Mozilla to release Firefox beta 4 on Monday

Mozilla is planning on releasing Firefox beta 4 on Monday with two major new features: hardware-accelerated graphics for Windows users and tab sets, or better known as tab candy. Hardware-accelerated graphics done with Direct2D will not be turned on by default, as Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of engineering, sent a tweet stating "b4 won't have D2D on by default after all; just not quite ready to send it to that many users. soon!"

If you wish to enable Direct2D rendering, you can follow Mozilla's instructions on their wiki, which consists of this:

Type "about:config" into the URL bar, type in "gfx.font" in the Filter box, set "gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled" to true by double clicking. Then below that, right click and select New >> Integer, name it "mozilla.widget.render-mode" and set the value to 6 then restart the browser.

Code for Firefox 4 beta 4 is frozen and the release should be on Monday, August 23rd. A major goal for Mozilla for their next browser was speed. Enabling Direct2D hardware acceleration helps with the display of text and graphics, which if you follow the Internet Explorer 9 previews, Microsoft is already touting that feature and speed of their next browser. 

Mozilla also had the goal of ultimate user friendliness by implementing tab sets, or as it was called early on, tab candy. Tab sets allow you to group your tabs together into different sets, such as "Work", "Research", "School", "Home", or anything you wish. 

Firefox users will be able to look forward to one more beta after this which should be the last with new features. That beta will also consist of fixing any bugs that Mozilla has found along the way.

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Alan, I love that the hardware-accelerated graphics are called “tab candy.” Definitely a way to intrigue consumers. But, why is Shaver saying that D2D won't be ready for all users? Is he sending out the beta knowing there will be bugs with the D2D feature?

I gave the beta a try, dont feel the need to switch from IE myself.. I feel firefox is a bit like facebook these days, as in its just to much crap on there I dont use. Sure there is loads of people that still love it though

Hmmm... Is it just my system or is the DirectWrite actually slower to load most of the forums that I frequent. Not to mention, the text are so fuzzy on my 24" screen at max resolution (1920x1080).

LiquidSolstice said,

Linux gets nothing till the almighty Canonical decides it gets something.

linux its not equal to ubuntu you know...

BlendedFrog said,
I haven't tried 4.0 since beta 1 on os x....has the new interface been implemented yet?

Hello,

If you try out beta 3 presently or beta 4 on Monday you will notice a number of changes for OS X.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

AaronMT said,

Hello,

If you try out beta 3 presently or beta 4 on Monday you will notice a number of changes for OS X.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

The new interface is nice on OS X. Is there any chance that the zoom button functionality will be similar to that of other applications on the Mac?

AaronMT said,

Hello,

If you try out beta 3 presently or beta 4 on Monday you will notice a number of changes for OS X.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

I am using the Minefield 4.0b4pre as a test to see the interface. It looks good so far.

Didn't like how the addons were all disabled and I had to tweak it some to make it all work but otherwise no issues with it. As soon as this goes final, I will be installing and using it full time just the same as I am using Current 3.6 version I run right now at the moment.

For those wondering, the tabs in OSX are still below the title bar.

I am loving the new tabs manager though, saw it profiled in Lifehacker and on Youtube, really pretty slick interface for organizing all the open tabs I occasionally have when I am playing webmaster.

I'm wondering when the interface will start to look more like the mockups. No news post has said anything about when they'll implement user interface tweaks and additions, they've just talked about features and bug fixes. I imagine it will be within the next two betas though?

Calum said,
I'm wondering when the interface will start to look more like the mockups. No news post has said anything about when they'll implement user interface tweaks and additions, they've just talked about features and bug fixes. I imagine it will be within the next two betas though?

You are correct. Different teams are working on different things, and more will trickle in through the next beta.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

AaronMT said,

You are correct. Different teams are working on different things, and more will trickle in through the next beta.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

Am I missing something? The interface looks pretty complete and accurate to the mockups to me. Is there something else coming? (Using b3 currently)

LiquidSolstice said,

Am I missing something? The interface looks pretty complete and accurate to the mockups to me. Is there something else coming? (Using b3 currently)


Did you really look at the mockups? Some new stuff will be w. b4, but the mockups still indicate that a fair amount of work remains to be done.

AaronMT said,

You are correct. Different teams are working on different things, and more will trickle in through the next beta.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)


@Aaron
What do you think about "tabs on top" implementation? I mean if Mozilla had to do this they should have done just like Chrome like tabs on absolutely on top w/o title bar! If you are going to use title bar then tabs on top looks pretty ugly!

Although it is my personal opinion!

