Originally intended as a quick update to fix some issues on beta 7, the 8th beta of Firefox 4 brings more than 1,400 bug fixes, some improvements to the new add-ons interface, better syncing and more hardware-accelerated WebGL support to the latest installment of Firefox.
The improvements to Firefox’s new sync feature (which syncs bookmarks, browsing history, user preferences and open tabs between desktop and mobile versions of Firefox) make signing up and syncing easier for new users. Most heavy users activate multiple screens every day — one or two computers, and at least one smartphone with a web browser — so keeping it all in sync is increasingly difficult. That’s where Firefox’s sync tools come into play, and the streamlined sync interface makes it even easier to pick up where you left off, no matter what device you’re using.
The sync updates in Firefox 4 beta 8 happens to coincide with similar improvements in Firefox Mobile 4 beta 3 for the Android and Maemo mobile platforms. Also, Beta 8 now supports WebGL on more graphics cards across both Mac and Windows operating systems.
Beta 8 refines the main add-ons page (which is now a page, rather than a separate window). The URL bar has been removed for the add-ons page, and the button design has been revamped. Although the new, slicker-looking buttons do make the interface far prettier, add-ons are still variously referred to as “extensions” and “add-ons.” You can see which “extensions” you have installed, but then you “Get Add-ons.”
The list of bug fixes for this release is extensive, but Mozilla’s nightly builds have already been renamed to beta 9, which means we’ll see at least one more, possibly two more beta releases before Firefox 4 arrives in final form. Mozilla hasn’t set an official release date for Firefox 4 yet, but it’s expected to arrive sometime in early 2011.