Moving to Firefox Quantum Made Easy

Earlier this week I wrote about Firefox’s new super speedy browser, Quantum. I have been using it exclusively for a couple of days now and I remain very impressed with it. Changing your browser can be a challenging task so I wanted to take a little time to help anyone interested in giving this new browser a whirl, while keeping all of your bookmarks, extensions and settings.

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My biggest problem with Chrome has been the browser’s sluggish performance and gluttony for system memory which can often impact the performance of the PC in general.

The latest version of Mozilla’s browser uses an all-new CSS engine and memory management techniques to load pages faster and handle piles of tabs better than Google’s offering.

I made the switch earlier this week and you can join me by following these simple steps to transition painlessly from Chrome to Firefox Quantum in under two minutes.

1) Install Firefox Quantum

Head to this page to get the installer for Mac, Linux and Windows, and follow the on-screen instructions to set it up. It should only take a couple of clicks.

2) Import your bookmarks and settings

Once you’ve got the browser installed, you can either start afresh with Firefox Quantum or bring over all your settings, bookmarks, history and passwords from Chrome.

The easiest way to do so is to open the Bookmarks Library by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+B, and then clicking on Import and Backup > Import Data from Another Browser to launch the wizard. Then, choose Chrome (or whichever other browser you’re migrating from); select the items you’d like to import, and you’re good to go.

3) Familiarize yourself with the new interface and features

Quantum’s interface is more sparse than previous versions, so you might need some time to get used to it. For starters, you can now enter search terms in the address bar, and that field now has a contextual button with three dots that contains shortcuts to functions like bookmarking, taking a screenshot, emailing the link, and sending the current tab to a synced device that also has Firefox installed.

You can set up the main toolbar just the way you like by clicking the hamburger menu button all the way on the right and then choosing Customize. Once there, you can add and remove buttons, and the search box (which is useful if you want to query search engines other than the default one, aka Google).

Customize your toolbar, layout and themes

Additionally, you can hide the title bar, show or hide toolbars like the one for bookmarks, configure the size and spacing of buttons, and even switch up themes by clicking the buttons at the bottom of this screen.

There are a couple of bland ones built in, as well as a dark theme and a few whimsical options. Firefox has long had a theme store where you can browse and add more to your collection, and you can access it from this page.

To save your changes and return to your browser, click Done at the bottom of the page.

Quantum has a couple of nice new tricks up its sleeve, including a built-in screenshot tool that lets you snap the visible portion of a page, the entire page, or just any area you choose. It’s accessible from the three-dots menu in the address bar, and it’ll automatically upload your screenshot so you can share it online, download the image, or copy it to your clipboard by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+V.

Firefox Quantum's built-in screenshot tool is pretty handy

The browser also has Pocket baked in, so you can easily save pages to read later with just a click on the address bar. You’ll need to sign into the service before it starts working, of course.

Pocket's read-later service is baked right into Firefox Quantum

Alternatively, you can use any other read-later service you like, such as Instapaper, but you’ll need to install the necessary add-on to do so (and you can then hide the Pocket button by right-clicking it and choosing the option to remove it).

4) Sync your desktop and mobile browsers

Firefox’s browser is also available on iOS and Android, and you can have those versions keep your passwords, bookmarks and history in sync with your desktop browsing activity. Plus, you can beam any active page from your computer to your phone by clicking the option in the three-dots menu.

To enable these features, click the hamburger menu button and choose the first option to set up Sync; you’ll need to create an account with your email address and password. Once that’s done, login to your account in Firefox on your phone, and you’re good to go.

5) Set up your start page and New Tab page

Chrome and Firefox are similar in the way they handle New Tabs and your start page. You can set them up in Quantum just as you did in Chrome by clicking the hamburger menu button and choosing Options, and configuring these settings under General.

I personally enjoy using a customized self-hosted page that contains links to all the sites I frequently browse as my home and start page, so I’ve got that set up for both options.

To configure how New Tabs behave, start by opening a fresh tab by clicking the + button on the tab bar or by hitting Ctrl/Cmd+T. You’ll find a list of ‘Top Sites’ that you visit often, and you can add or remove pages from there at will.

Next, click the gear icon at the top right of the page to show or hide the search bar, bookmarked pages in the Highlights section, and snippets of info that Firefox will surface from time to time.

6) Install essential extensions

While you may not find the exact same extensions you use in Chrome, there are plenty to choose from in Firefox’s store that should help replicate most of the functionality you’re used to in Google’s browser.

