The latest Firefox beta is a very impressive piece of work, in large part because of its new Panorama feature. It's clearly become the top browser of all. Here's why Chrome, Internet Explorer, and all the rest have a lot of catching up to do.
Panorama, just released in the latest beta of Firefox 4, is one of the best browser features to come along in a long time. In essence, it tames tabs using a Mac OS X Expose-like interface. With it, you group tabs into different sets, and you browse, you only use tabs in a specific set. So you can have a news set, a music set, and so on. That way, it's easy to find the exact tab you want, rather than having to hunt through 20 open ones. You only see the handful in your current group.
It's the best tab-handling feature I've ever seen, and one of the best browser productivity-enhancers I've used. For more details, see my Computerworld review "Firefox 4 Beta 4 opens a new Panorama."
Also useful is Firefox Sync, which synchronizes all of your bookmarks, passwords, browsing history and open tabs among multiple computers and devices running Firefox. It's not quite as useful as the Xmarks browser add-in, because Xmarks works with multiple browsers. But it does something that Xmarks can't do --- let you view and open tabs running on other computers running Firefox.Firefox Sync is still a bit rough around the edges, but still extremely useful.
Beta 4 also includes the various features introduced previously in Firefox 4, such as speedier browsing, a better add-ons manager, and a Chrome-like interface that puts tabs across the top of the browser. Until the beta of Firefox 4, the browser had been starting to look old and tired. No longer. It looks as if for now it's the best browser out there.
This story, "Firefox 4: The Browser to Beat" was originally published by Computerworld.