Mozilla, the maker of the popular open-source Firefox browser, has delivered two new features for developers and users to test, just weeks after the release of the last Firefox beta 4 update. The Sync feature helps users synchronize their Web experience and organize their online life. Firefox Sync is now integrated in Firefox 4 Beta to let you access your tabs, bookmarks, history, passwords, Awesome Bar, form-fill data and even open tabs across multiple computers or mobile devices, Mozilla said. Mozilla’s previous Firefox 4 beta release came on Aug. 11.
“The latest update to Firefox 4 Beta is now available with new features that offer more control over your Web experience,” said Mike Beltzner, Mozilla’s director of Firefox, in an Aug. 24 blog post. “This release lets you own and control your personal Web experience by syncing your data across devices, and by helping you organize your tabs in order to juggle and prioritize your busy online life.”
With Firefox Sync, users can customize and take their Web experiences anywhere, even on their iPhone with Firefox Home.
According to Mozilla, “Firefox Sync encrypts all of your data before sending it to the server and does not track your travels throughout the Web. This means that you never have to compromise your privacy for the convenience of using Firefox Sync.”
And a Firefox Sync FAQ said: “Firefox Sync makes it easy to surf the Web on your PC, get up and go and have everything (open tabs, saved passwords, browsing history and bookmarks) waiting for you on your phone just the way you left it. Ever tried typing in passwords or long URLs on your phone? Now you don’t have to – Firefox Sync will fill them in for you! And what’s more, the sync is two-way. So if you bookmark a great new site on your work computer, Firefox Sync will make sure that bookmark shows up on your computer at home.”
Once a user has set up a Firefox Sync account, their Firefox data will then be encrypted and securely stored on Mozilla’s servers and synchronized automatically from then on, the company said.
Meanwhile, Firefox 4 Beta also now includes Panorama, formerly known as Tab Candy. With a single keystroke, Panorama provides an overview of all your tabs to easily organize your tabs into groups, name them, prioritize them and quickly switch between tabs or tab groups, Mozilla said.
In another blog post specifically about Panorama, Aza Raskin, the creative lead for Firefox, lays out much of the history, vision and design for the technology, including videos and diagrams. Regarding the principle of the Panorama design, Raskin said: “Within the concept of -organizing your online tasks’ is a lot room for paradigms, metaphors, and features. We used a set of principles guided by cognitive psychology to create a unified interface we feel is humane and efficient.”
In addition to the two main new features in the latest release of the beta, Beltzner said Firefox 4 Beta includes a Feedback Add-on with Mozilla Labs Test Pilot, “which enable you to take part in anonymous studies,” he said. “You can choose to opt-out of any or all studies by managing your settings in the Feedback button.”
Meanwhile, in a separate post, Paul Rouget, a Mozilla technology evangelist, said the latest Firefox 4 Beta features “hundreds of bug fixes” in addition to Sync and Panorama. Added Rouget: “Here is a quick overview of the new features for Web developers:
- Firefox now supports the HTML5 video “buffered” property;
- HTML5 video “autobuffer” has been replaced with “preload”;
- An experimental CSS extension: drawing arbitrary elements as backgrounds with -moz-element;
- Increase default disk cache size from 50M to 250M (bug);
- Faster access to some DOM properties (.id, .className, .style, …) (see bugs 584287 and 584293).
The latest Firefox 4 Beta release — known as Firefox 4 Beta 4 — can be downloaded here.