Firefox, ha! Good luck with whatever you're doing. When firefox 4 officially comes out it's better to have FAST startup time. I JUST NEED THAT.

generko said,
Firefox, ha! Good luck with whatever you're doing. When firefox 4 officially comes out it's better to have FAST startup time. I JUST NEED THAT.

Hello,

We have been working on vastly improving cold startup times since development was focused on Firefox 3.6. If you download a beta or a nightly of Firefox 4 today you will notice a vast improvement.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

AaronMT said,

Hello,

We have been working on vastly improving cold startup times since development was focused on Firefox 3.6. If you download a beta or a nightly of Firefox 4 today you will notice a vast improvement.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

Hi Aaron,

I've read that, however to me Firefox 4 seems just as slow as cold startup, if not slower, than previous versions. The only extension I have installed is Firebug.

AaronMT said,

Hello,

We have been working on vastly improving cold startup times since development was focused on Firefox 3.6. If you download a beta or a nightly of Firefox 4 today you will notice a vast improvement.

- Aaron (Mozilla QA)

Don't listen to the haters. Firefox starts up quite snappy to me

LiquidSolstice said,
Don't listen to the haters. Firefox starts up quite snappy to me

Likewise; I have a fair amount of extensions, and the startup time is on par with the other browsers on my system. The only time I've ever had a noticeable slow startup is on a test rig that had a bunch of addresses pre-blacklisted. (Via Spybot's immunization and the like, adds a bajillion of them, I don't use it normally.)

My only complaint with B3 was all the glass.. not a fan. If I can get the final to more or less look like v3, I'll be happy. (I grew up with Mosaic then Netscape, sorry, I actually like the old look.)

LiquidSolstice said,

Don't listen to the haters. Firefox starts up quite snappy to me


Same here. Startup times are much better than in 3.6 on netbook.

generko said,
Firefox, ha! Good luck with whatever you're doing. When firefox 4 officially comes out it's better to have FAST startup time. I JUST NEED THAT.

Buy an SSD. I got a 60GB SandForce based drive and Firefox 3.6 starts almost instantaneously whereas before it sometimes could take 10-30 seconds.

fluxcapacitor said,

Buy an SSD. I got a 60GB SandForce based drive and Firefox 3.6 starts almost instantaneously whereas before it sometimes could take 10-30 seconds.

Buy an SSD to start a browser?

ok

fluxcapacitor said,

Buy an SSD. I got a 60GB SandForce based drive and Firefox 3.6 starts almost instantaneously whereas before it sometimes could take 10-30 seconds.

Same here! I have an Intel X-25 and soon after went back from Chrome to Firefox.

I hope they'd finally improve the startup times and Mac font rendering. Even with a very modest set of extensions Firefox takes a lot longer to load than Safari on OSX or Chrome on Windows/OSX. Firefox Mac font rendering is awful compared to Webkit browsers...

LaXu said,
I hope they'd finally improve the startup times and Mac font rendering. Even with a very modest set of extensions Firefox takes a lot longer to load than Safari on OSX or Chrome on Windows/OSX. Firefox Mac font rendering is awful compared to Webkit browsers...

In Windows you have to add Fx to Windows Firewall's allowed programs list.

Unlike Safari, Firefox actually uses the normal system font rendering APIs on OS X.

It's pixel perfect with TextEdit and other apps that use the normal API, if it's to be improved it's up to Apple to fix it.

Luis Mazza said,
PLEASE GOOGLE, GET YOUR TOOLBAR TO WORK WITH FF 4 BETA

But it's a beta. Why would they do that?

thealexweb said,

Most of Google's products are Betas to.

Yep, they have the toolbar at 6.0 beta, than jumped to 7.0 beta and now 7.1 beta, where none of them even left the beta stage.

Luis Mazza said,

Yep, they have the toolbar at 6.0 beta, than jumped to 7.0 beta and now 7.1 beta, where none of them even left the beta stage.

Is there one product from Google that isn't beta?

Hell I think even Chrome is still in beta. Maybe their search engine isn't.

thealexweb said,

Most of Google's products are Betas to.


I think he meant that FF 4 is beta that's why they should wait till final version of FF 4 comes, not that Google toolbar itself is beta !

sgrajan said,
Great news, IE9 vs Firefox4. Good for us.

The thing is, whether MS will be active in developing and releasing new versions, or they will just sleep for a year or two after IE 9 release.

kInG aLeXo said,
... or they will just sleep for a year or two after IE 9 release.
Given the beating MS has taken over this and their lack of standards support they can't afford to take a break and let IE become so stagnant again. I'd be shocked if they just "let it go".

kInG aLeXo said,
The thing is, whether MS will be active in developing and releasing new versions, or they will just sleep for a year or two after IE 9 release.
Unfortunately very true. Fortunately, I feel that with the release of Windows 8 (end of 2011 to early 2012), I fully expect them to be working hard to both at least have a new version for Windows 8, and probably another version in-between to compete with Chrome.

