Firefox 4: Paying GUI Homage To Chrome?


But this is somewhat of an illusion. The title and menu bars in Firefox 4 beta 1, released this week, are combined into a single, translucent bar that merges with the browser tabs.

Perhaps that was Mozilla’s way of making tabs more prominent without actually stealing Google’s Chrome GUI design, in which tabs are the top-most objects that rest against the window’s upper edge. After all, if the page’s title is displayed in the tab, who needs a title bar?

Also misleading about the like-colored top region of Firefox 4 windows is that they still can’t be dragged around except by grabbing the very top, where the bar is/was/is.

It just seems weird -- like it was made to look different just for the sake of looking different. Compare this to developers who “think different.” On Mac OS X, windows (including those of Firefox 4) can be moved by grabbing any part of the top bar, a function of the operating system, not the app.

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Below the title/menu/tab bar in the Windows version is a lighter region that’s home to navigation and bookmarks. The release notes indicate that the Mac version also can display tabs above the address bar, but suggest not to because “it really doesn’t look good.” We agree.

Aside from v4’s cosmetic changes, what’s really different might not be so easily seen.

Firstly, it’s extremely stable. Testers downloaded and installed Mac OS X and Windows versions of the beta 1 software and found installation to be fast and easy.

Not only did Firefox 4 import all bookmarks, history, plug-ins and extensions, it also resumed the Firefox 3.6 session we had to abandon to launch version 4. Not too shabby. Testers browsed extensively, opened numerous tabs, ran videos and other media.

As for standards support, Firefox 4 performed extremely well for a first public beta. It successfully ran all of 3 to 5 words go hereRemy Sharp’s HTML 5 demos on both platforms, including Flash-free video playback, in-browser and desktop-to-browser drag-and-drop and offline detection. The beta also delivered an Acid3 test. While 100/100 is expected, 97 ain’t bad for a beta. Testers ran Acid3 on Chrome 5 (100/100) and IE 6 (21/100).

Also notable is that add-ons on the Mac OS X side now run out-of-process, meaning that if one crashes, it doesn’t take the whole browser with it -- a first for the Mac version. Testers also checked Bugzilla for unresolved bugs, and found just a few, all minor.

Over all, the CRN Test Center was impressed with he speed and stability of Firefox 4 beta 1. We'll continue using it, and look forward to its release early next year.