to the Opera browser (Chrome does not support these outdated operating systems either).
The changes in Firefox 13 are many and varied.
Of the user interface changes, the new Home Page is useful but the New Tab page is sure to generate controversy – some will like it but many will not and argue that if they wanted a Chrome/Opera experience they would switch to those browsers…
The Reset Button is a welcome improvement which should help those with troublesome implementations fix them very easily. SPDY helps speed up supported sites and smooth scrolling can be beneficial. The new method of restoring background tabs lets you use Firefox more quickly, at the expense of later delays loading saved tabs.
As usual, this new version of Firefox will be available to users from June 5th over several days (to avoid overloading Mozilla’s servers) – so don’t worry if you check for updates (via Firefox Menu \ Help \ About Firefox \ Check For Updates) on the day and find there are none available for you yet, just try again a day or two later.