Until now my primary browser was Firefox 3.6. I’ve been a Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox user for 16 years now, so I am eager to upgrade to new versions, find new functionalities and use them to make my browsing faster, easier, safer and more efficient.
Even when using FF3.6 as my primary browser I’ve had several betas and preview versions of Firefox 4 installed to test it and see how suitable it is (I have reported my findings on this blog). In January I considered switching to beta9pre or beta10pre, but it wasn’t ready yet, mainly because of the missing add-ons. Again I have considered a switch in the start of March, this time to beta13pre with a great add-on – Add-on Compatibility Reporter – that enabled most of my missing add-ons. I almost switched, but something still wasn’t right, because I didn’t.
When Firefox 4 release candidate was released, I installed it and tried to switch again. This time it worked: I have enabled all my add-ons and only two don’t work as they should. The first one is Bartab and I really miss it; the second one is Print/Print Preview which I won’t miss that much.
The first thing I did was to clean up my open tabs. My browsing habits leave a lot of opened tabs that I want to get back later or keep as reminders. I usually have more than 100 tabs open (right now I have 99) and that has two consequences: first, it’s hard to navigate between and find the right tabs and second, it consumes heaps of computer memory. The new feature of Firefox 4, Panorama (formerly known as Eye Candy) solved the first problem. I have arranged tabs into groups, created several pinned tabs for mail, calendar and docs, and mapped a mouse gesture to open Panorama view (4 mouse moves instead of CTRL-Shift-E). The second problem, use of memory, was handled by Bartab add-on in FF3.6. It’s use is simple – after some time it unloads unused tabs from memory so more memory is available. It worked great for me in FF3.6 (most of the time memory used was 600KB or top 1GB), but in FF4 Bartab doesn’t work as expected. The author is aware of this but couldn’t promise when or even that he will fix it. There is a new beta version of the add-on but the problem with it under FF4 is that it doesn’t load unloaded tabs when clicked on them. I have to reload them manually (which is not that hard, but it nags me). Without use of Bartab unloading tabs the memory used spikes above 1,3 GB just when I run the browser. Also, it’s much less responsive if tabs are all loaded.
The bottom line is that my primary browser is now Firefox 4. It’s faster, but only when all my tabs have loaded. Also, switching between tabs or exiting the program is slower. Sometimes, when I change tabs, my computer freezes for a very short time (mouse doesn’t move), which is the same behaviour that I get from Chrome with several tabs open for a longer time. FF4 is already better than my FF3.6, but with fixed Bartab I could say it’s all I need (for now).