Firefox 13 What's New

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 27, 2012

About a month ago I highlighted what Mozilla had in store for Firefox 13. The information back then were based on the aurora release channel, and information that Mozilla had posted at that time. Firefox 13 has now been moved to the beta channel where it will stay for the next six weeks before it will become the the stable version of the web browser replacing Firefox 12.

When you look at the changes in Firefox 13.0, you will notice that some that Mozilla aimed to release in the browser version were pushed further down the line, debuting in Firefox 14 or even later instead.

The most obvious change, or changes, are two new pages that Firefox users will come upon when they start the browser for the first time. First the new about:home start page featuring a Google search form and quick access to features and information such as bookmarks, the browsing history, downloads, or a button to the restore previous session.

firefox about-home

The second change is the new blank tab page that Firefox users will notice when they open a blank tab in the browser. This page gets automatically populated with a speed dial feature that is displaying the nine most popular websites based on the user's browsing history. Important websites can be pinned to make them permanently available on the page, and it is furthermore possible to use drag and drop to change the order of pages as well. Firefox users who do not want to use the new feature can disable it with a click on the hide the new tab page button.

One of the main development aims in recent versions of the browser was to improve the browser's responsiveness and performance. A visible feature in this regard is the new tabs on demand feature when sessions are restored on startup. Firefox basically loads the active tab on startup, and not all of the tabs that had been open in the last browsing session. These websites are loaded when the user clicks on the tabs, which speeds up the start of the browser.

The developers have also made progress integrating a new restoration feature in the browser. First code parts were added to Firefox 12, and work continued in Firefox 13. If things go ahead as planned, Firefox users will be able to restore the browser if they notice crashes and other issues with it.

Firefox 13 is also the version of Firefox were a new smooth scrolling feature is integrated in for the first time. Mozilla originally aimed to release the feature in Firefox 12, but it had to be postponed one release. It is possible to modify the scrolling distance of the feature in the about:config of the browser. You need to filter for the parameter toolkit.scrollbox.verticalScrollDistance and change the default value of 3 to a higher value if you want the distance to increase, or a lower value if you want it to decrease. It is still possible to disable the feature in the Firefox options under Advanced > General > Use smooth scrolling.

Some features, like inline autocomplete won't make it into Firefox 13. These features have been moved into Firefox 14 or 15 as of right now.

Have you had the chance to play around with Firefox 13 yet? If so, what is your impression of the browser?


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. A random user said on June 18, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Ok so, how the hell do i disable this new shit?
    If i wanted to see my history i’d click history, not new tab.

    And this new smooth scrolling thing only serves to slow the browser down even more. It was elephantine already, but now it takes up 200MB of ram just to show ONE tab, and crashes much more frequently than before!

    I’m going to switch to chrome if they keep adding useless shit instead of fixing their memory leaks.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm

      You can disable the new tab with a single click on the top right icon on the new tab page. Smooth scrolling can also be disabled in the Firefox preferences.

      1. A random user said on June 18, 2012 at 11:14 pm

        Yeah but it only disables it until you click the icon again.
        I want it disabled permanently.

        The only effective workaround i found was going into about:config and changing browser.newtab.url from about:newtab to about:blank.

  2. Storm said on June 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    I disabled so-called “smooth” scrolling straightaway. I’m guessing it needs a fast machine. Looking through the results of a Google Image search using a mouse scroll wheel was horrible – jerky and hesitant and a very unintuitive feel. The old stepped way was superior because it was predictable.

  3. Andrew said on May 7, 2012 at 12:29 am

    The new tab page is a useless copycat from other browsers (i.e. Chrome). Blaze your own trail – don’t copy broken ideas.

  4. Boiling Mad said on April 28, 2012 at 4:45 am

    How discouraging. I have Google banned from my browser and computer in every way I can and companies like Firefox keep forcing Google spyware upon me. They better provide a way for Google to be disabled or I will be dumping Firefox .

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

      Yes it is possible to change the search engine.

  5. Gary said on April 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    NewTab page is useless if it doesn’t allow display of Recent Bookmarks.

    I mostly run in Private Browsing mode to insure flash cookies etc get deleted when browser closed. Plus just to keep crud from accumulating. But even when I don’t run in Private Browsing, I still find Most Recent a useless feature.

  6. derek said on April 27, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    What about that extension performance tool where we can see if extensions slow down firefox etc. ? As I remember it was going to be included in FF13

  7. Peter (NL) said on April 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Yesterday I had a look onto Firefox 15.0a1 (Nightly channel). The new Home-page looks good to me. The new Tab Page did not work fine. I browsed on several sites, but only from 1 site lots of sections were hold in that new Tab Page. I did also check out the new panel for the Downloads: nice as well. However, it is a pity that Mozilla changed the Forward and Back buttons. As said before: Mozilla Firefox looks more and more a clone of the Opera desktop browser.

  8. Karl Gephart said on April 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I’d sure love to know when Mozilla is going to resolve the memory resource issues. Haven’t heard anything about that in many months.

    1. GS said on April 28, 2012 at 9:27 am

      Most memory bug-fixes don’t end up being front page news, but they’re definitely there.

    2. Ahmad said on April 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      I think you should go through these weekly (now bi-weekly) reports from FF developer:

      Firefox is improved a lot since FF4..
      Also not forget to check..

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.