Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox

Editors' Rating:
4.5
Outstanding
Average User Rating:
4.3
out of 15564 votes
See all user reviews

Quick Specs

Version:
19.0.2
File Size:
30.75MB
Date Added:
March 08, 2013
Price:
Free
Operating Systems:
Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/8
Total Downloads:
45,004,565
Downloads Last Week:
61,370
Product ranking:
#1 in Web Browsers
Additional Requirements:
Not available

Editors' review

Review:
Mozilla Firefox has undergone an enormous rebirth over the past two years. Since Firefox 4 debuted in March 2011, the browser has been hell-bent on improvements. These have come in large part on the rapid-release cycle, which sees a new version of Firefox every six weeks. Many people like them, but a vocal minority has pooh-poohed the increase in version numbers. That's hardly a legitimate complaint in a world where mobile apps also update silently and effectively, but the transition for Firefox hasn't been an easy one.

As you can see, Firefox is on version 19 at the time of this review. As a point of comparison, Chrome is currently on version 24 even though it launched only in 2008. The benefit of rapid updates, of course, is a browser that is safer and sleeker, with fewer problems because bugs get fixed on a regular basis.

The Firefox that you can download now is in the same speed category as its competition; offers many similar features (stronger in some areas and slightly weaker in others); includes broad, cross-platform support for hardware acceleration and other "future Web" tech and standards; and is a must-have for Android users (download for Android).

Recent changes have locked down memory leaks caused by add-ons, long browsing sessions, and heavy tab usage. Mozilla released data showing huge gains in recovering memory with a shocking 150 tabs open, so you're likely to see big gains with far fewer. There's also been the introduction of a Social API, for direct hooks into Facebook. Other social networks like Twitter are in the works, apparently.

In this version of Firefox, the browser matches Chrome's built-in PDF reader with one of its own. If you have a separate PDF-reading add-on for the browser, you can disable that now.

It's important to point out that there are four versions of Firefox available at the moment, and this review only addresses the stable branch, intended for general use. Firefox's other channels -- Firefox beta (download for Windows | Mac | Linux); Firefox Aurora, analogous to Google Chrome's dev channel (download Aurora for Windows | Mac | Linux); and the bleeding-edge, updated-nightly Firefox Minefield (download for all versions) -- are respectively progressively less stable versions of the browser, and aimed at developers.

Installation
Firefox installs quickly, your connection and hardware notwithstanding. There are no pop-ups asking you to register, and although an infobar link to Mozilla's "Know your rights" page at about:rights does appear, it's unobtrusive.

We're big fans of Firefox's rapid-release cycle. Initially wonky implementation has given way to a mature automatic update process. If you're on Windows, you'll be asked to agree to the User Account Control only when you install for the first time. Thereafter, the browser updates silently.

If you're installing Firefox for the first time, or installing after wiping all profile data, the browser will open to the new about:home Start page. It hosts a Google search box in the middle, and links to Downloads, Bookmarks, History, Add-ons, Sync, Settings, and Restore previous session at the bottom.

If you're updating Firefox from an older version, it checks your add-ons to see which ones you installed and which ones come from third-party vendors, such as security suite makers. The browser will ask if you'd like to disable any of these third-party add-ons. On top of that, all third-party add-ons are blocked from autoinstalling. Instead, you'll be presented with the option to allow them or block them on a per-case basis. This puts Firefox squarely on the side of the user.

We recommend that you set up Sync at this point, because it will allow you to synchronize and backup all your settings, add-ons, and personal browsing data. If you're extremely concerned about your data, you can set up Sync to work with your own server.

Careful Firefox observers will notice that the browser no longer ships with a separate icon for Safe Mode. Simply hold down Shift; when you click on the Firefox icon to open a box, you will be allowed to customize which settings carry over to Safe Mode.

Note that people coming to Firefox from version 3.6 or older ought to be prepared for a lengthier install time because of the significant code changes since then.

Firefox automatically installs a Windows 7 taskbar icon if you choose it as your default browser. Uninstalling the browser does not leave behind any icons or folders if you choose to remove your settings at the same time.

