Firefox 4: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Mozilla released the Firefox 4 browser March 22, and I’ve taken it out for a spin. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all good, either. Here are my first impressions.

Firefox 4: Why did they have to make it so ugly?

I have used and recommended Firefox as an alternative to Internet Explorer since way back in 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Firefox). Firefox is inherently more secure than Internet Explorer, far more customizable, and generally faster. Version 4 of the program was released in March, and although there are many good things about it, I have some problems with this version, too.

First, the good news. Firefox 4 is fast. And, it includes some new features that are useful, like Sync, which will keep your history, passwords, and bookmarks synchronized across all your computers and even your smartphone.

In version 4, the Firefox developers made significant changes to the look of the browser. I suppose this is neither good nor bad, but just takes some getting used to. It’s a jolt, though. They’ve hidden the menu bar unless you dig around and turn it back on. They’ve put the tabs at the top of the window, and they’ve crammed all the menu items into one tiny button “for easier access.” (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/features/)

My first reaction after loading the new version: Why did they have to make it so ugly?

Of course, this IS Firefox, so there are many ways to customize it. You can put the tabs back the way they used to be, you can turn on the menu bar, you can customize the toolbar. You can even get an add-on that makes it look just like Firefox 3: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/firefox-3-theme-for-firefox/.

The bad news, for those of us who use Firefox add-ons, is that version 4 breaks a lot of them. Some add-ons work fine in the new version, but others do not, at least not yet. When you upgrade Firefox automatically looks for updates to your add-ons and installs the ones it finds. If it doesn’t find them, Firefox lets you know they’re broken. It’s up to you to find updates or replacements for those. That’s not a big deal for many users, but for some of us who rely on add-ons to help with the work we do, it IS a big deal.

How to get it. How to get rid of it.

Firefox 4 is easy to get. Download it here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/fx/. If you’ve never used Firefox before, go for it. If you don’t like it, just use the Control Panel uninstall procedure to get rid of it.

If you are already a Firefox user and you want to upgrade to the new version, I strongly recommend having a way to go backwards, at least until support for version 3 is over. So before you install the new version, use MozBackup (http://mozbackup.jasnapaka.com/) to backup your current Firefox profile. Then visit FileHippo and download the last version of Firefox 3 (http://www.filehippo.com/download_firefox/ , which is 3.6.16.

Now, if you really hate version 4 you have an easy path back to version 3. Run MozBackup, then download and install Firefox 4. Use it. Customize it. If you still hate it, uninstall it, install the old version, and then run MozBackup to restore your old profile.


Contest ends April 7

Of course it depends on when you read this, but you might still have time to enter the contest for the book giveaway. The contest ends 11:59 PM Pacific Time April 7. Details are in last week’s column, here: http://rlis.com/columns/column293.htm. You could win a print or a digital copy of “Network Your Computers & Devices Step by Step” by Ciprian Adrian Rusen and the 7tutorials Team.


Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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