Firefox 20 is out on the stable channel and it’s packed with good stuff, this time mostly for end-users. The previous few versions have all or mostly focused on something for developers, making the browser more secure, or adding support for new web technologies. We’re not saying any of that isn’t important, but Firefox already commands a huge developer audience in its user base and it needs to up its offering for the ordinary user. This release sees the implementation of side-by-side private and normal browsing sessions, a new download manager, protection against extensions or apps that try to hijack your default search engine, a faster way to stop plugins that are unresponsive, and support for blend mode added for HTML5 canvas.
When it comes to private browsing, Firefox has been behind Chrome for a long time, lacking the option to run a normal browsing session side-by-side with a private one. The feature has finally been implemented in Firefox 20.
A new private window can be opened either from the Firefox menu, or from the options in Firefox’s Jump List (Windows 7 / 8). No keyboard shortcut has been added so far. If the feature interests you, you might want to give this Private Tab add-on a try too; it lets you open Private tabs within a normal browsing window.
New Download Manager
Firefox 20 comes with a new download manager too; you can now see download progress within the current tab by clicking the download button. A popup opens to reveal the status of the current download, and will also show you recently downloaded files.
You can view a complete list of downloads as well, which now share a window with the Bookmarks library.
If you don’t like the new look, you can always go back to the old download manager by going to the about:config page and setting the value of the following preference to True:
Search Engine Hijacking Protection
If you’ve ever absent mindedly whizzed through the installation of an add-on or an app only to discover that it had installed adware or hijacked your browser’s search engine, you will love Firefox 20. It’s added a new feature that detects such an attempt to change your default search engine and gives you a chance to deny it.
It is disabled by default and will have to be enabled from the about:config page by setting the value of the following preference to True:
Opt To Stop Unresponsive Plugins
Firefox prevents unresponsive plugins from freezing the browser by killing them automatically after 45 seconds. With Firefox 20, you get a prompt after 11 seconds, which allows you to force close frozen plugins or wait for them to recover.
HTML5 Canvas Now Supports Blend Mode
Finally, a little something for developers; Firefox 20 has added support for Blend Mode to the <canvas> element used for drawing graphics. Check out the article that Mozilla has posted on the effects and use of Blend Mode.