Interface
As PCs continue to be rocked by mobile devices, many traditional desktop programs have found minimizing interface chrome to be popular. Google's Chrome browser kicked off this trend in a big way, allowing Web sites to shine through, and while other browser vendors have done their best to go minimal differently, it's hard to not acknowledge the lineage.

Firefox does a good job of taking the concept of minimal and putting its own spin on it. It has small navigation buttons the same height as the location and search bars. The Home button has moved to the right side of the location bar. Tabs are on top for heightened visibility and maximize space given to the Web site you're viewing, while on Windows the control menus are hidden behind the orange Firefox button in the upper-left corner.

Menu options have been spread across two columns, and while nearly all the submenus have been redesigned, the hot keys remain the same for a gentle learning curve. In fact, the menu redesign makes it much easier to get to bookmarks, add-ons, and history, as they now all live on one Menu pane. The Menu button is not available to Mac users, to keep with the Mac OS X theme.

In addition to the major changes to the menu, smaller changes have greatly improved usability. For example, there's now a Get Bookmark Add-ons link in the Bookmarks submenu. The History submenu now has Recently Closed Tabs and Recently Closed Windows sections.

Tabs are on top by default, and while the forward and back navigation buttons haven't moved, the stop and refresh buttons are now attached to the right side of the location bar, next to the bookmark star. When you're typing a URL, the Go button appears at the end of the location bar as an arrow. While resolving a URL, the box changes from the Go arrow to an X for the new Stop button. It might be hard for some to see since the traditional stop-and-go colors of red and green have been removed. You can customize the Firefox skin with the restartless Personas add-ons.

Right of the location bar lives the traditional search box, with its drop-down list of search engines. Above that on the tab bar there is a new button that lists all your open tabs, and you can add a button to access the Panorama tab-grouping feature. If you don't see the button, you can add it by right-clicking on the interface and choosing Customize, then dragging and dropping the Tab Groups icon next to the List All Tabs button. We don't consider many customizations to be essential, but this one is. The combination of tab grouping and Firefox's robust tab-memory management means you can keep open tabs around much longer than on other browsers.

The Status bar that lives at the bottom of the interface is now hidden by default, again in keeping with the minimalist philosophy and the competition. There's a new Add-on bar as well, also hidden by default, to which extension icons can be added if you want to keep add-on icons easily available but out of the way of the main interface.

One of Firefox's singular strengths is its capacity for customization, which remains unparalleled and which is accessible even to novice users. While competing browsers do offer add-ons and extensions, Firefox remains far ahead of all of them in interface customization. And so, if you don't like the new interface, it's quite easy to revert it to an older style -- or just about any other look -- using add-ons and themes.

Features and support
Firefox is one of the most progressive major browsers available, an early adopter if not always an innovator. Its features cover the range of browsing essentials, from allowing you to heavily customize your browser while respecting your privacy, to giving developers the tools they need, to supporting the technologies that are driving the future of the Web.

One of the most important features in the modern Firefox is Sync. Sync smoothly synchronizes your add-ons, bookmarks, passwords, preferences, history, and tabs, not only with Firefox on other computers, but also with your Android version of Firefox. It's easy to set up, and if you're concerned about privacy, you can change sync to work with your personal server instead of Mozilla's. Firefox encrypts your data before sending it over an encrypted connection to its servers, where it remains encrypted. Mozilla says that the company would not be able to access it even if somebody there wanted to.

Tabs are a big part of browsing, and Firefox has the best tab management around. Thanks to recent memory-management improvements, you can now comfortably scale from two or three tabs to more than 100 without seeing a major performance hit over time. The aforementioned Panorama lets you group them out of sight until needed, and when you restart Firefox only the last open tab will become active. The others, while visible, won't load their content until you click on them. Panorama's groups let you label them which keeps organizational problems to a minimum.

The overall idea is to make it easier to switch from one tab to another, to group or regroup related tabs, and to get a global view of what's going on with your tabs. It's potentially a big improvement in browser usage, compared to aiming a mouse at a skinny tab, cycling through a list with Ctrl-Tab keystrokes, or pecking at a drop-down menu to reach the tabs that overflowed off into the deep.

