Mozilla has quickly delivered it a Windows 10-friendly version of its flagship Firefox web browser, offering a streamlined new look and safer add-ons on top of the product’s already-stellar web rendering, marketplace and sync capabilities.
This release comes at an interesting time for me as I was literally just comparing how Chrome, Edge and the previous Firefox version worked with the high DPI displays that are increasingly common on portable PCs in particular. Of the three, I like Edge’s web page rendering the best, especially the text, but Edge lacks so many basic browser features it’s almost unusable. Chrome is pathetic on high DPI, but it’s very powerful with a great add-on library. And Firefox? The previous version—39—is actually pretty great, it’s just that the browser looks terrible in Windows 10, with a glaring white header area that caused me to start looking at themes for the first time in forever.
But then Mozilla released Firefox 40.
Firefox 40 looks great on Windows 10, with a new default style that puts an end to the dulling whiteness enforced by the OS. Now, the top area of the browser window is an eye-pleasing medium gray. And the toolbar buttons offer more contrast, making them easier to identify. All of the UI elements are a bit bigger, making them easier to tap on touch-capable devices.
Firefox 40 is also the first version of the browser to take steps toward a previously-announced plan to certify add-ons. According to Mozilla, in the future, any third-party add-on that has not been certified will be disabled by default. In Firefox 40, you will start seeing warnings next to unsigned add-ons in Firefox, but no add-ons will be automatically disabled, the firm reports. And it is working with add-on developers to help them meet the certification standards and make add-ons safer for everyone.
Mozilla being Mozilla—the organization publicly freaked out a few weeks back when it became clear that Windows 10 would set Edge as your default browser on an upgrade if the user selected Express settings during setup—they are also providing instructions for changing your default browser back to Firefox. But these instructions are in fact inadequate. As I document in Windows 10 Field Guide, you must in fact visit the old-school Set Default apps control panel (accessible from Settings, System, Default Apps, “Set defaults by app”) to fully configure Firefox (or any other browser) as your default. For example, if you use Settings to change Firefox to the default, only 4 of 8 possible defaults will be changed. (You’re welcome, Mozilla.)
Mozilla also makes an interesting point about Cortana/search in Windows 10, however.
“Firefox also helps you preserve your choice when using the search field on the Windows 10 taskbar to search the Web,” the Firefox team writes in a blog post. “When using this search field, Windows 10 launches your default browser but only shows search results in Microsoft Bing. When you have Firefox set as your default browser on Windows 10, all your Web searches from the taskbar search field will show results in the default search engine you choose in Firefox.”
Interesting. And sure enough, if you change your default browser to Firefox (which is configured to use Google by default) and search with Cortana, the web results come up in Google. Nice.
Firefox 40 looks good. I’ll keep using it this week and see whether a switch is warranted.