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Firefox 29 review: Stalwart browser gets a magnificent makeover

Jon L. Jacobi | May 16, 2014
Firefox updates appear fairly regularly, but for the most part they're mundane. You get a message saying it's checking plug-in compatibility, it finds no issues (mostly), then it's business as usual with no obvious changes. Ho-hum. Back to work.

Firefox updates appear fairly regularly, but for the most part they're mundane. You get a message saying it's checking plug-in compatibility, it finds no issues (mostly), then it's business as usual with no obvious changes. Ho-hum. Back to work.

Not this time. I guess that with 30 approaching the Mozilla folks felt it was time for a makeover. Or perhaps they wanted to make Firefox more accessible for people cross-grading from Internet Explorer or Chrome. Whatever the reason, Firefox 29 is a decidedly non-boring upgrade. It delivers an entirely re-tuned interface that's easy on the eye and easier to use. 

In support of my cross-grade theory... One of the most obvious interface changes is that the default placement for the menu is now on the right, where IE and Chrome put theirs. Mozilla has even smartly appropriated the icon of horizontally stacked bars that Chrome uses for its drop-down menu.

Mozilla has also done a very nice job of rendering the new menu with readily recognizable icons. I now find Firefox's settings and features far easier to navigate than IE's and especially Chrome's, where before I would've said the opposite. You can also customize the new menu via a slick drag-and-drop routine. The same customize tab has options for restoring the old-style menu, the old-style bookmarks toolbar, and the Window title. Yes, you can pretty much turn the clock back to 28 if you wish, at least functionally.

The new, gracefully-rounded tabs are a lot easier on the eye, and Mozilla has also changed the placement of the back and forward buttons. The latter directly abuts the URL field, which, while it takes some getting-used-to, will save a lot of mouse movement over the long haul. Instead of the forward button being grayed out as it used to be, now it's not even visible unless you actually have something to move forward to. Nice.

But my favorite new feature is expedited bookmarking. Click on the star, and there's a nice little animation to let you know the current page as been bookmarked. That's it. No dialog asking you to confirm, a redundancy which has driven me nuts for a long time. The number of times I want to leave things be far outstrips the number of times I want to edit a bookmark title. When I do want to edit it, I'm perfectly willing to do so post facto.

There's not much new internally to Firefox 29, but that's okay; HTML5, etc., is all there already. That said, there have been some improvements to Yahoo searches (HTTPS) and the way you access your Mozilla Sync account for syncing bookmarks between devices.

 

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