Hopefully they are going to be willing to start releasing minor updates with new features similar to Chrome and Firefox, rather than just updates with bug fixes.

zeke009 said,
Given the beating MS has taken over this and their lack of standards support they can't afford to take a break and let IE become so stagnant again. I'd be shocked if they just "let it go".

Yeah, I agree.

kInG aLeXo said,

The thing is, whether MS will be active in developing and releasing new versions, or they will just sleep for a year or two after IE 9 release.
I see nothing to suggest they would. They didn't after IE 7 or 8 so why now?

Northgrove said,
I don't think fonts look very good at all with Direct2D rendering, especially not normal sized fonts often used in text.
Me neither. It just looks blurry and annoying. The the technology is designed for hardware that simply doesn't exist yet. It's designed for extremely high-resolution displays. The problem with this is that it's not being released in the future, it's being released today.


It's the same problem Windows Presentation Foundation has (it has a similar text renderer.) Microsoft spent years denying that it was a problem, until they wanted to port Visual Studio to it. Then they ran into problems. It was simply unusable for a program where text was the focus and where people stare at it all day long.

hdood said,
...
The the technology is designed for hardware that simply doesn't exist yet. It's designed for extremely high-resolution displays.
...
It's designed for current gen low resolution LCD displays, higher resolution displays don't really need sub-pixel AA.

At 100 device pixels and up, DirectWrite doesn't use sub-pixel AA or font hinting.

The_Decryptor said,
It's designed for current gen low resolution LCD displays, higher resolution displays don't really need sub-pixel AA.
Those are measures designed to mask the problems. The design itself is what's fundamentally flawed. You cannot have a text renderer without the ability to snap to pixel boundaries on a low resolution display. It is a mistake thought up by a designer who thought accuracy was more important than readability.


VS2010 is proof.

DirectWrite can easily snap the glyphs to pixel boundaries, but you don't need to do that if you have proper sub-pixel AA and sub-pixel positioning.

The old renderer snapped to pixel boundaries because it simply didn't support not snapping, it was designed for CRT monitors back in 1995 or earlier where you didn't have any notion of "sub-pixels".

The_Decryptor said,
DirectWrite can easily snap the glyphs to pixel boundaries

It may be configurable in code, but Firefox and IE9 do not do it. You can continue to sit there and claim that it's not a problem, but the reality is that a great many people find that it looks fuzzy compared to GDI. On future displays, this won't be a problem, but it is today.

hdood said,

It may be configurable in code, but Firefox and IE9 do not do it. You can continue to sit there and claim that it's not a problem, but the reality is that a great many people find that it looks fuzzy compared to GDI. On future displays, this won't be a problem, but it is today.

Exactly. DirectWrite support this, but neither IE 9 nor Firefox 4 in their current incarnations. I hope that will change, or there'll be a lot of noise over this in blogs when these browsers are finalized.

As it looks now, it takes the worst of the worlds of Clear Type and OS X rendering. It looks like somewhere in between with neither one's advantages, and uses far too low contrast so the glyphs often don't even reach full blackness, but looks too "thin". It could be that the DirectWrite rendering is using Clear Type's contrast levels, but OS X's rendering style. Pretty nasty anyway, and I don't see why Mozilla is even considering to use the current kind of rendering.

Northgrove said,
I don't think fonts look very good at all with Direct2D rendering, especially not normal sized fonts often used in text.

Exactly! That is why they said that it isn't ready for primetime and that is why it isn't enabled by default! lol.

Northgrove said,
I don't think fonts look very good at all with Direct2D rendering, especially not normal sized fonts often used in text.

They can render the fonts to conform more to the GDI truetype methods that don't allow pixel 'bleeding'. It is a feature of Direct2D and the newer WPF specifications.

What I think is surprising is the amount of people that see them as 'fuzzy' instead of realizing the font is better represented compared to printed output.

Why is it that when OS X renders a font and it 'blends' into adjacent pixels (even incorrectly most of the time), people go, oh, the Macs are rendering the fonts really cool, but when this happens on other platforms like Windows, people complain that the fonts are fuzzy?

I know that this debate started back when subpixel rendering and color anti-aliasing of fonts started with Cleartype and because of complaints was 'disabled by default' on WindowsXP, even though the fonts still rendered through GDI and hinted properly into strict pixel boundaries.