To enable these features, click the hamburger menu button and choose the first option to set up Sync; you’ll need to create an account with your email address and password. Once that’s done, login to your account in Firefox on your phone, and you’re good to go.

Here are a few essential add-ons, and some of my favorites that are worth installing in Quantum:

  • LastPass: If you want an easy way to manage and autofill your passwords, LastPass is a good way to go. It’s free to use on multiple devices, and includes handy features like password generation for when you sign up for new services.
  • Momentum – an excellent extension that brings a beautiful background to your New Tabs, along with a clock, a field to describe your area of focus for the day, and a to-do list.
  • OneTab – got too many tabs open? OneTab condenses all the URLs into a single page and closes them, so as to free up memory and keep your links available at the ready when you want to return to them, or share them all at once.
  • AddtoAny – share pages to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks.
  • Pushbullet – beam links, text and files between your Android or iOS device and your device in a pinch. Certain features require a paid account, but the free version does a whole lot for the low price of nothing.
7) Set Firefox Quantum as your default browser

If you’re happy with your new setup and want to make Quantum your daily driver, click the hamburger menu button, and click ‘Make Default…’ so it always launches instead of Chrome whenever you need a browser from a different app.

And that’s how you switch from Chrome to Firefox Quantum, and reclaim precious system resources in the bargain. Happy browsing!

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Fiirefox Quantum Arrives with Promises of Improved Speed & More

Firefox 57 is now available to download — and it’s probably the single biggest update to Firefox in the browser’s 13 year history.

In fact the the changes are so big that Mozilla has given the release its very own name: ‘Firefox Quantum‘.

A fitting title for such a fit release. As you will see, Firefox 57 is a quantum leap over previous versions of Firefox.

Firefox Quantum: Better, Faster, Stronger

There are 3 major changes in Firefox 57 that make it better, faster and stronger:

  • New look & feel including a new theme, new Firefox logo and new ‘New Tab’ page
  • New Rendering Engine that’s multi-core friendly and GPU efficient
  • New Add-on framework that’s designed for the modern web

Let’s take a closer look at each point.

Better: a new look

firefox quantum on ubuntu

Quantum gives an all-new look and feel to Firefox. The angular visual refresh, dubbed Photon, is clean, light and responsive.

Alongside the squared tabs, redesigned toolbar icons, and revamped menus is one striking change: a combined, centre-aligned address & search bar.

I got used to it after a few minutes. Once you get used to the “newness” it recedes into the UI, allowing you to focus on the contents of tabs instead go the Chrome around it. If you don’t like this change you can (pictured above) return to the separate address bar and search box.

The Photon refresh extends to virtually every part of the UI, form the spacing of menus and the color of toolbar icons to transitions and tab loading animations

firefox 57 gif

Firefox 57’s new look includes new UI assets and animations

A couple of new features are introduced as part of the Photon rejig, including a new “Firefox library” (a menu giving quick access to browsing history, bookmarks, Pocket saves, and synced tabs); “Screenshots” (which does what it says on the tin).

There’s a a totally redesigned new tab page. it makes far more efficient use of space than the old “speed dial” approach, and surfaces some helpful “highlights” from recent web searches and articles being shared on Pocket.

Talking of which, the Pocket save button has been moved out of the toolbar and into the new combined address/search bar.

Faster: Performance Revamp

‘Firefox is 2x as fast as this time last year, and uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome’

According to the bods at Mozilla Firefox Quantum is 2x as fast as last year’s Firefox 49, and uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome.

How?

Well, it’s partly down to all-new CSS engine called ‘Stylo’, true multi-process architecture (a process which began with Electrolysis), plus new smarts in setting tab priority, and more.

“Over the past seven months, we’ve been rapidly replacing major parts of the engine, introducing Rust and parts of Servo to Firefox. Plus, we’ve had a browser performance strike force scouring the codebase for performance issues, both obvious and non-obvious,” explains Mozilla’s Lin Clark in a (thoroughly excellent) write-up.

All of the changes create an effectually new Firefox.

Stronger: a more reliable extensions framework

For many, the biggest change in Firefox 57 won’t be the sleek new interface, or the invisible under the hood tune-ups, but the fact that many much loved Firefox add-ons will no longer work with the browser.

‘Legacy add-ons no longer work in Firefox 57’

For the best part of a year Firefox has allowed you to run both legacy add-ons and the new-fangled web extensions side-by-side. With this release that ends; legacy add-ons no longer work in Firefox 57.

