Mozilla Firefox 12.0 Review

excellent
key review info
application features
  • Comprehensive popup controls to keep unwanted advertising off your desktop;
  • (3 more, see all...)

The world of Internet browsers is going crazy, and Mozilla is right up there holding the flag of craziness with Google. We reviewed Firefox 4.0 only one year ago and now it's already at version 12.0. Is it true that the higher the version number, the better the software? Or it's just a psychological maneuver?

A year ago the community was redding itself for the new and improved Firefox 4.0, but the users didn't just receive a new browser, but also a new roadmap for future releases.

We all knew that a new version of Mozilla Firefox took a really long time to become a reality, and with the rise of the Google Chrome web browser and its insane development schedule, it forced the immediate competitor to make some changes regarding their own development. Thus we now review Firefox 12.0. Crazy, right?

I don't think we can really blame anyone for this course of events, especially in a world where automatic updates have started to rule and where the version number of a particular software it's not that important anymore.

In any case, this is how things work inside Mozilla's brain. According to the developer, all changes to the Firefox source code are initially integrated in the mozilla-central Mercurial repository. At scheduled intervals, the changes are imported from mozilla-central to release channels with wider audiences, such as the Beta channel. Eventually, the changes appear in the Firefox release.

The problem, or in this case the solution, is to make a rapid development cycle and Firefox's is just 16 weeks, more or less. This means that Firefox 12.0 is now stable, 13.0 is Beta and 14.0 is Alpha (or Aurora, as they like to call it) and 15.0 in Nightly (daily builds).

Installation

Most of today's important Linux distributions provide the latest version of the Firefox web browser. We tested Firefox 12.0 on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin), a distribution that only came out a few days ago. Canonical was gracious enough to make the latest Firefox available through their repositories from day two.

User can also download Firefox 12 from the official website, in the form of a archive that contains all the necessary files in order to run the software. Think of it as a portable package, although the profile will not be created in the same directory.

Usage

The problem with multiple versions of a software, such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, is that it's hard to keep track of what's been added in previous versions. I can't actually remember when a particular feature was introduced or if it has been available for some time.

Reviewing a software like Firefox could be a massive undertaking and I'm quite sure that not everyone is interested to read in detail about all the nook and crannies of the software, so I'll just enumerate the good and the bad and let you decide if this is the browser for you.

Before making a decision, users must keep in mind that the experience with Mozilla Firefox will be different for each and everyone of you as people tend to use the browser in different ways.

The Good

The best feature of Firefox is without any doubt its ability to integrate third party addons, making the original software expanding in unimaginable ways.

I am a Firefox power user and this means that mostly I need functions that are not available in the default package. The add-ons community is so large that it's almost impossible to want something and not find it.

Another important feature of Firefox 12 is the Awesome bar. Maybe it has a flashy name, but I have to give props to Mozilla. It's pretty awesome! It uses all the history to make searching easier, it modifies according to usage to make links that are accessed more frequently pop up at the top of the list, and users can just type some of the words and not the exact link.

The third and probably one of the features I wanted most and which came to Firefox a year ago is Firefox Sync, a functionality that is not yet perfect, but is getting close. This function makes a backup of your bookmarks, cookies, history, and most importantly, add-ons, in the Mozilla cloud server.

Before Firefox Sync, when transiting from one operating system to another, there were some third party solutions, but they never worked quite the way they should and just moving a profile from one OS to another produced some problems.

The Bad

The best feature of Firefox, the multitude of add-ons, is also its greatest problem. The fact of the matter is that some features should be available by default and not introduced with third party extensions.

In theory, add-ons sound great, but they can also slow down the browser and even the operating system, especially when there are a lot of them, like in the case of a power user.

The other major issue with Firefox is the fact that it's quite a resource hog. One of the improvements I noticed when I reviewed Firefox 4.0 was a slight improvement in resource management and it got better over the past year, but it's still a major problem.

Conclusion

Some users have criticized the version policy of Mozilla and I even have friends that still use Firefox 3.5. I can safely say that it was a great decision to increase the pace of development, and it shows in the number of features and the overall feeling of the application.

I hated Firefox in the pre 3.5 versions because of the memory issues and because I had to install numerous addons just to make it the way I like it. Now, I can't imagine how I could do my work with any other browser, although there is some fierce competition out there.


user interface 5
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5


final rating 5
Editor's review
excellent
 
NEXT REVIEW: Stellarium

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