On Tuesday, Internet browser maker Mozilla unleashed the newest version of its popular Firefox software, complete with its own dedicated PDF reader. The update, known as Firefox 19, features a slew of bug fixes that enable faster browsing and also comes with some refreshed features for developers. Mozilla’s official website currently offers Firefox 19 for Windows, Linux and Mac, and the beta version for Android is available through the Google Play Store.
Today, we had the chance to go hands-on with this updated version of Mozilla's browser and came away pleased but unimpressed. Firefox 19 essentially offers the same browsing experience as before, but with the introduction of native PDF viewing and a quicker start up process.
The newest iteration of Firefox eliminates two bugs that previously slowed down the startup process. One issue caused Firefox to perform “expensive” page-loading before the browser window pops up on the screen, resulting in a sluggish launch process. Essentially, this means that previous versions of Firefox took way too long to open on the desktop.
The second bug, similar to the first, prevented Firefox from showing any visual indication that the browser is loading after clicking the program to launch it. Anyone who has endured the frustrating experience of accidentally launching multiple Firefox windows on their desktop after clicking the icon repeatedly will be relieved to know this bug has been resolved.
Mozilla is true to its word when it comes to ironing out these flaws, as we've found that the browser launches almost immediately after clicking the icon. When clicking the Firefox symbol on the desktop, Windows' ring of fire appeared, indicating that the program was loading, something that didn't always happen with prior versions of the browser.We timed this process with a stopwatch, and the Firefox 19 browser takes just under a second to launch.
New Built-In PDF Reader
In addition to a speedier start process, Firefox users will find that PDF files now open in a new tab in the current browsing session rather than a separate PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader. This capability has been in Firefox since the beta edition of the previous version 18, but users had to install in manually.
We tested this feature with a lengthy 146 user manual PDF from Samsung and found that pages throughout the file loaded extremely quickly, even when we scrolled through the document from top to bottom. This makes the experience of reading a PDF more convenient and seamless, but users may need to zoom to read the text comfortably.
The native PDF viewer avoids the need for external plugins that could potentially expose users to security risks. It also condenses the viewing process into one concise process, cutting out the need for a PDF reader to use its own code for generating images and text.
Although Mozilla ramped up Firefox's start up time, the browser has a long way to go to keep up with its competitors--literally. We benchmarked Firefox 19's performance using Peacekeeper's universal browser test, and the program clocked in with an overall score of 823. This pales in comparison to Google Chrome 24, which received a score of 2752 on the same test. Internet Explorer 9 also smoked Firefox with a score of 1231. Each browser was also rated on its HTML capabilities, and Google Chrome came out on top with a score of 6/7. Firefox 19 only measured in at 4/7 and Internet Explorer received a score of 3/7.
Other than these bug fixes and Mozilla’s internal PDF reader, Firefox fans will find that version 19 offers the same browsing experience. The user interface is exactly the same, and the familiar menu toolbar sits right above any open tabs. Mozilla has also thrown in some new goodies for developers, which can be read in detail here.