Add-on developers have had a long, long time to prepare for this day. A such a slew of popular add-ons are already available as Web Extensions (hurrah).

You can view a list of web extensions that work with Firefox 57 here.

You may find that one of two of your favourites haven’t been updated and, as such, won’t work in the new release. Alternatives may be available.

Firefox Quantum is just the start

If this post seems overly positive it’s because it has reason to be. Firefox 57 is a monumentally important release for the Firefox project, for Mozilla, and for open-source software in general.

The best part is that none of this is hyperbole: Firefox 57 really is better, faster, stronger. These improvements are tangible. The new combination of change here blasts some air back in to this flagship open-source project’s sagging sail.

Right now, Firefox feels in better shape than a long time and I, as someone who instinctively clicks the colorful Chrome logo when I want some internetz, am super impressed.

Whether this release sways you back to Firefox full-time or not, competition is healthy. Google won’t be oblivious to the praise the resurgent Firefox is getting. It will have improvements of its own to debut, I’m sure.

A new Firefox emerges today, and the improvements on offer serve as one heck of a foundation on which to build on.

Nice job Mozilla!

Download Firefox 57

So that’s the skinny on why you may want to give the latest release a spin for yourself. But how do you get Firefox on Ubuntu?

Well, that depends. If you’re using Windows, macOS or Linux you’ll be able to download Firefox 57 from the Mozilla website later today.

The latest stable release is technically already available to download from Mozilla’s FTP servers (the impatient route).

If you’re using Ubuntu you can relax. Ubuntu users will receive an automatic upgrade to Firefox 57 on supported versions of the distro (which includes Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, 16.04 LTS and the latest Ubuntu release, 17.10) shortly.

The upgrade won’t roll out right away, but it should be available to most at some point in the next day or two — so keep an eye trained on the Software Updater!

 

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Private Browsing with Firefox on Your iPhone

If you’re concerned about keeping your online privacy and don’t want sites to follow you around the Web, you’ll want to give Mozilla’s new iOS app a go.

firefox-ios

Firefox Focus is a no-frills browser that blocks trackers to keep you from seeing unwanted ads. It also lets you erase your history, passwords and cookies easily.

The company says that blocking trackers might also improve performance on certain tracker-filled sites. It’s worth noting that some sites that rely on tracking to work may not function properly, but Focus can fix that by opening them in either Firefox or Safari.

Should you use it? Well, you’re certainly entitled to your privacy online, and this browser makes it easier to block tracking than other options – including Mozilla’s content blocker for Safari (which is called, um, Focus by Firefox).

Try Firefox Focus by grabbing it from the App Store.

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Firefox Exploit Revealed

A new major vulnerability plaguing Firefox has Mozilla warning users to update the Web browser as soon as possible. The company is urging all Firefox users to update to Firefox 39.0.3 to fix the vulnerability and protect themselves from an exploit that has been found in the wild.

The browser is set to automatically update by default, but users should manually check to ensure that the update has indeed gone through.

Mozilla said it first learned about the bug Wednesday morning when a Firefox user informed the company that an advertisement on a news Web site in Russia was offering an exploit for the browser that searched for specific, sensitive files, before uploading them to a server that appeared to be located in the Ukraine.

The vulnerability allows hackers to violate the browser’s same origin policy and inject script into a non-privileged part of Firefox’s built-in PDF viewer. Same origin is a security practice in which a Web browser allows scripts running from one Web page to access data from a second one, if both pages are from the same origin. The bug allows an attacker to read and steal sensitive local files on the victim’s computer.

The exploit appears to be designed to search for files with specific relevance to software developers, according to Mozilla. “The files it was looking for were surprisingly developer focused for an exploit launched on a general audience news site, though, of course, we don’t know where else the malicious ad might have been deployed,” Mozilla noted. Ad-blocking software may have protected some machines, depending on which specific software and filters were used, the company added.

Even more troubling, Mozilla reported that the exploit leaves no trace of itself on the local machine, making it difficult for users to know if their files had been compromised. Mozilla urged users running Firefox on Windows and Linux systems to change any passwords and keys for programs targeted by the exploit. Mac users were not vulnerable to the particular exploit found in the wild, but would be vulnerable if another hacker designed a payload targeting Macs.

Firefox users on Windows machines should change the passwords for the following files: subversion, s3browser, and Filezilla configurations files, .purple and Psi+ account information, and site configuration files from eight different popular FTP clients.

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