I have been working with the latest builds of Firefox 4 for the last two months. The browser has changed tremendously, both interface wise but also under the hood. The interface changes will likely split the Firefox user base. This article is for users who prefer the "old" interface and way of working the web browser. It looks at each change and offers alternatives or options to undo it. That obviously depends on the change at hand, and there may be changes that cannot be undone at all.
Lets start with a look at the new interface of the web browser:
Firefox 3 users should see differences right away. The Firefox / Minefield button at the top, tabs on top of the address bar, new icons in the header, no page title information in the top toolbar and no status bar. Other changes become only visible after working with the browser for some time. Link hover information are now displayed at the right side of the address bar, and not in the status bar. There is also a new add-on manager and the Panorama feature.
The Firefox button has replaced the whole menubar. It displays access to several menubar items but not all of them.
As you can see, the menu has been reduced, and a lot of options have been removed in the process. Others have been nested into menus. To spawn a new window users would have to move the mouse over the arrow at the New Tab entry and select the opening New Window option from the selection. The menu items are clickable and have an arrow that leads to more options, which could be highly confusing to some users in the beginning.
It is possible to revert to the old Firefox menu. The fastest way of switching to the old Firefox menu is to click the Minefield button, move the mouse over the arrow next to Options and click on Menu Bar. This removes the Minefield / Firefox button and displays the standard File menu again with all its entries. A side effect of this is that the title bar is displaying the page title again.
Some users prefer their tabs below the address bar. Could be because they are used to this, or that they want to run an add-on that uses multiple rows for tabs or that they prefer quicker access to the tabs than the address bar.
A click on View > Toolbars > Tabs On Top moves the tabs below the address bar. The View menu is obviously only available if the Firefox / Minefield button has been removed. Users with the button need to click the button, move the mouse over the arrow next to Options and click the Tabs On Top option there.
The status bar is missing in Firefox 4. The so called Add-on Bar has been created as a replacement. The new toolbar is not active by default. Users who run add-ons that place icons in the status bar area need to activate the Add-on bar so that the add-on icons and information are displayed. This is again done by clicking on View > Toolbars > Add-On Bar if the old menu is shown in the browser, or Minefield / Firefox > arrow next to options > Add-On Bar if the single button menu is displayed.
The status bar / add-on bar is not displaying link destinations when the mouse hovers over a link in the browser. These information are now displayed in the address bar instead.
That works for short web addresses but is problematic as the space is limited. It happens that the current url is cut off to make enough room for the link destination url. And the link destination is not displayed fully as well if the space is not sufficient. Take a look at the following example.
Both urls are not displayed fully anymore. There does not seem to be an option or switch to move the link destination information from the address bar to the status bar. There is however the add-on Status 4 Evar (full review at Firefox 4, Display Link Destinations In The Add-On Bar) which can display the link information in the new Add-on bar. The information are still displayed in the address bar as well though.
Panorama is a new feature that adds tab management capabilities to Firefox 4. It is triggered by the the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-e, by pressing the Group your tabs button in the Firefox tabbar or by clicking on View > Tab Groups.
There is no option to disable Panorma at this point. Why would you want to disable it? See Please Mozilla, Let Me Disable Firefox Panorama for pointers.
Some users want to change the hotkey with which Panorama is triggered. Sandeep left a comment in Many Companies Do Not Seem To Care Anymore mentioning that the Firefox add-on keyconfig can change the key.
Firefox 4 will continue to be my browser of choice. I do however see an alarming trend that the developers try to change features that have been working for years or even decades. It is their product and they have the right to do that, but it would help if they would add options to undo and modify the changes to avoid alienating part of their user base.
Have you tested a Firefox 4 version? What's your verdict so far?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.