As for this getting better with 'newer' displays, that is a bit misleading, as the technology is designed to render the fonts at a higher resolution on LOWER resolution displays. When you get to 200-300dpi displays, this technology is needed even less, although it is less 'fuzzy' as people would say as well.

Here is what people need to decide. Do you want the font rendered properly so that the fonts looks like would printed, even on lower resolution displays or do you want the fonts to pixel snap so that they are less fuzzy, but also less accurate?

On displays, which is where the world is headed as paper becomes used less, fonts are losing their beauty, and for non artistic people this may be great, but for people that appreciate the depth and quality of fonts and the minor distinctions, rendering the font as accurately on the display is far better and once you get past the 'it looks fuzzy' you might appreciate the extra quality of the font rendering.

If enough people complain, MS and Firefox might consider using the GDI font rendering, although it will slow things down and the fonts will go back to 'what you are used to' instead of being what they truly look like.


hdood said,
Me neither. It just looks blurry and annoying. The the technology is designed for hardware that simply doesn't exist yet. It's designed for extremely high-resolution displays. The problem with this is that it's not being released in the future, it's being released today.

I believe it's better to release it sooner, because that will let them develop it even further without being pressured by the Internet itself. But look it this way, is not necessary to run FF4, so it doesn't matter.

Jose_49 said,

But look it this way, is not necessary to run FF4, so it doesn't matter.
Well, no, but if I disable it, I also lose Direct2D acceleration and will be stuck with a browser that performs worse.

thenetavenger said,
What I think is surprising is the amount of people that see them as 'fuzzy' instead of realizing the font is better represented compared to printed output.
I know that DW/WPF render fonts more accurately, but the question is whether accuracy is more important than readability. A monitor is not paper, and has different limitations.

thenetavenger said,

Why is it that when OS X renders a font and it 'blends' into adjacent pixels (even incorrectly most of the time), people go, oh, the Macs are rendering the fonts really cool, but when this happens on other platforms like Windows, people complain that the fonts are fuzzy?
I don't own a Mac, so I see little reason to complain about something that doesn't affect me.

thenetavenger said,

I know that this debate started back when subpixel rendering and color anti-aliasing of fonts started with Cleartype and because of complaints was 'disabled by default' on WindowsXP, even though the fonts still rendered through GDI and hinted properly into strict pixel boundaries.
It's true that ClearType also makes the text more fuzzy than plain GDI, but at least you can argue that it makes the text thicker and easier to read. DW (on the defaults) take a step backward, and make it less readable.

You have to strike a balance between accuracy and readability, and I think DW gets it wrong.

thenetavenger said,

As for this getting better with 'newer' displays, that is a bit misleading, as the technology is designed to render the fonts at a higher resolution on LOWER resolution displays. When you get to 200-300dpi displays, this technology is needed even less, although it is less 'fuzzy' as people would say as well.
I think you misunderstand. What I mean is that it's a hack to work around the lack of pixels on today's displays. In the future, this won't be a problem, and renderers can focus on accuracy without reducing readability.

thenetavenger said,

Here is what people need to decide. Do you want the font rendered properly so that the fonts looks like would printed, even on lower resolution displays or do you want the fonts to pixel snap so that they are less fuzzy, but also less accurate?
Accuracy and how things look in print are separate things. Text printed on text isn't fussy. It's solid color and crisp. Except for certain design use, I would guess that most people would rate readability as more important than accuracy.

thenetavenger said,

On displays, which is where the world is headed as paper becomes used less, fonts are losing their beauty, and for non artistic people this may be great, but for people that appreciate the depth and quality of fonts and the minor distinctions, rendering the font as accurately on the display is far better
Too bad. Artists need to accept the limitations of the medium.

thenetavenger said,

and once you get past the 'it looks fuzzy' you might appreciate the extra quality of the font rendering.
You mean extra accuracy. I think most people would consider readability more important when judging the quality of the rendering.

thenetavenger said,

If enough people complain, MS and Firefox might consider using the GDI font rendering, although it will slow things down and
I suspect that Firefox will keep the GDI renderer as an option, unless they intend to drop support for XP. IE9 will only have a D2D renderer. Maybe it will retain a GDI renderer for compatibility with third-party software that embeds the WebBrowser control, but in any case, it won't be available in the IE9 browser.


Anyway, I don't want to keep GDI. I'm fine with the switch to D2D, I'm not stuck in the past. I just want the text readability to be improved.

thenetavenger said,

the fonts will go back to 'what you are used to' instead of being what they truly look like.
I think this is a bit insulting. It's a more complex issue than just "what you are used to." If all it did was make the text look accurate, then that wouldn't be an issue.