• Intuitive interface
• Fast rendering speeds
• Lots of great developer tools
• Useful synchronization features
• Extensive privacy controls
• High RAM usage
• Performance problems at times
Firefox 5 has come quick on the heels of Firefox 4, which is quite a leap considering it took two years for the previous version to be fully released. Firefox 4 had encountered some performance problems, so this fast and efficient release is a welcome arrival.
Firefox 5 is feature-rich, incredibly fast and threatening to topple Internet Explorer's dominance. Firefox's add-ons remain strong, and the latest tweaks make the browser faster, smoother and more fun. Firefox is our recommended internet browser.
There’s no reboot required on setup. When you setup, you have the option of importing bookmarks and history from Internet Explorer over to Firefox, and you make the decision as to whether Firefox will be your default browser.
If you unexpectedly lose your Internet connection or you install software updates, Firefox restores your session right down to the tabs you had open, the text you typed and the downloads you had in progress – really useful for unreliable computers or Internet connections.
Tab browsing - Firefox is tab-friendly, with a whole host of tab features designed to make your browsing easier and clearer. We like the way that when you type the address in a new tab, Firefox checks to see if you already have that page open and, if you do, it takes you to it. Plus you can give your apps a separate tab home.
What’s more, you can take your tab organization to a whole new level with Panorama, a tool to drag and drop tabs into personalized and organized groups, arranged your own way.
Search box - Like Internet Explorer, the search engine box is displayed in the top right-hand corner, but Firefox gives you more options as a default including Amazon and eBay. You can assign smart keywords to the search engines which allow you to bypass homepages and go straight to your destination.
The location bar with its autocomplete function has been tweaked so you have greater control over the sites that come up – Firefox always suggested matches based on your browsing history and your open tabs when you started typing your site into the location bar, but now you can attach privacy settings to this feature.
Location aware browsing - Firefox is able to determine your geographic position and enable websites to send information that is location specific - a list of local restaurants, for example. For those who like to guard their privacy this feature is strictly opt-in only.
Private browsing - In a private browsing session, Firefox will not store any page history, cookies, download history or temporary internet files. You can browse in complete privacy with nothing to show where you've been browsing or what you've done. You can switch back to regular browsing just as easily.
History – You can erase all or part of your browsing history, or set Firefox to do this automatically. If you accidentally visit a site you’d rather forget, you can click Forget This Site in the History menu and you won’t be bothered by it again (and you don’t have to clear your entire browsing history).
Favorites – Favorites are called Bookmarks in Firefox. The bookmark feature has been designed in a user-friendly way, with one click to save the page and two clicks to save it in a specific bookmark folder. There’s also a handy feature that allows you to tag a bookmark with a specific keyword or words, for example shopping, so when you start to type ‘shopping’ in the location bar it will bring up your tagged bookmark as an option. You need to bookmark the site before you can tag it, a fact that wasn’t immediately obvious the first time we looked at this feature. Something else that wasn’t immediately obvious is how to get to the bookmarks library with Windows XP (click Show All Bookmarks under the Bookmarks menu).
Phishing protection – You have instant access to all the details about a website when you click on the icon for an identity check. This way you can check the website is not a forgery and be sure your details are safe. Browser messages will tell you immediately if you are accessing a site that looks real but is actually a fake to phish for your details. Firefox also automatically takes you to a secure connection if the website offers secure https servers.
Parental controls – Use the Windows 7 parental controls with Firefox to prevent unwanted downloads.
Plugin updates – Firefox has a campaign to make users update their plugins for security and ease of browsing. When you visit the update plugins page on the Firefox help centre you can view your existing plugins and update them where necessary. In the future, Firefox will do this automatically for you.
Synchronization - Syncing is a great feature on Firefox. Even if your mobile is brand new you can still access years of PC browsing history when you start it up. All your passwords, your bookmarks and even the tabs you have open are transferred to your mobile device when you leave your PC and take up your mobile. We think this makes life a whole lot easier when you work from more than one Internet-enabled device.
Spell check – There’s an automatic spell check feature that works in emails and blog posts so you don't need to worry about double-checking.
RSS Reader – Add the RSS feed reader icon to your Firefox toolbar and create your feeds using a web service, a feed reader or the Firefox Live Bookmark tool.
Add-ons – Where do you start? Firefox has a massive range of add-ons to personalize, speed up, organize, color and spice up your Internet experience. There’s so much choice it gets pretty addictive when you start looking through all the options.
Video & audio HTML 5 support - The new Firefox 5 gives us a small peek at the internet of tomorrow. Firefox 5 now features the innovative use of open audio and video formats. This means that you no longer need to download and install flash or other plug-ins to access audio and video content. It’s likely that this will serve to be a real benefit for web-users but in the short term it feels somewhat unhelpful as most video content remains in the flash format.
Ease of use
There are some nice new tweaks to the interface. We like the new ability to re-open tabs or windows that had been previously closed with just one click. Your tabs are set above the location bar, which makes the website easier to read. Tabs are easier to scroll through too, making it possible to have many pages open at the same time. However, the pop-up notifications can be a little distracting.
Firefox is designed to be simple and clean to use, and we found it works smoothly and instinctively.
Help & support
Firefox is well known for its huge support and development community. On the downside there is no telephone support, but the community-powered support forum and knowledge base is excellent. Response times are almost instant and replies are very helpful. Live chat is also available, which is run by helpers that are volunteers, not Mozilla employees.
Firefox remains the most well-rounded browser currently available. Firefox's huge library of add-ons remains its unique asset. If you've previously used Firefox, you'll want to upgrade to the latest version straightaway. Otherwise we recommend its time you gave Firefox 5 a try.
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