When you open a new tab in Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, or Opera, you’ll see helpful links to recent, favorite, and most visited webpages. For several years now, Firefox has been the only browser that shows nothing but a blank white page when you open a new tab—until today.
Announced today on the Mozilla blog, Firefox 13 is a lucky one for those who’ve been yearning for some new tab assistance. And it’s not just the new tab page that’s been redesigned; Firefox users also get a new default homepage with the new release.
Firefox’s updated new tab page, as in a lot of other things, mimics Google Chrome most closely. As in Chrome and Opera, Firefox’s new tab page shows thumbnails of your most recently and frequently visited sites. And as in the other browsers, you can customize what’s on these thumbnails, and they shrink and enlarge as you resize the browser window. You can also remove sites and pin and unpin them to the new tab page. But you can’t specify which sites to include: They’re chosen by frequency of your visits.
But where Google’s browser only offers your most visited sites, Web apps, and recently closed tabs, the large icons on Firefox’s new homepage give access to bookmarks, history, settings, add-ons, downloads, and sync preferences with shortcuts.
Mozilla has also changed the way Firefox loads previously opened tabs when you re-start, which will please a lot of users who find waiting for all those tabs to load a drag. Now, the browser will only load the page for the tab that last had the focus, and only load the sites into the other tabs after you click on them. This technique also makes for reduced memory usage—another Firefox bugaboo over the years.
And that’s not the only memory-saving and speedup technique added to Firefox 13: its coders have also improved the browser’s “cycle collector,” which frees up memory that the browser previously claimed but no longer needs. The collector now spends less time checking memory that’s actually in use by the browser, making for a faster overall browsing experience.
Startup time has also been an issue where Firefox lagged. While other browsers get going almost immediately, Firefox has long involved more of a wait before you could start browsing. Though its developers made inroads on this in previous releases, version 13 takes further steps by minimizing “file calls, audio sessions, drag and drop, and overall IO, just to name a few,” according to a blog post from Firefox engineering program manager Lawrence Mandel. And in informal testing, Firefox 13 does appear to start up more snappily than previous versions.
In another potential performance booster, Firefox 13 now also support’s SPDY, a replacement for the Web’s standard transport protocol, HTTP. SPDY speeds up communications through compression and by reducing the number of server interactions required to load a webpage. SPDY—short for “speedy” and not an acronym—has not yet been officially sanctioned by the Internet standards bodies. It’s been primarily developed by Google, which actually owns the trademark for the term “SPDY.” When browsing to sites owned by that Web behemoth, Firefox users may see faster response. The only other large site to come out with SPDY support on its servers so far is Twitter.
Finally, Firefox 13 adds a localized version in Khmer, the language of Cambodia. This increased the total number of worldwide language versions to 76, along with 10 more in test versions.
Firefox users should be automatically updated to the new version over the next few days, or they can click on Help About Firefox to initiate the update. New users can head to the Firefox download page to get the only major browser not affiliated with a large corporation. For a deep dive into what Firefox brings to the Web surfing party, see PCMag’s full review of Firefox, which we’ll update for Firefox 13 shortly, and the slideshow below.
For more from Michael, follow him on Twitter @mikemuch.
For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.
Article source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2405312,00.asp