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Top 9 Firefox fixes

By Howard Wen, Network World
October 03, 2011 06:01 AM ET

Network World - The Mozilla development team released Firefox 6 on Aug. 11, then announced a rapid release schedule that led to the release of Version 7.0 last week, with Versions 8 and 9 coming soon. That's a lot of upgrades, but here's a countdown of the improvements that we think are the most important.

Slideshow: First look: Firefox 7 slashes memory usage

9. Better instant syncing

For a while now, Firefox has had the ability to sync your bookmarks and user passwords across multiple computers and devices on which you run the browser. But the service hasn't been a reliably seamless experience (it doesn't feel as "instant" as it should, the Firefox developers acknowledge). Then they introduced a fix in 7.0.

8. Clean up user profile

If your Firefox installation becomes hopelessly corrupted (we've seen this happen in 5.0 where malicious add-ons and mysterious code have hijacked the browser's default search engine, replacing it with a scammy affiliate-linked one), then this feature would allow you to reset your browser to a daisy-fresh state, but with your bookmarks, browsing history, passwords, and other personal info preserved. Clean up user profile is being discussed by the developers for 9.0.

7. Better download manager

You can install one of many add-ons that give you more control and stats over your downloads, yet the default download manager of Firefox hasn't changed much through the many iterations of the browser. Version 9.0 is when a new download manager should show up that will provide the kind of features you get from a third-party add-on. At the very least, we think Firefox should show the status and progress of your downloads in a tab -- like the way it works in Google Chrome -- and not in a pop-up window like the way it works now.

6. More unified looking UI

Related to our thoughts about the download manager, Firefox needs a more consistent looking and working UI, where the bookmark manager and all the various browser settings are also set within separate tabs. (This is what Chrome has shifted toward.) Firefox's developers may be moving to this kind of unified look, starting with 8.0, which we really look forward to.

5. Compatibility with older add-ons

It's the same story whenever a new version of Firefox is released: the good news is that there's a new version. The bad is that many of your favorite add-ons will probably stop working. So you'll have to wait until the developers of these add-ons update them. In Version 9.0, the Firefox developers could implement code that attempts to grant compatibility, at least temporarily, with your favorite though outdated add-ons.

4. Better add-on confirmation and removal

This has become one of the weakest points about Firefox compared to other browsers like Chrome. Malware developers (and those who may not be necessarily writing malicious code, but who have taken advantage of this) have figured out ways to sneakily install add-ons to Firefox without your full consent. Worse, although you might be able to disable their add-ons, they can prevent you from completely removing them from Firefox (instead, you see them grayed-out in the add-ons manager). As we noted, there's malware known to hijack your Firefox default search engine.

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