Firefox 19 enters beta with a native PDF viewer and extra ARMv6 support

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“You can't stop progress,” as the old saying goes, and that's just as true in the Firefox project as it is elsewhere in life.

To wit: Following Tuesday's official release of Firefox 18 for desktop and Android, Friday saw the launch of its successor—Firefox 19—into beta.

There are actually several interesting new features making its way into Mozilla's popular open source browser with this up-and-coming new version. Here's a rundown of some of the more notable ones.

A built-in PDF viewer

Certainly the biggest news on the desktop side is that Firefox 19 includes a built-in PDF viewer.

“For a number of years there have been several plugins for viewing PDFs within Firefox,” explained Bill Walker, an engineering manager with Mozilla, and software engineer Brendan Dahl in a blog post on Friday. “Many of these plugins come with proprietary closed source code that could potentially expose users to security vulnerabilities.”

Such plugins also tend to include extra code to handle many things that Firefox already does well, such as drawing images and text, Walker and Dahl added.

The new native PDF viewer now included in Firefox 19 was developed using HTML5 to eliminate the need for third-party plugins and allow a smoother and more secure browsing experience.

The new, built-in PDF viewer in Firefox 19 taps the power of HTML5 (Click image to enlarge.)

Using it, most PDFs not only load and render quickly, but they run securely and “have an interface that feels at home in the browser,” they said.

In addition, because it uses standard HTML5 APIs, the new PDF viewer can run on many platforms—including PCs, tablets, and phones—as well as on different browsers.

15 million more phones

Firefox 19 for Android, meanwhile, adds several key new features. Perhaps most notable among them is additional ARMv6 support, making the browser available to roughly 15 million more phones.

The beta version of Firefox 19 is now available to phones with minimum requirements of 600MHz, 512MB, and HVGA, including popular devices like the LG Optimus One, T-Mobile myTouch 3G slide, HTC Wildfire S, and ZTE R750.

Also new with the mobile beta software is Firefox integration in the Google Search widget.

“Now you can launch a Google Search in Firefox for Android Beta, directly from your phone’s homescreen, to make it easier and faster to search the Web on your mobile phone,” the project team explains.

To enable that feature, users need only tap the “Menu” button on their Android device, tap “Add” in the Menu, and then select Firefox under “Widgets.”

Finally, Firefox 19 for Android includes add-ons that make it easier to personalize the browser's appearance as well as Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese language support.

If you want a sneak peek at what's coming, Firefox 19 beta is now available as a free download for both desktop and mobile.

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