Switch to Tab is a minor feature but incredibly useful. Open a new tab and start typing the name of an already-open tab, and the URL will appear in the drop-down with Switch to Tab beneath it. Select that one, and the new tab closes and you're whisked to the pre-existing tab. It's a great trick for cutting down on the amount of time it takes to sift through 45 open tabs, and removes the chance of accidentally having the same tab open twice or more.

You can also drag tabs around to reorder them, pin them as permanent "app tabs" next to the Menu button, or rip them off into their own windows.

Firefox add-ons have long been the brightest feathers in the browser's cap. While there are other more important browsing developments going on to close observers, add-ons remain important to the vast majority of people. The most popular Firefox add-ons have millions of users. The browser supports modern restartless add-ons, which install without needing to reboot the browser, as well as the legacy add-ons that helped drive its growth.

The add-on manager lets you search for add-ons without going to the external Mozilla Add-on Web site. You can create collections of add-ons to share in the Get Add-ons tab, navigate backward and forward through add-on searches, and as mentioned in the Installation section, it blocks add-ons from installing without your approval.

The Bookmarks and History menus, and Download Manager, leave a bit to be desired. They're not bad, but it's clear that they could use some redesigning when compared to the competition. We'd like to see them appear in their own tabs, as they do in Chrome, instead of in separate pop-up windows.

The location bar -- or as Mozilla calls it, the Awesome Bar -- retains familiar features, such as the options to search your history and bookmarks and to tap into your default search engine to provide you with quick results, without having to use the search box.

The "identity block," the colored leftmost section of the URL, has been given a refresh to better call out the Web site you're on. The URL bar itself now changes the text color of the URL you're on so that the domain is black, for easy identification, while the rest of the URL is gray. This sounds small but is important, since it's a strong visual cue to help you avoid getting spoofed.

Also on the security front, Firefox was an early adopter of Do Not Track, which indicates via a header notification that you want to opt out of targeted advertisements. However, it requires that the Web site you're viewing, and therefore that site's developers, respect the header itself. While this is great for future-proofing the Web, not many Web sites have taken notice of it. That doesn't mean it won't eventually have a big impact, but that time is not now, and it's better to install an add-on like Adblock Plus or Do Not Track Plus to get more complete ad-tracking protection.

The Content Security Policy blocks one of the most common types of browser threats, cross-site scripting attacks, by allowing sites to tell the browser which content is legitimate. Though CSP also places the burden on the sites' developers, it's backward-compatible and aimed mostly at well-known sites hosting immense volumes of data and content.

Another security improvement is the implementation of HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) and Google's SPDY protocol. HSTS prevents your log-in information from being intercepted by telling Firefox to automatically create a secure connection to a site's servers, while SPDY will load supporting sites like Google.com and Twitter.com faster and safer because it forces SSL encryption for all connections.

Plug-ins like Adobe Flash and Apple QuickTime have now been protected by click-to-play blocklisting automatically. This prevents out-of-date plug-ins from loading without your permission.

Under the hood, Firefox supports full hardware acceleration across all platforms, which means that the browser draws on your graphics card to speed up complex rendering. You'll see dramatic HTML5 support, including for high-definition WebM video, and broad support for the HTML5 canvas, video, audio, geolocation, drag and drop, and form tags. OpenType fonts are supported, as are CSS3 and newer JavaScript values. WebGL and hardware acceleration give the browser a massive boost, which we'll discuss in the Performance section below.

A new Web Developer menu collates tools for building and debugging Web sites in one location. One such is the ScratchPad tool, which browsers like Opera and Chrome have had for some time. It allows developers to test JavaScript and CSS before implementing them. The Web console feature also has a new autocomplete option and can have its location customized. Another dev tool, unique to Firefox, is a 3D visualizer called Tilt, that lets developers see in real time how their code will render on the site.

Firefox is on the cutting edge of the next generation of Web standards, and that benefits you immensely by offering faster rendering times of Web sites that can do more.

Performance
Firefox 15 introduced a series of memory-management improvements that dramatically increase the stability of the browser. These changes, covered by the internal Mozilla moniker MemShrink, basically mean that the browser can handle a huge number of tabs and add-ons longer than before. The current Firefox 19 is eminently stable.

