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New In Firefox 20: Private Window, Improved Download Manager & More

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.


Private Window

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.

FF 20 private 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.

ff download

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:


ff 20 downloads

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:


FF browser hijack

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.

Download Firefox 20 From Mozilla


  1. I checked my Firefox and saw it’s only version 18. I guess I don’t use it much to notice. (Chrome user). When the hit the triple digit version numbers it will be 3D!

  2. It looks like Shift-Control-P now opens a new Private Window. Previous versions used the shortcut to switch to the global Private Browsing Mode.

    • Yup. The article mentions “No keyboard
      shortcut has been added so far”, which is not true. Same shortcut which previously switched to private browsing mode, now opens a private browsing window.

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