As mentioned earlier, the browser's overall performance has been greatly improved by tying performance to the graphics processing unit (GPU) hardware acceleration. This allows the browser to shove certain rendering tasks onto the computer's graphics card, freeing up CPU resources while making page rendering and animations load faster. The tasks include composition support, rendering support, and desktop compositing.

JavaScript plays a major role in the modern Web, and changes to the JaegerMonkey engine combined with the GPU acceleration give the browser some serious juice. Ongoing improvements in browser technology make regular browser testing a challenge, but March 2011's browser benchmark battle placed Firefox 4 ahead of Chrome 11 and Internet Explorer 9. It wouldn't be surprising to find that Chrome and Firefox currently test much closer to each other because of their regular updates.

CNET Labs will have an update to our performance benchmarks soon. For now, our most recent numbers are from March 2011, when Firefox 4 was released.

One interesting publicly available benchmark is JSGameBench from Facebook, which looks to test HTML5 in real-world gaming situations. JSGameBench hasn't posted new results since April 2011, but the ones it did post gave strong marks to the Firefox 4 beta both with and without WebGL. The stable version of Firefox 4 also did well in JSGameBench tests once it was released.

Note that to effectively use hardware acceleration, you must make sure that your graphics card drivers are up-to-date.

Browser benchmarks are a notoriously fidgety lot, and often come up against legitimate complaints that they look at too narrow a set of features -- such as checking only JavaScript rendering times. In hands-on use, at least, Firefox 19 can more than hold its own. It's not clear that it's enough to counter the past three years of Chrome decisively winning the fastest-browser PR campaign, but that may no longer be the point. All five major browsers are now similarly fast at JavaScript tests, and you may want to start looking at other criteria to determine which browser is best for you.

Firefox has plug-in crash protection, which prevents plug-ins like Adobe Flash, Apple QuickTime, and Microsoft Silverlight from causing the browser to drop dead. If one of them crashes, simply reload the page.

Conclusion
Firefox is in an unusual position as the modern Internet stands on the precipice of the second phase of the digital age. As the world prepares for high-powered, always-connected smartphones to dominate, one of the most competitive and forward-thinking browsers comes from an independent nonprofit company.

Firefox's open-source approach and recent developer tools improvements means that the people designing your favorite sites will come back for more, while Mozilla's investment in pushing open Web standards means that the Web has a powerful, noncorporate advocate. Despite the heavy competition from Google, Microsoft, and Apple, and as long as it avoids stagnating, Firefox will have a bright future ahead of it.

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All User Reviews
  • All Versions:

    4.3

    out of 15564 votes

    • 5 star: 10302
    • 4 star: 2425
    • 3 star: 982
    • 2 star: 648
    • 1 star: 1207
  • Current Version:

    3.3

    out of 19 votes

    • 5 star: 5
    • 4 star: 3
    • 3 star: 5
    • 2 star: 5
    • 1 star: 1
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

    Results 1-10 of 11

  • 5 stars

    "I LOVE it."

    August 31, 2014   |   By jal9904

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    LOTS of customization. I moved the toolbar items to the place I want and removed the ones I don't want.
    Sync for multiple computers.

    Cons

    Nothing to see here move along.

    Summary

    I used to use comodo dragon and avant but now I am stuck with this. I love the sync feature and the ability to customized the toolbars and add new ones (unlike chrome).

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 5 stars

    "Good Browser"

    August 22, 2014   |   By park_p

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    Simple and fast

    Cons

    well, not exactly find

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

    Was this review helpful? (0) (2)

  • 5 stars

    "A Basic Tool for any computer"

    August 20, 2014   |   By TourvilleCotton

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    It's just great. Super easy to operate and understand.

    Cons

    i see nothing bad about this program

    Reply to this review

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  • 5 stars

    "wonderful piece of software"

    August 19, 2014   |   By KuehnMadara

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    Really happy with this program.

    Cons

    No cons, quite happy with it.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

    Was this review helpful? (0) (3)

  • 2 stars

    "Yahoo Toolbar Malware?"

    August 19, 2014   |   By sickbirds

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    Firefox has always been a pretty good alternative to IE. Many people still using older versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports really need Firefox.

    Cons

    I don't understand why recent Firefox downloads have been slipping in Yahoo Toolbar, which has many of the attributes of malware. And for most people it is difficult to remove.

    Summary

    I know Firefox is free and also understand that they need to make some money, possibly from Yahoo at this time. But I don't understand risking the reputation of the product and the years of hard work by a whole lot of people, with the very disruptive Yahoo toolbar.

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

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  • 5 stars

    "Excellent program, i recommed it!"

    August 17, 2014   |   By ShirerJoiner

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    As far as I know, it's never given me any trouble

    Cons

    It is completely up to my expectation

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  • 3 stars

    "The Old Orange Fox, ain't what she used to be..."

    August 11, 2014   |   By dougdartsch

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    1.) It's not Internet Explorer
    2.) It isn't owned by Bill Gates
    3.) It isn't owned by Apple

    Cons

    1.) Each recent revision removes more good features
    2.) 100% of my add-on/extension malware problems occur with Firefox

    Summary

    I was one of the biggest fans of Firefox from day one. In the recent past however, great features have been removed, and it has fallen prey to a plethora of malware laden add-ons and extensions. I have had this problem on every machine, and in my family I am the caretaker and that is about ten machines.
    I have zero problems with chrome, which is my primary browser now, and zero problems as well with I.E., although I only use it when I have to; opening two yahoo or gmail accounts at the same time, etc.
    Its like saying goodbye to an old friend, but at this point, I have to move on.

    Reply to this review Read replies (2)

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  • 5 stars

    "Best browser this no exceptions trust me!!!!!"

    August 05, 2014   |   By Jaymans101

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    everything about it absolutely rocks love it nothing compares

    Cons

    None at all haven't found any in 9 years lol it ROCKS period!!!!

    Summary

    man all the horror stories I heard last 3 days from **** google and chrome lol browsers junk best anyone can do there is get rid of it literally it's pure **** trust me garbage ONLY trust the fox best browsers there is could careless what anyone else uses but thats all I'm using problem free 9 years love the FOX it rocks!!!!! download it don't look back only browser ever to go on any of my computers :) :) love it deeply

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  • 5 stars

    "Try it :) Try it :)"

    July 27, 2014   |   By ChurchesWeymouth

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    Used the program for over a year with no problems.

    Cons

    I have no cons on this program

    Reply to this review Read reply (1)

    Was this review helpful? (1) (3)

  • 1 stars

    "FF v.31 has some new features, but it's still a failure"

    July 25, 2014   |   By wyzwyk

    Version: Mozilla Firefox 31.0

    Pros

    Add-on extensions are, and have always been, the best part of the Firefox user experience.

    Cons

    The Australis GUI may be fine for neophytes or Firefox users that need some hand holding when it comes to organizing add-ons, but this user interface simply doesn't work well for power users. Why else would the extension Classic Theme Restorer be so popular? With 627 reviews 612 have 5 stars, 14 with 4 stars, 1 that has 3 stars, and none with 1 or 2 stars. This extension saves Firefox. I don't know what I'd do without it.

    Summary

    Six weeks have gone by since Firefox v.30 was released, so today I downloaded and installed the newest version. What's new? Well, for desktop users, this version sports a search field on a new tab page. This allows users to start new searches without having to go to the search bar. There is also a malware detection and blocker feature that runs by default whenever users download files. If not wanted it can be turned off. As a Linux user I wouldn't have use for this feature, but for Windows users I could see this being very useful. More and more download sites are allowing applications to piggyback on the desired primary download, and let's face it, way too many users are not careful when reading the instructions on how to opt-out on these downloads. Also included in v.31 is some sort of parental control. There are a number of other new features with this release, but most are for developers. In this release cycle Mozilla posted that 3,025 bugs were found and fixed. While all these changes and bug fixes are nice the change I most wanted still goes unaddressed, that of getting rid of that awful Australis Gui that has been with us since version 29. The only way this browser is remotely useable for me is with the help of the Classic Theme Restorer extension. For Firefox power users it's a must have add-on. The features in this extension should have been built into the browser, but as we all know Mozilla, for unknown reasons, committed to a minimalist only GUI. It would have been nice if they had listened to the many users who tried the pre-release versions and voiced their negative feelings on them. Sadly, their words went unheeded and we are now saddled with Australis.

    Reply to this review Read replies (5)

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  • Results 1-10 of 11

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